Eye on the Amazon

Looking Back in Brazil, Onward in 2015!

Looking Back in Brazil, Onward in 2015!

As 2015 kicks off, it's important to reach out to our supporters and followers and to take a moment to assess our work last year and take a peek at the year to come.

As Amazon Watch's Brazil program coordinator, I have worked over the past few years to help stop the Belo Monte dam, promote a clean, alternative energy future for Brazil, and to support the struggle of Brazil's indigenous peoples in defense of their territories and traditional way of life. The confluence of these struggles now leads us to work on the Tapajos River in support of the Munduruku people's resolute resistance to the government's plans to dam their future.

For nearly five years I have been calling on our government and marching with civil society and local communities. So what has been accomplished?

To answer this question I feel it's important to review 2014 – a year of some pretty dark days. 2014 was not easy on people or on the planet. Around the world terrorists took over social media with brutal videos of their atrocities; Ebola wreaked havoc and caused death; planes disappeared; girls disappeared to be found as sex slaves. The world has definitely been in a scary place, and in Brazil it was no different. 2014 was indeed a peculiar year for my country, a year filled with government lies and corruption, and of struggle.

For anyone who travels the corridors of the Amazon, 2014 was symbolic of all that and more. It was the year I cried in pain to see the Xingu River and surrounding region being "killed" and also a year in which I cried in excitement to see the strength and determination of Munduruku people on the Tapajos River.

My partner and I moved to Brazil last year 2014 because we wanted to be closer to these struggles. We witnessed the carnival of chaos and the historical protest of the trash collectors. We heard the fallacies of a long-awaited World Cup, with delayed construction projects at exorbitant prices. Although I am not a soccer fan, I too cried when Brazil lost 7 to 1. We bore witness to what I deemed "the worst elections ever", with performances, fallacies, a true verbal war. I watched as President Dilma Rousseff stuttered a thousand times, unable to answer a single valid question…and still get reelected. And we marched! We marched under the rain for the climate, for the Xingu, for the Tapajos, for Indigenous rights, for life!

2015 has barely begun and it makes me nervous to see little light at the end of this tunnel. As expected, President Dilma's administration is proving that things can still get worse. With an unresolved Petrobras mega-scandal, millions have been swept under the rug while the population struggles to fulfill it basic needs. It seems Dilma's plan is to maintain the "we are fine" mantra while filling her cabinet with unbearable characters, including the climate change denier Aldo Rebelo as Minister of Science and Technology and the "chainsaw queen" and indigenous rights adversary Kátia Abreu as Ministry of Agriculture. This is really scary for our nation and for our shared future!

Top it off with a historic drought ravaging the São Paulo metropolis, bringing increasingly alarmist predictions of environmental collapse and mass migration from the desiccated region. This drought is linked to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the subsequent disappearance of the rains the forests bring to Brazil's southeast.

Amidst this backdrop, there is hope! 2015 also started with brave action from indigenous peoples and traditional communities all over the Amazon. On the Xingu, after opening the year with a protest against the housing and mitigation situation of thousands of families forced from their homes by the Belo Monte dam, indigenous peoples closed the Transamazon Highway in protest. Meanwhile the Munduruku continue to self-demarcate their ancestral Sawré Muybu territory in an act of defiance intended to defend their lands from a new onslaught of mega-dams.

In 2015 Brazil is faced with a government that continues to act with total disrespect and disregard towards its traditional populations, denying the climate crisis, explosive Amazon deforestation, and the water crisis in this year while the rest of the world prepares for the critical COP 21 climate conference. Perhaps worst of all, this government denies the current corruption crisis while financing more destruction in the Amazon with public money from the national development bank BNDES, while "closing their eyes" to the outrageous fact that the same construction companies have financed their elections up to 70% and are highly involved in the Petrobras scandal.

But on the ground I see hope! In response to such an atrocious situation we see a fearless, tireless, courageous people – from social movements to traditional and indigenous communities committed to social and environmental justice, and to pushing back against a malicious government and its corporate backers.

In 2015 we stand alongside these partners to bolster their strength and determination. It will certainly not be easy, but we will not step back.

For the Amazon!

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