The Amazon fires have caused an uproar of support and attention, but we can’t ignore the human element of the indigenous tribes being affected.
The world’s largest rainforest has been ablaze for more than a month. Millions of trees and animals, along with the sustainability of the world are all being threatened. However, you can’t fully understand the Amazon narrative without talking about the indigenous people of the region.
Within the borders of Brazil, about 300 indigenous tribes can be found. These tribes consider the Amazon rainforest their home and live through the means of the land. But as this vicious arson season continues, their home is being scorched away –– and we can’t stay silent about this injustice.
The first area of violation resides with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. This arson period has been sparked by “farmers and loggers clearing land for crops or grazing,” according to the BBC. These fires are intentional acts of deforestation and are not new practices.
However, this year’s fires increased by 83 percent compared to last year, with more than 87,000 fires. Greenpeace Brazil said this deforestation is encouraged “by the Bolsonaro government’s actions and policies,” and that “since taking office, the current government has been systematically dismantling Brazil’s environmental policy.”
Whether your views reside on the right or left side of Bolsonaro’s current political stance, the world needs to grasp the reality that the Amazon is not a place of plentiful goods for all to take. It is a home for individuals and an ecosystem full of life, which includes people, not just animals and plantlife. The Brazilian government also needs to comprehend that furthering excessive amounts of deforestation can alter this dwelling place and change an entire people’s way of life.
The narrative can quickly morph into one of climate change, animal loss, risks and all of the other things that are supposedly adding to the burning of the rainforest. While those are all vital elements when discussing the burning of the Amazon, omitting the people who live there and are directly affected is unjust.
If you look back to the 2018 California wildfires, its evident that the concern was heavily placed on the individuals who were forced out of their homes due to destruction. Of course, other conversation rightfully arose, but we never once eliminated the importance of people.
Why are we doing that now? Perhaps it’s because the situation is a bit more complex.
The indigenous tribes of the Amazon don’t technically own the rights to the land they reside on. According to The Atlantic, “The Brazilian constitution describes indigenous territories as areas where indigenous people can live permanently—that is, where they can practice their cultures and traditions… —even though the land technically still belongs to the government.” With that said, this shouldn’t cause us to step away from the human element. These tribes were given that land, and with each flame, their government is going back on their word.
Consequently, indegenous groups have made attempts to acquire the rights to this land through a process called demarcation, a lengthy procedure that requires a tribe to prove the land is ancestrally theirs. Yet, their efforts continue to be minimized by Bolsonaro through statements such as, “If I become president there will not be a centimeter more of indigenous land,” and, “Not one centimeter of land will be demarcated for indigenous reserves or quilombolas (descendants of runaway slaves),” according to The Boston Globe and Reuters.
When talking about the Amazon, we should advocate for these indigeonous groups and their efforts. They’ve been fighting a battle far before the fires began this year, and now their struggle has an opportunity to come to the forefront, but we must be willing to speak up about those being affected in more than a single capacity.
Through news headlines, Twitter feeds and celebrity advocacy, it’s easy to find information on the damage done, the animals lost, the correlation to climate change and more. While those are all pressing issues, we aren’t talking nearly enough about the people who are losing their place of inhabitance. We are dehumanizing the situation and aren’t calling attention to the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights.