“Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.”
– E.O. Wilson
“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”
“The essence of capitalism is to turn nature into commodities and commodities into capital. The live green earth is transformed into dead gold bricks, with luxury items for the few and toxic slag heaps for the many. The glittering mansion overlooks a vast sprawl of shanty towns, wherein a desperate, demoralized humanity is kept in line with drugs, television, and armed force.”
– Michael Parenti, Against Empire
This month Brazil’s most populous city, Sao Paulo, was plunged into darkness in the middle of the afternoon. Raging fires in the Amazon, the proverbial lungs of the planet, cast acrid clouds of black smoke over the city. But this was no natural phenomenon. This was a crime scene, and the victims include indigenous peoples and the living biosphere itself.
The president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who has been lauded by the world’s “democracies” and capitalist rags like the Wall Street Journal, has ramped up the assault on these biodiverse regions and their inhabitants. And he has accelerated genocide against Brazil’s indigenous peoples for the profit of multinational corporations. In recent days attacks have been stepped up by militarized police forces who will use any force necessary to “evict” indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands. These evictions, or ethnic cleansing campaigns, include violence, intimidation, and the burning of villages and farms.
Bolsonaro, backed by a cadre of evangelical fanatics, racists, homophobes, and an entrenched military junta, is now dismantling any remaining protections for the besieged ecosystems and communities of the country. He has emboldened loggers, ranchers and mining interests with his fascist rhetoric, many of whom have threatened indigenous peoples with violence. For instance, in Amapá state, gold miners stabbed an indigenous leader to death in a protected reserve. Other reports of attacks are mounting, as are the environmental costs. In fact, deforestation increased by 67% in the first seven months of this year with 2,255 square kilometers of the Amazon was lost in July alone. And Brazil’s space agency documented at least 73,000 wildfires, an 83% jump from last year.
There has been enormous pushback against the onslaught. Protestors flooded the streets of three major cities and indigenous women blocked entry to the Health Ministry in Brasília, many more have joined to protest Bolsonaro’s policies of marginalization, destruction and annihilation. But the mainstream media has been largely silent about these demonstrations, choosing instead to focus on places like Hong Kong, a center of global commerce. While those protests are impressive, they pose no real threat to the forces of capital. Indigenous protests do.
The assault on indigenous peoples is a war on the biosphere itself. The ruling class in Brazil, as in every other colonized region of the planet, see their existence as an obstacle and nuisance to their wealth accumulation. That they will sit behind gilded gates atop a mountain of rotting corpses and fossilized species is of no concern to them. Greed is their drug and their god. They will exploit everything, from the Arctic to the Amazon, with no limits. And angry skies, heatwaves, floods, droughts and a rapidly changing climate system will not convince them of their madness. They will use demoralization, distraction and, when that fails, violence to suppress dissent and continue their status quo destruction. But their remorseless pillage will not proceed without a fight. Indigenous people, especially indigenous women, are rising up against it. Their courage should inspire us because this should be understood as a war that we will all be swept up into whether we like it or not. The question is, will we choose the right side.