Contributed by Joe Montero
The world has been watching the Amazon rain forest burn. Hundreds of fires are blazing. This will have a bad impact on Brazil’s economy. It is also of concern to the whole world.
The Amazon is up there, on the top of the essential creators of oxygen, which is essential in the war against taking on carbon emissions and the associated climate emergency.
Adding to the sense of outrage, is that most of these fires have been deliberately lit to clear land for farming.
Large scale ranchers hungry for more grazing land, and secondly, the rise of the grain and soya agribusinesses industries are the main causes. There is also legal and illegal logging for paper and timber products.
Tied in with this is American money. Them most prominent example is Steven Schwarzman, who happens to be one of Donald Trump’s biggest donors. Schwarzman happens to be the CEO of multinational Blackstone , which is extremely well connected to Washington.
This company is financing a new transit port and commercial highway running deep into the rain forest. This will significantly cut the cost of exporting cattle, grain, soy and mineral resources.
Other multinationals, like IKEA and Nike, are also benefiting from the destruction of the Amazon.
Unless the ability of the big landowners to do as they like and the activities of companies like Blackstone and the other multinationals are checked, not much is going to be done to protect the Amazon.
President Jair Bolsonaro has been part of the problem. He is the one who gave the go ahead to clear the Amazon and then made it worse by denying the burning crisis at the beginning.
A small glimmer of hope is that these fires have already caused so much damage and hurt Brazil’s standing so much that Bolsonaro has had to finally admit the crisis, sent thousands of troops to fight the fires and stop legal burning until these fires are put out.
It is not enough. The fires are still being lit illegally and there are no consequences for the culprits.
The world has also failed to do enough. Last week’s G7 meeting in France agreed to donate $22 million. It is far too little to have any effect. A major effort is needed. It’s not just about putting out the immediate fires. the ongoing destruction must not continue after the fires are put out.
Doing this does not mean an invasion and taking over. But it does mean providing enough collective assistance, and an understanding that Brazil needs to bring about structural economic change.
This is not so easy. Those benefiting the most form the way things are will resist. Cooperation is likely to require sufficient compensation, which is In justified, given that the destruction of the Amazon will bring about a serious consequence for the whole of humanity. and the luxury of having time to wait is not there.
Assistance must be directed towards reducing Brazil’s reliance on the exports of products associated with the destruction of the Amazon, through the creation of alternative industries. This is not currently on the agenda and it should be.
The carrot must also come with a little bit of stick. A failure to accept and go about the business of change, should bring the world not to buy the products. Cutting the market will add pressure to bring about the needed change. The situation is too serious to do anything less.
Although Brazil’s economy is on paper the eighth largest in the world and the most industrialised in Latin America, it has been contracting. The major failure is in manufacturing. It shrank by 4.4 percent in the last financial year, continuing a downward trend over a number of years.
For most Brazilians, this has meant fewer job opportunities and growing poverty. Without beginning to resolve the economic problems and social problems, the environmental problem is not going to be tackled successfully.
The poor state of the economy is is a major cause of the destruction of the Amazon, by providing resources for a shirt-sighted fix. There must be an alternative.
The latest polling says that Bolsonaro’s approval rating has fallen since the fires begun. The Datafolha polling institute found his approval rating at just 29 percent. Mix this with factional warfare within the government ranks.
The political opposition shows signs of finding its feet.
Rising political instability might prove to be an advantage. It may work to stay Bolsonaro’s hand from endorsing further destruction of the Amazon and encourage his adoption the the change that is needed.
Or it may result in his fall. In this case, the opportunity for more extensive change could come about.