Why our diet is (in part) responsible for fires in the Amazon


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“A few days ago the sky of São Paulo darkened with the smoke that came from hundreds of kilometers to the north. They were the ashes of thousands of fires. In a country of continental dimensions, the problems of the Amazon are sometimes perceived as a distant reality, and in Brazilian public opinion there is also no the same environmental sensitivity as in Europe. It's as if there were other more urgent priorities, ” Joan Royo, a freelance collaborator with the international news agency Sputnik, who has been living in Brazil for six years , tells Traveler.es .

This is the justification for the apparent lethargy of Brazilian civil society before the more than 72, 000 fires that the Amazon has suffered in Brazil so far this year.

Behind that black smoke there are thousands of fires burning for three weeks. And not anywhere. The largest lung on the planet burned due to accelerated deforestation by the burned (land burning) of landowners.

"When the last tree fell down,
when or last dried river tiver,
when or last peixe for fish,
You understand that dinheiro doesn't eat "#PrayforAmazonia pic.twitter.com/Q4JmEhWwho https://t.co/m0C0VAdQEG - Joenia Wapichana (@JoeniaWapichana) August 20, 2019

It was necessary that the sky of the main financial center of Brazil was stained a black color to start looking guilty, but why have more fires been generated than ever in the Amazon?

This image that follows is supplied directly by NASA from its Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) platform. Red dots indicate possible active fires.

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Satellite image of the affected area © Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS)

And it is that satellite images are needed to firmly answer the question. Only at the end of the year can the real loss of surface area be identified by comparing the images of this year with those of the previous year. For now, estimates begin to be made talking about hundreds of thousands of hectares burned.

What is known for sure is that deforestation increased 88% in July compared to July last year and that Brazilian right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, fulfilled without justification the director of the National Institute of Space Research of Brazil (INPE), the main responsible for these satellite images, for daring to publicly report fires.

“The messenger was killed. That is, the dismantling of the legal apparatus that was defending the Amazon has unleashed an orgy of fire, ”says Miguel Ángel Soto, in charge of issues related to the Amazon in Greenpeace.

“Already during the election campaign, Bolsonaro said he intended to end the protection of areas of the Amazon and that the indigenous people had too much land rights. A speech in favor of a sector with a lot of power historically in Brazil: the Ruralist Bank, which acts in defense of the interests of the colonists and that is dedicated to the export of raw materials ”.

Or what is the same: prioritize the export of Brazilian meat, soy and ethanol over the health of the Amazon rainforest ecosystem .

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Smoke comes out of the forest in an Amazon region near the border with Colombia, on August 21 © Getty Images

“These messages have penetrated deeply. Brazil has returned to the previous model in which it led deforestation rates in South America. Fire Day has even been celebrated! ”, Soto points out.

This day that reminds the spokesman of Greenpeace has come to public light relatively recently. Farmers and settlers celebrated the beloved in style without hiding from anything or anyone. Something unheard of to date because it was performed in secret or allegorically.

“These land burns have skyrocketed because Bolsonaro has generated a permissive scenario without fines. You can skip the forest law with total impunity. ”

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Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira, Brazil © Getty Images

It is here that the relationship between NGOs and Bolsonaro has been broken forever. Even both sides use the word war to define the current moment.

The Brazilian leader blamed the NGOs for having caused these fires to the media: “We take money from the NGOs. Now they feel affected by the lack of funds. So, maybe NGOs are carrying out these criminal acts to generate negative attention against me and the Brazilian government. This is the war we face. ”

A war that does not dodge from Greenpeace: “The war is real in that they are disputed territories and there are economic interests in dispute. He talks about war and is left on the road that in some areas indigenous leaders are being killed. It also omits that there were years when the deforestation rate in Brazil decreased and exports increased. Just what Bolsonaro says is impossible. The best use of land allowed to produce more quantity, export more product and deforest less. Before Bolsonaro, Brazil had overcome the dichotomy between development and deforestation. ”

And it is that criminalizing NGOs is part of the common language of Bolsonaro and other related governments. “Now they accuse us of burning the jungle, tomorrow you know. You have to be careful because they don't go with little girls. Also look at what is happening with the Open Arms. That is to say, it rains on wet ”, affirms Miguel Ángel.

