[EN] The win-win situation hidden behind the Amazonia fires – part 2

How much are preservation and “green” capitalism false solutions worth?

Tree burned by the fire alongside BR-367, between Rio Branco and Bujari. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

Have you read the first part of the story? Here: The win win

As if these direct strikes against the forest and the Peoples living there were not damaging enough, it is also important to be aware of the initiatives that present themselves as “environmental” solutions in the Amazonia. It may be that they are actually more an expression of capitalism and forestry profiteering. According to a member from the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) and a researcher specialised in the financialisation of Nature, Lindomar Padilha, the fire that glows in the Amazonia constitutes a win-win logic for those who are land speculators. For Lindomar, when starting the fire, if the agribusiness agents are unable to implement the cattle raising and later soybean plantations and other commodities, they still have another possibility to make money, including through international funding, which is the discourse of environmental compensation to reforest that which they, themselves, have destroyed. And with this scheme of winning at all costs is the logic of financial capitalism. Specifically when we are talking about carbon credits and the carbon market, highlights Lindomar. He explains, “The markets linked to the Green Economy, at the heart of it all, work as a type of commodity, called ‘credits’, ‘carbon credits’. As in the case of any type of merchandise, when there is a lot, it is cheap. When it is scarce, the price climbs”. Due to this concept, it is necessary to pressure the territories, and that is where fire starts to play a role. “When the jungle burns, the market linked to the REDD+, that of the ‘carbon credits’ ‘says we are selling, we need to make more of a market for compensation, more of a REDD+ market to compensate for the threats that we see in the Amazonia”. So the fires result in an overvaluation of these credits, or shall we say the right to pollute”.

To begin to understand, REDD+ is a set of economic incentives for those who avoid greenhouse gas emissions resulting from deforestation or forestry degradation. Broadly speaking, corporations that pollute in excess purchase REDD+ carbon credit from communities or institutions that take care of standing forests. These forests, theoretically speaking, capture carbon from the atmosphere and, supposedly, compensate the pollution caused by the polluter.


Sign found at the Chico Mendes Extractivist Reserve, Xapuri, locality of intense sustainable forestry management. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

REDD is another capitalist mechanism to appropriate and speculate upon the forest. In the Friends of the Earth publication: “REDD+, the Carbon Market and Cooperation California-Acre-Chiapas: legalising dispossession”, we describe the Acre case, which applies REDD+ through the Acre State’s Incentive System and Environmental Services (SISA), and the varied problems that the communities that have implemented the program have experienced and continue to experience. Not only is it a false environmental solution, as it does not provoke an alteration in the modes of production of the companies and countries that pollute. It also transfers to the South the responsibility to compensate for pollution caused by the North. In June 2018, Indigenous Peoples and communities that live in and work the forest came together in Sena Madureira, Acre to denounce these false solutions proposed by Green Capitalism in response to environmental and climatic depredations. You can read the declaration resulting from this encounter, here.

As one of the principal examples of how prejudicial for the communities and the territories is REDD and the carbon credit system, Lindomar highlights the complete loss of tutelage over the territory. To explain this, he compares it to what happens in the real estate market. Through his perspective, the Acre Government is offering the preservation areas as a guarantee for those who will honor the commitments made by the Californian corporations or the German public bank, KFW, owners of the credit in the region. “The State government mortgages the Amazonia forest in the Acre territory. This is a drastic step because you are blocking the process of agrarian regularization, especially for the traditional communities, such as Indigenous Peoples and Extraction reserves. It is as though we are going to say that to demarcate an indigenous territory, we need California and KFW’s authorisation. The market is voracious and there are various, gigantic international entities that are participating in the process of mortgaging off the Acre territories. And without a single explanation to the communities: ‘Look here my good friend, when you accept these REDD and REM mechanisms, you are mortgaging off your life, your own home and your land’. They are going take away your home from underneath you, all we need is a crisis in the financial market and with that they will take away your land, you can be sure”.

And to top it all off, the Federal Chamber of Deputies just approved a project to benefit ‘ruralists’ who “preserve” the primary forest, as a Payment for Environmental Service (PSA). Now does this sound interesting? Well the Apurinãs, the rubber tappers and the quilombolas who have always preserved the forest forever and all they are requesting is just the right to the consolidated land, without being invaded. Where is their valorisation? This proposed decree, made by a ‘ruralist’ deputy, would provide that rural producers will receive financial compensation for preserving primary vegetation. This could boost the number of invasions upon land that still has standing forests.

And it does not stop there, this payment system for environmental services could be paid to those who plant eucalyptus mono-cultures, with the argument that they are reforesting. Sadly, eucalyptus as a possibility for reforestation is still being discussed in the UN. “The mono-culture does not fit within the concept of an ecosystem because an ecosystem responds to a group of elements that are interrelated. So it is a deceptive idea to adopt a discourse regarding a forest where no forest exits. A forest blooms, flowers, flourishes and generates life. Mono-cultures do not generate life”, sustains Lindomar.

To better understand this issue, we continue our trip to the Chico Mendes Extractivist Reserve, in Xapuri, Acre. We went to listen to Dercy Teles, a rubber tapper and retired unionist, an amazing expert on forests and the struggles of these communities. For Dercy, the debate regarding whether the mono-cultures could substitute the forest is not only a lack of knowledge but truly disrespectful of those who live in the forest. “I challenge the human being who has the ability to create a forest equal to that which Nature created. The forest is not one specie, nor two nor three. It is thousands of species, including those invisible beings that contribute to the continuation of this forest”.

