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Defending the Amazon, Indigenous Rights & Planetary Integrity

Defending the Amazon, Indigenous Rights & Planetary Integrity 1

As the Amazon Rainforest crisis persists, our inability to protect our planet poses an existential threat to all of Earth’s inhabitants. As the sky recently turned black over Sao Paulo, Brazil because of smoke (thousands of kilometers away) from the fires that is so thick it can be viewed by NASA space satellites, the world’s leaders were assembled at the G-7 summit in Europe, seemingly more interested in exchanging sophomoric insults than solving the world’s most pressing and urgent problems.  According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, almost 73,000 forest fires have been documented this year alone. That’s an alarming 84% increase from what was observed in 2018. 

As Indigenous groups and conservationists scramble to defend the lungs of our planet, Brazil’ President Jair Bolsonaro audaciously shrugged off the news and blamed NGO’s and Indigenous groups for the glaring uptick in fires in the Amazon. Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has promised to roll back environmental protections and indigenous rights in order to exploit the Amazon for increased farming and mining, and he has made good on that promise.

Invasion of indigenous territories are on the rise in Brazil, and indigenous groups are increasingly under threat as titans of industry within mining, logging, and animal farming continue to encroach upon indigenous land and destroy precious parcels of the Amazon for commercial exploitation.   Bolsonaro has emboldened these invasions. Recently, a group of heavily armed miners invaded indigenous land in Northern Brazil and assassinated one of the community’s indigenous leaders.

Indigenous peoples in Brazil are once again on the front lines today of one of the most brutal attacks on their rights and on the forest in recent history. We’re now seeing the drastic rollback of 30 years of progress on human rights and environmental protection in Brazil under Bolsonaro’s regime, which romanticizes Brazil’s past when military dictatorship took helm and presided over wanton destruction of the forest. The Munduruku people have been resisting encroachment and destruction of their land for centuries, and their fight (along with other indigenous groups and the very spirit of the Amazon jungle itself) is more urgent than ever as Brazil’s government and commercial industries continue to violate with impunity.

The tragedy currently taking place in the Amazon is indicative of a broader cultural problem in regards to our relationship with our planet. 1/5th of all the world’s plants and birds and about 1/10th of all mammal species are found in the Amazon. Earth has lost half its wildlife in the past four decades. Based on an analysis of thousands of vertebrate species by the wildlife group WWF and the Zoological Society of London, our way of life has presided over the destruction of 60% of our animal populations since 1970. The report calculates a global “ecological footprint,” which measures the area required to supply the ecological goods and services humans use. It concludes that humanity currently needs the regenerative capacity of 1.5 Earths to supply these goods and services each year.

With the planet’s population expected to grow by 2.4 billion people by 2050, the challenge of providing enough food, water and energy (while sustaining planetary health) will be difficult. This should be the real “RED ALERT” placated all over the media, as the shocking and rapid decline of planetary biodiversity poses an imminent catastrophe that plagues all of us, requiring urgent and bold alterations to our way of life.

That being said, we have more than enough resources to profit food and shelter to billions of people. Solutions done seem to be the problem, it’s human consciousness, greed and ego.

Outrage is an understandable response to the Amazon crisis, but not sufficient to redress the problem.  We need to take individual action in our daily lives by altering our lifestyles. One of the most under-reported aspects of Amazonian deforestation is our addiction to consuming meat. Beef, soy, palm oil and wood drive the majority of tropical deforestation.

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Animal agriculture is devastating for the Earth. Raising livestock for meat, eggs and milk uses about 70% of agricultural land, and is a primary factor in the proliferation of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution.

“1.2 billion farmed animals are slaughtered globally every week for human consumption. In one week, more farmed animals are killed than the total number of people killed in all wars throughout history. Although these animals are treated as commodity, they are — in fact — sentient beings — like your pet cat or dog. We tend to assume that only vegans and vegetarians follow a belief system — but when eating animals is not a necessity (which is the case in much of the world today) — then it is a choice, and choices stem from beliefs. “Carnism” is a dominant philosophy — as eating animals is just the way things are — yet it runs contrary to core human values such as compassion, justice, and authenticity. And so — they need to use defense mechanisms that distort our thoughts and numb our feelings so that we act against our core values without fully realizing what we are even doing.” ~Dr. Melanie Joy  

The challenges that face our planet, our indigenous family, and our own imminent future are immense. It is easy to feel discouraged, angry, and hopeless about the state of the world, but the ability to harness humanity’s intelligence, creativity and compassion to steer the planet in a new direction is with us right now. We can take individual responsibility today, which can resonate immediately and create waves of influence that can lead to a collective change in behavior and attitudinal shift towards our relationship with nature and with ourselves.  This change starts from within, and this work begins with each of us making the choice to defend and protect this wondrous planet which has so graciously hosted our livelihood.

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