For Joan Royo, “there is no war between the NGOs and Bolsonaro. The president continues with his strategy of poisoning with lies. It is nothing new. He has always charged against the NGOs that work in the Amazon because in his opinion they are a hindrance to the country's progress. He says they are at the service of the economic interests of foreign countries, which is paradoxical, because he says he wants to allow the United States to exploit the resources of the jungle. ”

The fire at Notre Dame Cathedral shocked the world. Why isn't there the same outrage at the fires that are ravaging the #Amazonia? ‍♂️ #AmazonasEnLlamas #PrayForAmazonia @WWF_Brasil @WWFnoticias @WWF pic.twitter.com/07cG0hSLx2 - WWF Spain (@WWFespana) August 22, 2019

It is easy (and dangerous) to think that international pressure is the only way to stop deforestation in the Amazon. As if the internal pressure did not exist. Joan Royo believes that “the international community puts its hands to the head. They boast of #prayforamazonas as if this were any tragedy. The foreign press should be more critical and pressure governments to start imposing trade sanctions on Brazil. ”

Miguel Ángel, from Greenpeace, goes further: “Brazil plays a vital role in the international scene as a world power. What is happening in the Amazon greatly hinders Bolsonaro's credibility. He has to speak at the United Nations at the end of September and cannot present himself with this spot on his record. ”

View this post on Instagram A shared post from Greenpeace International (@greenpeace) on Aug 22, 2019 at 11:57 p.m. PDT

And he gives an example of what could happen if the European Union acts as it should: “If Brazil signs an agreement with the European Union to sell meat, soybeans and ethanol, it must demand products without any link to current deforestation. No European company should buy these products without clarifying their origin. Moreover, large multinationals should refuse to buy soybeans that come from the deforestation of the Amazon if they do not want to see their image affected. ”

The attacks on the Amazon are an international tragedy.
What can we do?
1. Support the courageous resistance of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon.
2. Make clear to the agribusiness & financiers involved in the destruction that we won't buy their products. https://t.co/pDqH3ZI6X7 - AMAZON WATCH (@AmazonWatch) August 20, 2019

The important thing now is to know how the international community can help prevent more fires from a distance. Organizations like Amazon Watch prioritize two things we can do even if we are far away: one, to support the courageous resistance of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. And two, make it clear to the agribusinesses involved in the destruction of the Amazon that we will not buy their products.

From Greenpeace they ratify this vision and it is surprising to glimpse that we all have part of the blame for what happened (and we can be a big part of the solution): “A few weeks ago the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] published a report on the change Climate and one of the things I asked for was a radical change in the food model in Western countries. He argued that lower consumption of meat would mean less soy imports. So that the protein produced in other countries is not the protein we eat. ”

In short, they argue that a shout to heaven in favor of proximity agriculture could prevent greater evils such as fires in the other part of the world: “It cannot be that the cows, pigs or sheep that we eat in Europe feed on soybeans that It comes from Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia or Brazil. A very acceptable demand is to reduce the intake of meat that comes from intensive livestock and prioritize that of sustainable extensive livestock with the environment. We are not requiring anyone to be a vegetarian or vegan, but reducing the intake of meat and increasing that of legumes, cereals, vegetables and fruits of proximity is something that nutritionists also recommend. ”

What is clear to climate experts is that if one day the Amazon reaches a point of no return, the rainforest could become a dry savanna. If this Amazon rainforest, with an area of ​​5 million and a half square kilometers, ceases to be a source of oxygen to emit carbon, it would become the main driver of climate change.

See this post on Instagram A shared publication of Greenpeace Spain (@greenpeace_esp) on Aug 22, 2019 at 2:13 p.m. PDT