A plea for the Amazon

A burned area of forest in Altamira, Para state, Brazil. Joao Laet/AFP/Getty Images

A burned area of forest in Altamira, Para state, Brazil. Joao Laet/AFP/Getty Images

About the author: Malu Brant is a Brazilian Anthropologist and Geographer who has been working with the indigenous peoples of Brazil with FUNAI, the National Indian Foundation, since 1985. For the past 20 years, she has been dedicated to the cause of the Avá-Guarani peoples of the state of Paraná, western Brazil, who have been impacted by the Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Plant and the need to return at least part of their seized territory.

“Brazil is the richest country in the world in biodiversity and ethnic diversity. It owns 5.5 million km2 of the Amazon rainforest, which makes up 45% of Brazil's land area and contains most of the world’s freshwater. Brazil shares the Amazon with nine other South American countries.

In terms of ethnic diversity, Brazil has 305 different indigenous peoples across its lands. These peoples are the guardians of the remaining rainforest; they are the ones who maintain, watch over and defend it. They thus hold important knowledge for the future of humanity about food and medicine which is yet to be discovered by modern society. Less than 1% of all biodiversity in tropical forests is known and the Amazon is the last major biodiversity stronghold on the planet.

The current president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, stated during his election campaign that, if he won, not one centimetre of indigenous land would be demarcated by him. Some indigenous lands that were in the process of being demarcated by the Federal Public Ministry have now been prevented from doing so by the judicial system. President Bolsonaro encourages the invasion of indigenous lands by landowners, causing these indigenous communities immense fear, death threats, having their communications cut off. [It has even caused] the assassination of several indigenous leaders.

“Such a destructive offensive against indigenous peoples and lands has never been seen before.”

“Such a destructive offensive against indigenous peoples and lands has never been seen before.”

These landowners are illegally setting fire to extensive areas of the Amazon rainforest. These are intentional fires because the rainforest is wet and would not catch fire by itself. Between January and August 2019, 73,000 fire outbreaks were recorded.

The landowners covet indigenous lands to create pasture for cattle or for planting GM soy. Harmful pesticides are being approved by the government and used at an alarming rate: from January to July the Brazilian government approved the use of 239 pesticides, many of which are banned in other countries. Currently around 2,650 pesticides are used in Brazil. 

It is estimated that, in the last three months, half a billion bees died in Brazil. As we all know, without them pollinating plants, we will be without food.

The same landowners try to force the illegal lease of indigenous lands. At the National Congress, the BBB lobby - so-called because it represents Bala (bullet), Boi (cattle) and Bíblia (Bible) - forced the approval of mineral exploration of indigenous lands. Such a destructive offensive against indigenous peoples and lands has never been seen before.

The Bolsonaro government fraudulently states that "The Amazon is ours!". It invokes national sovereignty that no one in Brazil puts in question. However, it confuses sovereignty with irresponsibility and finally unmasks itself by announcing the handing over of natural resources to multinationals, particularly North American.

Many indigenous territories in Brazil have been burned by farmers and loggers for years, though 2019s fires are especially bad. Awá man Hemokomaá stands in his peoples forest after it was burned in 2010. © Fiona Watson/Survival

Many indigenous territories in Brazil have been burned by farmers and loggers for years, though 2019s fires are especially bad. Awá man Hemokomaá stands in his peoples forest after it was burned in 2010. © Fiona Watson/Survival

It is imperative that the peoples of the world support with effective measures the non destruction of the lands and the indigenous peoples of Brazil! The UN and all the countries sympathetic to indigenous and environmental causes should demand the Brazilian government complies with the Federal Constitution of Brazil, as well as International Labour Organization Convention 169 regarding the rights of the indigenous peoples of Brazil! Without this, the environmental rights of all humanity will be compromised!

I implore all of you who hear this, and all peoples of the world, to do everything you can to prevent the senseless destruction of the Amazon Rainforest and the killing and displacement of its indigenous peoples.”







 

The Petitions

Petition from Avaaz to the members of Brazil’s Congress, the government of Jair Bolsonaro, and world leaders

Demand: do all you can to protect the forest, including passing laws to protect public forests and end illegal deforestation, and bringing international pressure to prevent further destruction of the Amazon. 

Petition from Survival International to Jair Bolsonaro

Demand: to respect the Constitution and international Treaties ratified by Brazil by ensuring the protection of indigenous people territories and the respect of their Rights. 

Open Letter from 600 scientists in the EU and 300 Brazilian Indigenous groups (represented by APIB and COIAB) to the EU. 

Demand: to make Mercosur conditional on: (i) upholding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; (ii) improving procedures to trace commodities associated with deforestation; and (iii) consulting with Indigenous Peoples and local communities to define strict social and environmental criteria for traded commodities. Sign if you are a sustainability scientist working in the EU or find your local MP and ask them to sign 

Petition from Growing Air Foundation (Netherlands) to the U.N. Gen. Secretary Antonio Guterres

Demand: UN to protect all forests of the world and forbid deforestation for economic activities.

Petition from WeMove.EU and SumofUs to the Ministers of Trade, Environment and Agriculture of the EU countries and all European leaders 

Demand: to halt negotiations for an EU-Mercosur free trade agreement, especially with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. 

Petition from Gabriel Santos (lawyer from Amazonia in Brazil) to all levels of government in Brazil. 

Demand: to investigate what is leading to the increase in fires in Amazonia and hold the culprits to account. 

Open letter from Youth for Climate France, OnEstPret, All4Trees + several French celebrities to President Macron. 

Demand: to stop the import of Beef and Soy from deforested areas in Brazil, not ratify Mercosur, write the term of ecocide into French law, suggest other countries to do so during the G7. 

Petition from Marianne Grimmenstein (private individual) to Chanceller Angela Merkel. 

Demand: the conditional boycott of Brazilian agricultural products as well as non-ratification of Mercosur. 

Petition from Campact to German government (Chancellor Angela Merkel, Min. of Economics Peter Altmaier, Min. of Environment Svenja Schulze). 

Demand: no ratification of Mercosur without legally binding regulations regarding the protection of the Rainforest and the respect of the Paris Agreement. 

Petition from Greenpeace to Austrian political parties

Demand: to decide a veto on MERCOSUR in their next assembly. 

Petition from WWF to the UK Government

Demand: to end the importation of goods that have caused deforestation and to tackle the problem at the UN climate meetings in September. 

Petition from Greenpeace to the management of McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King  

Demand: Stop sourcing soya and meat from Brazil until the Amazon and its people are protected 

Petition from Caitlin O'Regan (private individual) to Morrisons (4th largest chain of supermarkets in UK)  

Demand: End partnership with JBS Beef 

Petition from Mighty Earth (US) to President of Stop & Shop and the CEO of their parent company, Ahold Delhaize 

Demand: End partnership with Cargill, the largest trader of soy from Brazil