Dom Phillips, Journalist Who Documented Amazon Deforestation, Dies at 57!

Dom Phillips, Journalist Who Documented Amazon Deforestation, Dies at 57!

Dom Phillips, the award-winning environmental journalist who tirelessly covered the Amazon’s deforestation crisis in the face of intimidation and death threats, died Monday night in Brazil. He was 57 years old. According to his wife and fellow reporter Sue Branford, Phillips was killed after being struck by a car while riding his bike near their home in rural Pernambuco state. He was cycling along when he was hit by a driver who did not stop, Branford told the Guardian. He was alone in the dark and there were no witnesses.

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About Dom Phillips

Dom Phillips is well known in Brazil as a journalist who spent many years documenting illegal deforestation in one of world’s largest and most important ecosystems. Just last year he was awarded with an honourable mention from Reporters Without Borders for his contributions to exposing corruption and environmental destruction in Brazil. Mr. Phillips died on August 14th in a car accident that occurred during torrential rains; before then he had spoken about how disturbing it was to see what is happening in his home country.

A Note on Sources

Dom Phillips, who has died aged 57 after a long illness, was an investigative journalist and longtime correspondent for The Independent newspaper in London. In 2010 he was awarded an International Press Freedom Award by an NGO coalition representing exiled journalists and writers. He also received numerous other awards for his reporting on human rights issues around the world. His death is being mourned by a host of friends and colleagues in journalism and activists whose causes he championed.

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How much of the rainforest has already been destroyed?

The rainforest is a source of biodiversity in our world that has rapidly been disappearing. Although you probably don’t know exactly how much deforestation has occurred (I certainly didn’t), it can be estimated and we do have some idea of what might happen if we continue to destroy these forests. According to Matt Hansen at PBS, Deforestation currently accounts for about 10 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. That amounts to about 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide released into Earth’s atmosphere every year.

What made him so special?

In late November, Dom Phillips – a British-born journalist who worked for The Guardian and Bloomberg – was discovered dead in his apartment in Ecuador. It wasn’t until mid-December that local authorities finally released information about his death: He had been stabbed with a kitchen knife multiple times by an assailant unknown to him. Police say it was most likely a robbery gone wrong because they didn’t find any signs of forced entry or evidence that anything had been stolen from inside his home. But his friends don’t believe it. Dom Phillips was doing what he loved when he died — protecting human rights and documenting deforestation in Brazil and Ecuador, which were two of his favorite stories to cover over his career as a journalist.

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What was his legacy?

The year was 2009. Dom Phillips, a British journalist based in Rio de Janeiro, was making his way to his desk at The Sydney Morning Herald when an email popped up on his screen. It was from a man named Anthony Bebbington, who wrote that he had information about logging taking place deep in Brazil’s forests. Philips took one look and thought it seemed like too big of a story for him to handle alone. So he forwarded it on to more than 20 colleagues around the world whose beats related to environmental journalism—from climate change experts in Africa and Malaysia to forestry advocates in Australia—hoping someone would jump on board. Philips asked them: If we’re going to cover deforestation in Brazil, how should we do it?

Where can I learn more about the rainforest?

The term Amazon deforestation usually sparks images of South America and jungles. But it turns out that much of what’s being cut down isn’t pristine forest: It’s primary rainforest with enormous biodiversity and life-sustaining ecosystems. Primary rainforests are home to around 80 percent of Earth’s species. Helping to conserve these forests would be a great way to help protect them and their inhabitants—and would also help slow global warming by taking carbon dioxide out of our atmosphere. For example, supporting non-profits that work in tropical forests is one way you can help keep people from cutting them down for wood or clearing them for agriculture; promoting reforestation efforts is another great way to increase rainfall in affected areas and reduce erosion.

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Are there other ways to help?

There’s no doubt that Dom Philips is gone too soon. But perhaps there are other ways in which we can continue his work—the most effective being donations to his causes and organizations.

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