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What's Happening In The Amazon And How Can We Help?

Global forest fires have been on the rise across the Canary islands, central and southern Africa and various South American countries this dry season. None, however, have become as politicised as those in the Brazilian Amazon. Some disbelief in the events was fuelled by old photographs of forest fires in other parts of the world that circulated on social media. Nevertheless, the ashes over Sao Paulo at 3 PM on 19 August as a result of the fires, although dubbed "fake news” by environment minister Ricardo Salles, was nonetheless captured and recorded by some of the city's 12 million inhabitants.

According to Brazil's Institutional Security Cabinet and retired military commander of the Amazon region, General Augusto Heleno, this year's Amazon deforestation rates published by INPE (the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research) have been manipulated.

In order to gauge the gravity of the situation, I spoke to biology professor Domingos Rodrigues from the Federal University of the Mato Grosso.

How much of what the media is saying is true and how much is false? In other words, how much do we need to worry?

“As far as deforestation is concerned, roughly 80% of what the media is saying is true" says Rodrigues. "DETER is a fast updating alert platform of changes in forest cover in the Amazon conducted by INPE. It was created to aid the IBAMA (Brazil’s Environment Ministry) in monitoring and controlling deforestation. The figures are then confirmed by a system called PRODES. So far, all the deforestation alerts this year have been confirmed by PRODES. Yes, we do need to be worried because the increase in deforestation is a reality and the Brazilian government is dismantling the relevant bodies that monitor it, such as IBAMA.”

Who's doing what?

“It’s tense here" according to indigenous activist Mayalu Txucarramãe from Mato Grosso. "Many of us are being attacked on social media and at work. Davi Kopenawa Yanomami is receiving death threats". Yanomami, a veteran indigenous activist, is this year's winner of the Right Livelihood Award. Txucarramãe and her brother Matsi Waura are both members of the Raoni Institute, a local foundation that executes projects in the Xingú indigenous territory. Matsi Waura stated that "deforestation has increased, crime has increased and the mortality rate of indigenous leaders and environmentalists has increased. We are occupying the streets in protest and some political parties and movements are making international complaints against the measures of the current government. But we need more pressure".

What can we do?

International Pressure

On August 23 the Brazilian government declared that it would send troops to assist fire brigades in the Amazon, “but only because of national and international pressure” says Matsi, “so keep demanding international intervention from your countries”.

Rodrigues: "The fires are being controlled primarily by State governments via specialised fire brigades. IBAMA is mobilising but its hands are tied because the federal government has reduced its teams in the Amazon, however the government recently requested help from the army and the national security forces to help control the fires by investigating and attempting to penalise criminal fire outbreaks. This was thanks to international pressure."

Support Local and Indigenous Groups

Mayalu: "Inside the Capot-Jarina indigenous territory, the Raoni Institute is maintaining a base on the reserve’s margins to limit the entry of trespassers and is collaborating with the State fire brigades on standby in the village of Piaraçu in order to put out accidental fires".

Raoni himself has recently been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Winning the prize may result in much needed funding for the Raoni Institute and its projects and will help to highlight the role of indigenous people. In June this year, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro described the chief as 'unrepresentative of the Brazilian people' and during his address to the United Nations on September 24, accused him of monopolising on his activism. In the wake of this publicity, support for Raoni and indigenous people has increased but indigenous people continue to face prejudice in Brazil.

[Raoni Metuktire. Photo: Ricardi Stuckert]

The indigenous are not the only groups you can support. Rodrigues: "You should support universities and State government fire control agencies such as IBAMA, and the State Environmental and Water Resources Secretariats. These institutions are effective in controlling fires and educating people on how to prevent them and on their negative impact on forests, the climate and humans in terms of respiratory problems."

  • Find and support indigenous networks in your country and abroad. Learn what their demands are and advocate for them.

  • Support in-country politicians who promote indigenous land rights and demand that your government put pressure on the Brazilian government to enact this type of legislation.

  • Apply pressure on the Brazilian government to operationalise zoning and community participation legislation.


Remember when Utah Phillips said “the earth is not dying. It is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses”? Well the same goes for the corporations linked to the destruction of the Amazon.

The thumbnail below is taken from this well researched article that details the main companies linked to Amazon destruction. Some of these have plants all over the world, such as Brazil’s JBS S.A., the world’s largest meat company which has plants in the US.

The headquarters for each of the above companies can be found on Google maps or the companies’ websites, namely in the jobs section.

  • Locate worldwide headquarters of each of these companies;

  • Trespass and protest at company premises or outside headquarters;

  • Confront CEOs at their homes or at work;

  • In some cases, cause damage to private property (ideally to machinery related to deforestation, transportation and communications or simply to the premises) in order to pose an ongoing threat to their business.

  • Organise and find groups that do any or all of the above.

Note: Aggression does not equal violence. People are very quick to differentiate between violence and nonviolence and in doing so, highly underestimate the importante of aggression. Violence implies the physical abuse or potential injury of another person, unlike any of the above-mentioned forms of aggression.

Pressure Your Country

As the world’s leading exporter of beef, leather, and soybeans (these being the leading causes of Amazon forest cover loss), Brazil is highly vulnerable to trade embargoes. Brazil exported $13.6 billion in agricultural products to the EU last year.

Mercosur is a trade deal with Brazil which, among other trade deals, is not cohesive with the statements made by European politicians in the wake of the Amazon fires. France has already refused to sign Mercosur. The rest of Europe must follow suit.

  • Demand that your government drop Mercosur.

  • Organise demonstrations or join groups that campaign against it and target politicians.

  • Lobby the negotiators of Mercosur in your country in writing and in public confrontation.


"In Brasil, the mining, farming and energy industries threaten our forest” says Chief Raoni. “Big land owners cut down trees in order to grow crops and spray pesticides, polluting the rivers which we drink water from. Europeans must boycott their products and eat foods produced on their own soil. I hope you will help me in this struggle”.

  • Single out Brazilian imports and protest at supermarkets to demand that they drop these products; namely beef and soy.

Although your purse is not a tool for change, make sure that you accompany your boycott of goods linked to deforestation with consuming home-grown foods. And if that's too expensive, should you still be eating meat if you care about the planet?


A chip containing GPS, 4G and data storage has been developed that is capable of deactivating machinery linked to deforestation upon entering protected areas. Using its GPS and caché of protected area coordinates, the system detects the exact location of vehicles and a notification is sent to the operator. If the operator advances, the vehicle can be switched off.

If enough brands and manufacturers incorporate this technology into their future products, the chip would be able to deactivate them in protected areas and halt deforestation.

  • Share the campaign as widely as possible

  • Promote it via social media

  • Tag brands and manufacturers; namely: Caterpillar, Komatsu, Hitachi CM, Volvo CE, Liebherr, XCMG, Doosan Infracore, Sany, John Deere and JCB.

Legal Instruments

If you haven’t done so already:

  • Sign the global petition to make environmental destruction a war crime.

  • Promote the Law of Ecocide publicly and via social media and share the petition.

Although international laws carry very little weight before governments like Brazil that wish to exercise their sovereignty over things like the Amazon, this law could condemn the actual companies as opposed to governments.

Ultimately, this is what needs to happen but it is only possible if we correctly identify those accountable for the maximum losses and attempt to hit them where it hurts. This is something we can do right now. Meanwhile we must also highlight those who are a part of the solution and demand that their rights and ability to continue providing solutions be respected and their voices heard.

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