Eye on the Amazon

With the Brazilian Amazon in Flames, We Must All Be the Resistance

A forest fire extends over farms and forest in Cujubim, Rondônia state, in August 2016. The latest fires are dramatically worse than in previous years. Photo credit: Greenpeace

Today we may be witnessing the tragedy of our lifetime: the Brazilian Amazon is in flames and in peril.

An unprecedented number of manmade blazes are raging across the rainforest, blanketing the region in acrid smoke and prompting a state of emergency. Indeed, it's not only the Amazon, but our entire planet that is in crisis as the devastation of this life-giving biome poses a real, existential threat for all of humanity.

We are witnessing a government that denies its responsibility for this tragedy while it dismantles Brazil's environmental protections and rejects its duty to uphold human rights. A president so desperate to deflect culpability that he concocts pathetic theories that the very organizations dedicated to defending the rainforest are themselves responsible for this disaster. We are witnessing a perfect storm, with no end in sight.

Amazon Watch is working around the clock to ensure that the world understands both the causes and the solutions to this crisis. These fires were set deliberately and those who are resisting need our urgent support. A global solidarity movement must rise to directly oppose Bolsonaro, and as a solidarity organization Amazon Watch aims to spearhead these critical efforts.

Our recent Complicity in Destruction II report exposes the global corporate financiers of Amazon destruction, but the power to force them to change their actions comes from organizing and raising our collective voice. Today's massive outcry over the Amazon fires and the outpouring of support toward solutions is magnifying our ability to shift these actors and ultimately the Bolsonaro regime. We will channel this support to our allies on the ground to amplify their messages and their struggles, empowering acts of resistance from all quarters.

Brazil has experienced an 84% jump in forest fires this year, totalling more than 74,000. This dire situation is exacerbated by a 67% rise in deforestation, creating ideal climatic conditions for fires to flourish and spread uncontrollably. And these trends are not accidents; they are in fact malicious acts committed by the regime of Jair Bolsonaro and his army of devout followers, carried out in a context of complete impunity.

The destruction of the rainforest and the scattering of its peoples is indeed not accidental; it is the regime's objective, as it does the bidding of the worst actors within Brazil's agribusiness sector. While Bolsonaro slashes environmental governance and calls for indigenous territories and protected areas to be opened up to agribusiness and mining, he directly inspires the criminal arson that spawned to today's crisis. His playbook demands it: hate speech that dehumanizes forest peoples justifies predatory projects to dissect the rainforest and its waterways, bringing drastic and permanent consequences.

Indigenous peoples and traditional communities of the Amazon have been sounding the alarm about risks to the rainforest for years and resisting the destruction – sometimes at the cost of their own lives. Now that the world is finally paying attention, it's important to also understand that governments and companies around the world are emboldening Bolsonaro's toxic policies when they enter trade agreements with his government or invest in agribusiness companies operating in the Amazon.

We are heartened by today's global backlash to Bolsonaro's assault. Protests are mounting around the world targeting Brazilian embassies and consulates as well as some of the companies complicit with Bolsonaro's agenda, and heads of state are calling for multilateral action to curb this disaster, given its implications for us all. We are joining with other allies to call for an International Day of Action for the Amazon on Thursday, September 5th. We hope many around the globe will join a march or organize their own actions to send a unified message to Brazil that it must defend the Amazon and support indigenous rights.

Judging by its horrific track record only eight months into power, it is clear that the Bolsonaro regime gives little importance to its reputation as a pariah, whether inside Brazil or internationally. In solidarity with Brazil's vibrant movement for social and ecological justice, we must employ a language that they understand: money and markets. No longer can the international community do business with those responsible for this tragedy. As the famed Brazilian indigenous leader Sônia Guajajara puts it: "This government will only take notice when we impact their pockets." This is where we will act, and act swiftly, taking our lead from Brazilian allies, to quell the fires raging from the Amazon to Brasilia.

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