The Chico Mendes Reserve is one of the principal sources of timber from sustainably managed forests. We asked Dercy about this governmental service and illegal deforestation in the indigenous territory of the Apurinãs. This proposal will have an immeasurable impact. “there are people who live solely from selling clandestine lumber. They do not stop even at the weekend or holidays. The cattle trucks enter and load what people call the ‘fell bulls’, which refers to the logs”. For her, this proposal is a governmental policy of deforestation.

Grass burned on alongside BR-367. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

And the wrath of ‘ruralists’ does not stop there: there are ranchers and mega-business individuals who are strongly lobbying for soybean, rice and African palm plantations to be considered apt for recognition for PSA linked to the REDD due to their ‘carbon capture’. The argument is that technology such as direct planting, crop rotation and precise farming emit less carbon than other forms of cultivation. In this manner, the ranchers are signing up to sell carbon credits. Lindomar views this ploy with disgust.
“It is ridiculous. It is a criminal discourse because we know that what behind it all is acquisition purely and exclusively for profit. They make money destroying the forest, then they make money saying that we will contribute by planting soybeans, eucalyptus and African palm tree. They are committing a double crime, by destroying the forest and then lying that a mono-culture could replace the forest”. FAO legitimises their argument because according to Lindomar it could be because they do not have ability to differentiate between mono-culture and a forest, or the failure to recognise the necessity of multiple interactions or because it is not interested in this issue. “Our debate is another one, it is life, we are going to eat what Nature can provide us with the most limited impact possible. Brazil is the leader in soybean production. And when all this is calculated in scientific studies, we are increasing the food production in the world. But what importance does this actually have? Genetically altered food with toxic pesticides of all types. This goes against life, it is poison that we are eating. And we need to understand this. In reality we are precluding food production and planting venom. I want to believe that the FAO case is not a case of cruelty, pure and simple; it is so simple to see how mono-cultures are contrary to life itself. Being an erred understanding, it may change its opinion because those who think, can change their ideas. I hope that the FAO changes its opinion and stops classifying mono-cultures as having an environmental impact similar to a forest.

Lindomar and Dercy have demonstrated how vital it is for us to be aware of those proposals that arrive as saviours of the Amazonia forest. They are clear as they emphasise the funding support. Who do they benefit? How are they distributed? Who is it that promotes the discourse and generates the preservation resources for the Amazonia? Probably it could be considered another step in forestry speculation and strategies to land grab the territory. Strategies for maintaining the forest do not historically come from those who exploit it. To save the forest, we need to stop those that destroy it, namely agribusiness, mining and illegal logging agents. We need to avoid that it is “mortgaged” by the financial market, masked as the Green Economy. It is necessary to defend the territories and strengthen indigenous territories and traditional communities, who are the Peoples that have lived in harmony with the forest for generations.

Pajé Isaka Huni Kuin’s family. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

For the Paje Isaka Huni Kuin, the path to save the forest is through friendship. Which is understood as a request of respect for his People. “We are neighbors, we come from the same creator. I live here not to invade anybody else. I want to live also, just as they do…all straight up. I can work on what is mine, but what is not mine is not mine”.

Dercy embraces a rubber tree, which has been a source of sustenance for her and many families in Acre. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

Dercy states that for the preservation process of the Amazonia to work it is indispensable that communities are strengthened. “The knowledge that we have is centuries-old”. For this rubber tapper, Amazonia is not just Peru’s or Bolivia’s or Brazil’s, it belongs to humanity. “As a result, it is all of our responsibility to be focused on what happens here”.

In the subterranean amidst discussions between the presidents and giant corporations, running parallel to the fake capitalistic environmental solutions, indigenous peoples, extractivists, farmers, riverside communities and quilombolas are resisting with their bodies, their spirituality and their culture against the devastation of Nature. Our responsibility is to directly strengthen these people, with respect and by focusing on their protagonism. We should contribute to the consolidation and the defense of their territories. It definitely is not through the proposals and initiatives from those who pollute and profit from the devastation of the world’s South that the forest will be saved. But yes with respect of their culture and the right to land and to life, for those who have for generations lived in harmony with the forest.

Buni Huni Kuin wraps a tambaqui (fresh water fish) with banana leaves. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Eart Brazil

In this process, international solidarity is fundamental. For Lindomar, there is no struggle in Amazonia without solidarity. The focus on solidarity is liberation, afforestation, a blossoming, it is promoting a multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multilingual Carnival. This idea of mono does not work, no, it has to be plural. Our Carnival needs to be plural, and it will only be this way through solidarity. We are what we are because others contributed so that we are what we are. Our fight here in Amazonia is totally dependent upon solidarity. Solidarity is the sustenance to the struggle”.

Kaxuqui and Antonio Jose play in the Retiro Stream. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

Kaxuqui is the older Cacique. According to him, his name means “The rodent monkey who saved the Amazonia”. He tells us that when the forest burned, all the animals took refuge on top of one tree. Kaxuqui gnawed at the tree so that the fire could not climb up it. The sawdust from the trees and the ashes from the fire are a hostile place that dry the tears of Caciques Kaxuqui and Antonio Jose. They transform their desolation into rage and denouncement. They re-vindicate that others should contribute to their fight. For Cacique Apurinã Antonio Jose, as his last words, the indigenous people are Nature, they are the People that preserve the flora and fauna of the Amazonia. “What we want is to have our land legalised. We are going to stay here and resist, we will perpetually preserve. While we are still alive, we are going to fight for these lands. This is not just for the Apurinã People, for Indigenous Peoples. This forest is not only good to us, it is good for the entire community, for the world. We are Nature, we are the People who preserve the Amazonia, the fauna and flora of Brazil. We are here resisting! This is the message that we want to give.”

See below more photos from the solidarity journey through Acre state: