Illegal Amazon Gold: Fight to Protect the Amazon Unites Celebrity Artists, War Journalists, and You

peru gold mining photo

The Amazon rainforest faces obvious threats—climate change, deforestation, mining—but what's even worse than the large-scale mines operated by large, often foreign, corporations is the illegal, smaller-scale mining that has been going on in the region.

Illegal gold mining has been on the rise, at times with deadly costs, particularly since the price of gold has climbed to $1600 or more an ounce (up from $250 about a decade ago), spilling tons of mercury and ravaging the rainforest everywhere gold exists, including in protected areas

Amazon Gold
Amazon Aid Foundation cofounder Sarah duPont is doing everything she can to stop the practice and to save the Amazon. The foundation has a film coming out—Amazon Gold, set to premiere in Missoula, Montana on May 6—that follows war journalists Donovan Webster and Ron Haviv, as well as biologist Enrique Ortiz, "as they explore how illegal gold mining has devastated the Amazon rainforest in Peru. Their journey reflects on the loss of biodiversity by deforestation of the rainforest."

Artists for the Amazon
But this is a large issue that can't be solved with just a film, however much awareness it raises. DuPont and Amazon Aid—which has a mission of bringing together science, art, multimedia and education to protect the Amazon rainforest—have also been in talks with jewelry companies to clean up their supply chains and make sure they're not supporting this illegal mining. And they've been getting artists from Sissy Spacek to last year's Grammy sensation Esperanza Spalding on board with Artists for the Amazon, using their platforms to drive attention to the threats facing the rainforest and efforts to protect it.

DuPont said she's been traveling to the Amazon for 13 years, getting to know some of the best scientists focused on the biodiversity and climate patterns in the area and learning how climate change is already affecting local habitats, as well as how the Amazon influences the world's weather patterns. She has gathered a wealth of knowledge that needs to be shared, spread, and acted upon—today. As duPont said in a recent phone conversation: "how are we going to protect it if we don't understand what's at stake?"

She said she'd never made a movie before, but that certainly doesn't show—check out the Amazon Gold trailer here:

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