No es fuego es Capitalismo
Large parts of the Amazon rainforest are on fire – to an extent that in the Brazilian megacity of Sao Paulo, the skies were darkened, the street lights switched on in the afternoon, and the sun itself appears eclipsed – a truly apocalyptic scenario that can be seen on NASA satellite images.
Across Brazil, more than 70,000 fires have been detected this year so far, with a frequency of 9,507 new forest fires over a four day period – this marks an 83% increase over the same period last year. Illegal logging for mining and cattle grazing is the likely cause.
Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s far-right president who vowed to open up (= destroy) the Amazon for development, bizarrely blames NGOs who are critical of his government for the surge in forest fires. His incendiary rhetoric threatens the land, livelihoods and lives of Brazil’s indigenous people.
In response to the Bolsonaro government’s continued efforts to crush conservation efforts, Germany and Norway cut millions of Euros to the Amazon Fund, to which they were the main contributors. However, conservation funding cuts are unlikely to steer Brazil away from its ecocidal – and potentially genocidal – course.
There are much larger fish to fry.
The recent surge in forest fires happens just after the conclusion of the free trade agreement negotiations between the European Union and Mercosur, the economic and political bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela, in June this year.
Given the vital role of the Amazon to the earth’s changing climatic systems as ‘lungs of the earth’, all eyes should be on Brazil – and solidarity funds should flow towards the upsurge in indigenous resistance to Bolsonaro’s policies.
Instead, funding flows towards the destruction of the Amazon instead. The report “Complicity in the Destruction”, commissioned by Amazon Watch, outlines that the same soya, cattle and timber companies responsible for illegal deforestation, and who are, in some cases, employing slave labour, are openly negotiating with, and receiving funding from, three main trading partners China, the EU and USA. The report names 23 importing companies, including the giants Bunge, Cargill and Northwest Hardwoods.
In June this year, indigenous and international campaign groups called on the EU to halt negotiations for an EU-Mercosur free trade agreement in an open letter, and also demanded a guarantee that no Brazilian products sold in the EU, nor the financial markets underpinning them, are leading to increases in deforestation, land grabbing of native lands or human rights violations, demand that the Brazilian government fulfills its commitments as part of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, increase support for Brazilian civil society and monitor and respond to human rights violations.
Even though the negotiations have come to a close, the EU could refuse to ratify the trade deal. While we’re still a member of the EU, we have a chance to lobby our MEPs to put pressure on the EU to stop fanning the funding of the flames.What we are witnessing is the far right causing large-scale ecocide, and possible genocide, via aggressive agribusinesses, enabled by neoliberal trade policies. These are the times we live in.
Our economic systems and trade agreements are incentivising the ultimate destruction of our life support systems – and we are all complicit. The Amazon rainforest fires cannot be extinguished by water alone, but only by tackling the economic root causes of the disaster unfolding around us.