The ‘Iamsterdam’ sign has become one of the most photographed landmarks in Europe over the last 14 years and when it disappeared in December 2018 tourists and Amsterdammers alike were shocked. Media all over the world reported on the removal of the iconic letters from in front of the world-famous Rijksmuseum, and travel guidebooks scrambled to update their recommendation of Amsterdam highlights.
But while so many people cared so much about the ‘Iamsterdam’ letters, another landmark, vital to our survival, is disappearing right in front of our eyes: the Amazon rainforest.
The immense popularity of the ‘Iamsterdam’ sign provided the perfect means to shine a light on the deforestation that is decimating the world’s largest remaining rainforest and to turn the letters into a solidarity message for the Amazon. With the inclusive ‘I am’, the message is also one of profound appreciation and respect for the Indigenous People and traditional communities who have not only been guardians of the Amazon for centuries, but depend on the forest for survival.
When their land rights are guaranteed and respected, the forest and its incredible diversity of wildlife are much better protected. ‘Iamazonia’ calls on the world community to stand in solidarity with the Amazon’s Indigenous People as they confront powerful opponents.
Brazil’s government under Jair Bolsonaro intends to open the forest for rampant exploitation by industrial agriculture, livestock, mining and large-scale logging operations. Such activities often go hand in hand with violence against local communities. Since Jair Bolsonaro took office in January this year, invasions on protected Indigenous lands have dramatically increased in many regions of Brazil, exposing the people who live there to increased violence and intimidation.
Opening the Amazon rainforest for exploitation might create temporary benefits for a few, but it brings immense risk to the future of many. Those suffering the most from forest destruction are Indigenous and traditional communities. Meanwhile, the Amazon rainforest has a crucial role for the whole world’s climate; more deforestation will compound the catastrophic impacts of climate breakdown, both in Brazil and globally. All of us will pay the price for this.
If the millions of people who took selfies with the ‘Iamsterdam’ sign would also take a stand for the most important landmark in Brazil and the lungs of the planet, and show their solidarity and support with the people and the forest in the Amazon, we could all make giant steps towards protecting one of our planet’s last climate solutions. Let’s not forget what we hold dearest, before it’s gone. I AMAZONIA #iamazonia
Sigrid Deters is a forest and biodiversity campaigner working on the All eyes on the Amazon project at Greenpeace Netherlands