‘The fight to save the Amazon is urgent as there is no Plan B’

One of Brazil’s most noted indigenous voices, Sonia Guajajara, speaks on the Amazon fires

By Sonia Guajajara
Published: Wednesday 28 August 2019

Indigenous peoples have been warning for decades about the violations we have suffered everywhere in Brazil.

Predatory action by agri-business loggers, miners and ranchers, who have a powerful lobby in the National Congress with over 200 deputies under their influence; in addition to large-scale projects such as hydroelectric dams, these are threats that have been deepening terribly under the anti-indigenous Jair Bolsonaro government, which normalises, incites and empowers violence against the environment and against us, indigenous peoples and our territories.

The co-relation between deforestation and fire is intrinsic. The ten municipalities in the Amazon region that are most affected by the fire represent 37 per cent of the total and 43 per cent of deforestation detected in July.

The records are higher in the states of Acre, Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Rondônia and Roraima, where there is a significant population of our people. It is also in this region that a large number of the last uncontacted people from Brazil live, as reported by the COIAB or Coordination of Indigenous Organisations of the Brazilian Amazon.

We know that indigenous territories are the most preserved in the world. In the Brazilian Amazon, communities protect 27 per cent of the forest; reserves provide 5.2 billion tonnes of water per day. They are real barriers against the advance of logging and greed of Brazilian agri-business.

In Brazil, contrary to what is said, with the dismantling of the Funai (Brazil’s national foundation for indigenous people) and the environmental policies and enforcement, through the demoralisation and dismantling of IBAMA, ICMBio (both are administrative arms of the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment), INPE (research unit of the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation) and the attempted criminalisation and recurring lies against civil society organisations, they abandoned us to our own fate, and we are forced to guard our territories at our own risk.

We are putting our bodies and our lives at the service of maintaining our territories.

Furthermore, we will soon be in Europe to report to the world, the violations that indigenous peoples in Brazil have suffered since the beginning of the Bolsonaro government, as well as our forests, forests and rivers.

We are a country of important biodiversity worldwide, with aquifers that account for much of the world's freshwater. Faced with the worsening scenario, unfortunately, we are being pushed into a war that has no end date and we need the solidarity of national and international public opinion, the support of the Brazilian institutions and also cooperation of international courts to ensure justice and protection to the indigenous peoples of Brazil, as we have recently experienced with the assassination of Chief Emirá Wajãpi, in Amapá.

The lives of indigenous peoples depends on this fight. But it is not only our lives. The lives of future generations and our survival as a species depends on this collective effort to generate new models of development. We have no plan B, so this fight is urgent.

(Sônia Guajajara is a Brazilian environmental and indigenous activist and politician. This statement of hers has been translated from Portuguese to English by Survival International and republished here with her permission)

(Views expressed are the author's own and don't necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth) 

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