|Photo from CNN
In the 21st century, we cannot claim ignorance- the causes and consequences of man-made Climate Chaos are well known, scientifically assessed and documented. A child in a junior class in primary school can tell you the reasons why the world is getting warmer. Yet in our hour of need, the policies of political leaders across the world are encouraging the arsonists to continue cutting off our life-giving oxygen supply and releasing deadly carbon and methane into the atmosphere.
President Donald Trump’s unilateral action to pull the USA out of the largest international agreement in human history, namely the 2015 Paris Agreement, became the green light for so many other governments to renege on their commitments. Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Australia, UK, Italy, Japan, Indonesia… have now become obstacles in the struggle to save the planet from our own selfish actions.
Many presidents, prime ministers and members of government across the globe are openly expressing climate denier views. None more so than Jair Bolsanaro, who became President of Brazil in January 2019. In his election campaign, he openly declared that the Amazonian rainforest should be exploited and ‘developed’, and that the trees and the indigenous peoples need to make way for the ‘progressive’ miners, loggers, soya farmers and ranchers. In other words, profit for the few at the expense of the many and of the environment. Since he was elected, Bolsanaro has undermined those who have protected and gave their lives for the rainforests, namely the native Indian communities and the environmental/human rights NGOs. Nearly three hundred have died in the last few years defending Amazonia. He has undermined and cut funding to the government departments charged with protecting the environment. This includes the country’s space research agency (INPE) which stated earlier this month that its data showed there was an 84% increase in the number of fires compared with the same period in 2018. It had detected over 74,000 fires in the country between January and August - the highest number since records began in 2013. These fires do not occur naturally in such a humid wet environment- the sparks of ignition are set by people intent on carrying out land grabs by rapid deforestation. So rather than paying heed to these warnings, Bolansaro questions the authenticity of their scientific findings and sacks the INPE head, Ricardo Galvao. He wants to bury the truth. This week the Brazilian president castigates concerned world leaders such as France’s Emmanuel Macron for expressing anger at what is happening in Amazonia, telling them they had no right to interfere in his nation’s internal affairs and they were displaying “European colonialist tendencies”! What stupidity! For the tropical rainforests are the "Lungs of the Planet"- they belong to all living things and not just to the Brazilian government and their allies.
Bolsonaro has been compared by many to Emperor Nero who, according to legend, played the fiddle whilst Rome burned. But these two men’s actions do not represent ‘madness’ in the traditional meaning of the term. They both knew exactly what they were doing. Nero wanted to clear the Eternal City of its old rundown neighbourhoods so that he could rebuild it to his grand design. Bolansaro wants to clear the tree-covered wildlife-rich natural environment so that the powerful mining, ranching, crop farming and logging elite can produce the minerals, beef, animal feed and timber that Ireland and the rest of the EU imports.
I commend An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and President Emmanuel Macron for warning that their governments’ support for the EU-Mercosur trade deal will end unless actions are taken immediately to end the fires.
But we need to go further- we, as concerned citizens, should redouble our efforts to protect biodiversity and reverse climate chaos. We should also boycott Brazilian goods and put pressure on Irish politicians to end the proposed Mercosur free trade deal that only benefits the big ranchers, miners, loggers, crop farmers and their allies who are responsible both for genocide against the indigenous population and the destruction of the most important life giving forest on the planet