Lancashire save the rainforest conference bringing together indigenous leaders, researchers, and activists following journalist’s death

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An international conference on saving the Amazonian rainforest is set to bring the pressing issues of deforestation and conservation to Lancashire by bringing together an Amazonian indigenous leader, researchers from the UK and Brazil, journalists, environmental organisations, and activists.

Titled ‘How Can We Help to Save the Rainforest - For Dom Bruno & the Amazon’, the free two-day conference in Lancaster is taking place this weekend and aims to raise awareness of the horrific devastation being wrought in the Amazon whilst also outlining the many solutions we can all undertake to help to save one of the world’s most important ecosystems.

Organised by low-carbon coworking space Halton Mill, Lancaster University’s Environment Centre, and Lancaster City Council, the conference is part of a month of events commemorating environmental journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, both of whom were murdered in Brazilian Amazonia in June while researching sustainable methods of saving the rainforest.

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“Our team is working on how to propose evidence-based conservation actions to decision-makers that truly address socio-biodiversity,” says Dr Leonardo De Sousa Miranda, an environmental data scientist at Lancaster University’s Environment Centre. “That is, the relationship between biological diversity and sustainable activities taking into account the cultural and ancestral knowledge of traditional populations".

Maués Açu River (copyright Gina Frausin)Maués Açu River (copyright Gina Frausin)
Maués Açu River (copyright Gina Frausin)

Also speaking at the conference will be keynote speaker Dr Nelly Marubo, who worked with Bruno Pereira for four years at the Brazilian agency for Indigenous people FUNAI, Dr James Fraser, who researches sustainable farming, social justice, and biodiversity conservation, Colombian activist and artist Victoria Frausin, and researcher Dr Mariana Fonseca Braga.

In addition, an associated exhibition by Dom’s sister, Lancaster-based musician Sian Phillips, went on display at Halton Mill in October ahead of touring the UK, helping spread the word of the sustainable ways we can avert the collapse of the incredible Amazonian ecosystem.

“Dom was killed because he sought to tell the world what is happening to the Amazon and its people,” says Sian. “He was a brilliant journalist and his mission to shine a light on what is happening there clashed with the interests of a growing number of individuals determined to exploit the Amazon, despite the impact their illegal activities have on its Indigenous inhabitants.

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“His friend and guide Bruno Pereira was tragically taken with him while working to help the Indigenous people defend themselves,” she adds. “Both men would have understood the personal risks they were taking to do their work, and we are in awe at their bravery. While dealing with the personal tragedy his family and friends are committed to ensure the story can still be told.”

Crowds at the For Dom, Bruno & the Amazon launchCrowds at the For Dom, Bruno & the Amazon launch
Crowds at the For Dom, Bruno & the Amazon launch

Having herself spent time in the Peruvian Amazonia, Preston-born Fiona Frank was moved to host the conference as director of Halton Mill. “I’ve played music with Sian in Lancaster for 15 years and she’s my choir leader, [so] I was devastated when the news about her brother emerged,” says Fiona, who lives in an eco-cohousing community Lancaster Cohousing in Halton.

“I was inspired to turn my emotion to action by a tweet from Brazilian journalist Chico Pinheiro,” Fiona adds. “[Chico] wrote: ‘You can't kill an idea! They buried Dom and Bruno: buried, the seeds sprout, become leafy trees and the forests appear.’”