How European Food Supply Chains Play into the Amazon Devastation

Why is the Amazon burning and what’s the UK/EU got to do with it?

Published by Greenpeace UK, 2 September 2019, original article here

Author: Helle Abelvik-Lawson

Helle Abelvik-Lawson
Helle Abelvik-Lawson

The Brazilian Amazon has been on fire for weeks. Slash-and-burn practices by farmers, backed by Brazil’s powerful agribusiness sector, have seen great swathes of the world’s most crucial ecosystem burnt to a crisp. 

The fires in the Amazon are no natural disaster: they are the result of an active choice to sacrifice the environment and Indigenous rights for industry profit. And our companies, governments and global supply chains play a key role in driving the destruction. 

You’d think rainforests wouldn’t burn. But fires are a key tool used for deforestation by farmers. And small patches of deforestation have created dried-out fringe areas, which also catch fire easily. 

Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has encouraged land clearing for farming, creating a more fragmented rainforest. He took power promising to back business and cut “red tape” – which has meant weakened protections of  Brazil’s forests. He fired the head of Brazil’s space agency INPE, tasked with tracking Amazon deforestation, accusing him of “lies” over the clearances. 

Burning Amazon rainforest surrounded by farmland with grazing animals
PORTO VELHO, RONDONIA, BRAZIL: Aerial view of burned areas in the Amazon rainforest. © Victor Moriyama / Greenpeace

Bolsonaro has also effectively “declared war” on Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples standing in the way of Amazon land grabs. He once said: “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated the Indians.”

Those who destroy the Amazon are encouraged by his speeches. In mid-August, farmers around a main road in the Amazon held a “Day of Fire”, resulting in a 300% increase in fires in the area. 

New figures show the amount of Amazon Rainforest cleared in Brazil have reached a record high. As of the end of August 2019, Brazil has seen over 90,000 fires: over 46,000 in the Amazon; more than 27,000 fires in another biodiversity hotspot, the Cerrado. This is an increase of 145% from 1 January to 20 August 2019, compared to the same period last year. 

Who are the fires affecting?

While there’s no denying the implications for the world’s climate, Indigenous and other rural communities are the most immediately affected by the fires. Firmly on the frontlines, Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples are defending the Amazon from destruction, even as Bolsonaro’s dehumanising rhetoric encourages arson and other violence against them.

The effects are being felt across Brazil too. On the afternoon of 19 August, so much smoke was produced that in São Paulo – a city more than 2,700km away from the blazes – the skies turned black.

If this feels apocalyptic, it’s because it is. This is what a climate emergency looks like. The Amazon is a critical carbon sink, vital for mitigating climate change. The fires themselves emit further carbon – the exact opposite of what the planet needs right now.

What does this have to do with us? 

Quite a lot. The forests are being cleared for food production – making global companies, governments, and supply chains complicit in turning the Amazon to ash.

Brazil is a key exporter of animal feed, beef and leather. Brazilian soy feeds animals that end up on supermarket shelves and in fast food joints around the world. Global demand for these products is fuelling the fires raging in Brazil’s forests, destroying Indigenous land – with serious implications for all life on Earth.

Brands must distance themselves from the devastation. Major players like Timberland, Vans and North Face have stopped sourcing leather from Brazil, concerned that their products could be contributing to the damage. Others need to follow their lead.

The UK government must also put the Amazon and Indigenous rights first. That means stopping the trade talks currently underway with Brazil’s government, and ensuring any future deal has the Amazon and its people at its heart.

Finally, we as a society should consider our own consumption patterns. The planet can’t afford endless production of meat at the expense of the Amazon Rainforest. Stopping the real damage to the country, its people, and the world’s climate will require hitting Brazil’s agribusiness sector where it hurts.

Take action for the Amazon!

Companies sourcing from Brazil cannot stand by while the Amazon is being torched. They must distance themselves from Bolsonaro’s attacks on critical forests and Indigenous rights.

This is a climate emergency.

Send a message to McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King: “Take a stand against President Bolsonaro’s Amazon destruction. Stop sourcing soya and meat from Brazil until the Amazon and its people are protected”. It only takes a few minutes of your time. Thank you.

Please SIGN THE GREENPEACE PETITION!! (located at bottom of linked page)

Brazil: Vale Company to pay for damages caused by Brumadinho dam collapse

26 August 2019; originally published here by BBC 10 July 2019

A judge in Brazil has ordered mining giant Vale to pay compensation for all damages caused by the collapse of the Brumadinho dam in January. The collapse was Brazil’s worst industrial accident. The judge did not set a figure for the compensation but said that the company was responsible for fixing all the damages including the economic effects.

At least 248 people were killed as a sea of mud engulfed a staff canteen, offices and nearby farms. Twenty-two people are still missing following the collapse of the Feijão dam on 25 January.

Judge Elton Pupo Nogueira also said that $2.9bn (£2.3bn) of Vale’s assets frozen by courts should remain blocked. He said the funds should be used to make compensation payments to affected families and businesses. Explaining why he had not specify an amount for Vale to pay out, he argued that technical and scientific criteria were not enough to quantify the effects of the collapse. 

“The value [of the compensation] is not limited to the deaths resulting from the event, it also affects the environment on a local and regional level as well as the economic activity in the affected region.”

Judge Nogueira

Thus far according to the BBC article, and please find the entire article here.

What is interesting to note, is the indication that Judge Nogueira leaves room for the impact of this environmental disaster to be determined in the future for the environment as well. This gives hope for a different view of how corporations are going to have to rectify the ramifications of a disaster from their operations.

Along those lines is how The Crowd Versus works: we believe legal change will create societal change. Because we think that a company has a social duty to the people surrounding its location and to the environment.

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This is Why Our Future Lies in the Hands of Those Protecting the Amazon

This is Why Our Future Lies in the Hands of Those Protecting the Amazon

The Amazon rainforest is the most important forest in the world and crucial to limit global warming. Protecting the forest should be a top priority of world leaders, companies and citizens. Sadly everyday a part is being destroyed, directly affecting the lives of the indigenous and local communities. Hivos and Greenpeace support indigenous and local communities in their battle against the destruction of their territory.

30 November 2018

Deforestation by new president

André Karipuna, the leader of one of the Indigenous communities in the Brazilian Amazon, reported about the dramatic situation at a UN meeting in Geneva. His people are afraid of their lives because of (illegal) deforestation. Their territory is demarcated and protected by Brazilian law, but after the election of the new president Jair Bolsonaro, their future is at stake. During his election campaign, Jair Bolsonaro promised that his government will stop demarcating new indigenous lands and revise the existing ones.

Weaken surveillance on environmental crimes

The new president also declared that he would weaken surveillance on environmental crimes, loosen up environmental licensing rules, and allow the use of weapons by rural landowners. This policy could have huge effects on the environment and the safety of people, like André Karipuna, trying to protect it.

Limit global warming

Not only local communities are dependent on the new Brazilian government to protect the forest, but we all are. Only then we can limit global warming. Brazil holds the key to our future. Turning a blind eye for illegal deforestation, land grabbing, human rights abuse and the continuous destruction of the Amazon can be the end of our planet’s ecosystem.

Support from Hivos and Greenpeace

André Karipuna’s community, and others Indigenous and local communities get support from the All Eyes on the Amazon program. Hivos and Greenpeace run this program, together with a coalition of organizations working in the same field. They call upon companies and governments to protect the Amazon no matter who the future president is.

Source and Photo Hivos: All Eyes on the Amazon: the future of protecting forests in Brazil