Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Brazil Deforestation Continues and Indigenous People Fight for Survival Amid Calls for Divestment

An image of illegal logging activities on indigenous lands in Brazil.
Click for image credit.
As reported by Marcelo Teixeira in Reuters, the destruction of the Amazon over the last year has reached an 11 year high. The deforestation rate is nearly 10,000 square kilometers this year which is an increase of nearly 30%. As the article notes, the destruction comes at a time that the Brazilian government is loosening oversight of illegal logging and burning.

This news comes after a series of news reports that highlighted the increased illegal burning of the rainforest earlier this summer that I highlighted in a post here.

While there is a great deal of concern about the environmental damage caused by the deforestation, particularly in the area of climate change and biodiversity, another tragedy that is unfolding is the loss of indigenous life ways.

As this Smithsonian article from several years ago points out, many indigenous people have lost their lives over the last decade as illegal loggers and miners have encroached into their forest homes. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that 26 year old indigenous rights activist Paolo Paulino Guajajara was shot in the head and murdered by illegal loggers. Prior to this, the leader of the Guajajara indigenous people complained to the Federal government in Brasilia about threats that they were receiving but it appears that little was done to protect them.

Indeed, the President of Brazil has said that the areas set aside for the indigenous peoples of the Amazon should be opened up for economic exploitation. Thus, it is unlikely that there will be much protection provided by the national government.

Unfortunately, according to Brazil's Missionary Council, violence against indigenous people in the country has spiked. A total of 135 were murdered in the last year which is an increase over the previous year of 23%. Plus, just in the first 9 months of 2019 there were 140 cases of land invasion, illegal exploitation of natural resources, or destruction of property which is twice the number over the previous year.

Clearly things in the Amazon are not going well under the current national leadership. Many in the government deny the reality of climate change and others seem to value short-term economic growth over the rights of native Brazilians. There is a growing call for a Brazilian divestment movement given the country's poor policy to native Brazilians and the environment. Given the news from Reuters about the increased rate of destruction and the reported murder of Paolo Paulino Guajajara, I suspect the calls for divestment will increase.

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