Socialist Worker

Amazon fire shows cost of burning the planet

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2669

Protesters outside the Brazilian embassy in London

Protesters outside the Brazilian embassy in London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The wildfires tearing through the Amazon rainforest in Brazil have shown the horrors of climate chaos.

The smoke is so thick it turned the air black in the city of Sao Paulo—some 1,700 miles from the inferno.

Nearer the fire, in the northern state of Rondonia, hospital admissions for respiratory problems have tripled.

Some of those on the front line are the one million indigenous people who live there. One indigenous leader, Maria Leonice Tupari, said, “The fires affect everyone, principally us in the indigenous reserves.

“There is a lot of smoke, you can’t see properly, our vision burns”.

Fires happen every winter, but the rate has soared as farmers and loggers torched felled trees and cleared land for pasture.

There have been more than 72,000 fire outbreaks in Brazil this year, according to the country’s National Institute for Space Research. That’s up by 84 percent on the same period in 2018.

Far right President Jair Bolsonaro is a climate change denier and in the pocket of big agribusiness.

He is committed to clearing huge swathes of the Amazon for cattle ranches and crop fields at a terrifying pace. This is having disastrous consequences for humanity.

Bolsonaro wages war on the Amazon rainforest to boost business interests
Bolsonaro wages war on the Amazon rainforest to boost business interests
  Read More

The Amazon is often referred to as “the lungs of the planet”, because it absorbs millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. This plays a critical role in regulating the Earth’s temperature—a crucial factor in catastrophic climate change.

And the rainforest is home to three million species, making it the most biodiverse place on Earth.

European Union (EU) leaders, such as French president Emmanuel Macron, hypocritically condemned Bolsonaro last week. Their neoliberal policies have contributed to climate change.

The real hope lies in the people who have taken to the streets over the burning of the Amazon.

Thousands of people protested in towns and cities across Brazil last weekend to demand Bolsonaro tackles the blazes.

In Sao Paulo ­protesters blocked the main road, calling for the resignation of environment minister Ricardo Salles.

And in London hundreds of activists took to the streets in fury at Brazil’s government and big agribusiness.

The protest, called by Extinction Rebellion, gathered outside the Brazilian embassy in central London.

Hannah told Socialist Worker, “When Notre Dame was burning, all these billionaires came out of the woodwork to rebuild it.

“So when Bolsonaro says Brazil can’t afford to put out the fires, it’s bullshit.

“He wants the fires to clear the way for cattle ranches.”

The meat industry rightly came in for criticism. For a large section of protesters, the solution was a vegan diet. Heidi said, “Agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation. Eating meat is not a ‘personal choice’ if it has an impact on the planet.”

But designer Attilio emphasised, “The source of the problem is policy, and you can only change policy with political action.

“You have to recognise that the biggest interests in Brazil are multinational corporations and a government so rotten it fired the head of its space institute just for telling the truth.

He added, “In the end you have to confront that system.”

Thanks to Dave Sewell


Extinction Rebellion organised the protest at the Brazilian embassy

Extinction Rebellion organised the protest at the Brazilian embassy (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Extinction Rebellion prepares for ‘rebel risings’

Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists are gearing up for “Rebel Risings” of protest, debate and action across Britain.

The biggest is set to be the “Northern Rebellion” in Manchester—a four-day occupation in the city centre from Friday of this week.

Martin Empson from the Campaign against Climate Change trade union group is leading a training session on trade unions and climate change at the Manchester rising.

He told Socialist Worker the Northern Rebellion was a critical opportunity to “discuss the alternatives to capitalism’s climate crisis”. “Millions of people around the world are watching the environmental news with horror,” he said. “But there is a growing radical movement.

“Everyone from anti-racists and environmentalists, to socialists and trade unionists are welcome to come and join in what is going to be an inspiring event.”

There are one and two-day events planned in Aberdeen, Cambridge, north London, Devon and Brighton for next month.

The regional events are to prepare activists for the 20 September global climate strike and the Autumn Rebellion in London in October.

Meanwhile, in London, three XR activists have been convicted after being arrested on protests earlier this year.

They were the first activists to stand trial as a group from charges related to April’s ten-day International Rebellion occupation.

Patrick Thelwell, Peter Scott, and Samuel Elmore were charged with offences including obstructing a highway and obstructing police.

They were also charged with breaching Section 14 of the Public Order Act, which was used to break up protests in parts of central London in April. Many more now face similar charges.

The Rebel Risings are set to be key events in the upcoming months of climate action—everyone should go and be part of the action.

Go to bit.ly/RebelRisings

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