The Amazon Is Burning: Our House Is on Fire

September 27th, 2019 - by Amazon Watch & Tom Phillips / The Guardian

The Amazon Is Burning and We Must Stand With Indigenous Peoples to Protect It

Amazon Watch

(September 26, 2019) — As much of the world’s focus has turned to the horrific fires ravaging the Amazon in Brazil and Bolivia, many have asked what they can do to help.

Continuing to raise awareness not only about the impacts of the fires, but also the preceding deforestation and its causes, is vital to effectively addressing the problem. Everyone must know about Bolsonaro’s destructive policies and how agribusiness is profiting from the rainforest’s destruction. We must educate and motivate people to take action in defense of indigenous rights and put pressure on the governments and corporations profiting from the Amazon’s destruction.

This short video, launched during Climate Week, is an effort to broaden the public’s understanding about not only what is happening in the Amazon, but also what we can do about it as a global community. The time has truly never been more pressing, as the Amazon, the “lungs of the Earth,” approaches a tipping point. As many more people sign the pledge to protect the Amazon, the movement will grow in strength.

As this video explains, the Amazon is vital to global climate stability, yet deforestation and devastating fires are threatening its very existence. It’s up to each of us to do what we can to protect the rainforest. Indigenous peoples are its best stewards and are seeking our support to protect their homes and the Amazon. 

As our longtime friend and ally John Quigley (the artist behind many powerful aerial photo installations) said, “The urgent call went out for the Amazon, and these are the people who answered that call.” We are grateful to the many artists who lent their creativity and influence in defense of the Amazon for this video. 


Lance Bass, Nahko Bear, Ed Begley Jr., Emmanuelle Chriqui, Cary Elwes, Mia Maestro, Wendie Malick, Esai Morales, Leilani Munter, Mikey Murphy, Carter Oosterhouse, Madisyn Shipman, Amy Smart, Brittani Louise Taylor, Leonor Varela, and Madeline Zima. We look forward to more collaboration with them to grow the movement to protect the Amazon.

Please join them and take the pledge to protect the Amazon!

ACTION: Pledge to Protect the Amazon Rainforest

Yes, I pledge to protect the Amazon rainforest and defend the rights of the indigenous peoples who call it home!

The immediate crisis of catastrophic fires in the Amazon is an urgent threat to the rainforest, indigenous peoples, and our climate. I pledge to speak up and step up to protect the Amazon for the generations to come. Please keep me informed of events and opportunities for me to take action.

Brazilian Indigenous Leaders Denounce Bolsonaro Before UN Speech

Xingu leader Raoni Metuktire (Photo: The-Third-Eye-Magazine)

Open letter decries “colonialist and ethnocidal policies”

Tom Phillips / The Guardian

 (September 23, 2019) — Indigenous leaders in Brazil have denounced Jair Bolsonaro’s “colonialist and ethnocidal” policies as the far-right populist headed to New York to defend his treatment of the Amazon and its inhabitants.

Bolsonaro is set to make the opening speech at the UN general assembly on Tuesday morning after a wretched few weeks for Brazil’s international reputation in which reports of soaring deforestation and his response to the Amazon fires have cemented his reputation as South America’s “Captain Chainsaw”.

Brazil’s president is expected to use his UN debut to launch a Trumpian assault on the left and push back against foreign criticism of his treatment of Brazil’s environment and indigenous communities. He has recruited a rare pro-Bolsonaro indigenous voice, Ysani Kalapalo, to travel with him to New York in an effort to soften his notoriety as a rainforest destroyer.

But in a strongly worded open letter, 16 indigenous leaders from Brazil’s Xingu indigenous park spurned Bolsonaro’s “colonialist and ethnocidal” programme for their communities, which he has pledged to open for commercial exploitation.

The leaders claimed the sole interest of Kalapalo – who recorded a recent video denying Bolsonaro was to blame for the Amazon fires – was to “insult and demoralize Brazil’s indigenous leaders and movement” on social media.

“Not content with its attacks on indigenous peoples, the Brazilian government now seeks to legitimize its anti-indigenous policies by using an indigenous figure who sympathizes with its radical ideologies,” they added.

In a recent article for the Guardian, the Xingu’s best-known leader, Raoni Metuktire, accused Bolsonaro of doing nothing to stop ranchers invading indigenous lands.

Bolsonaro’s UN appearance will represent the culmination of a government propaganda drive designed to repair Brazil’s global image and fend off the threat of economic sanctions.

“We are not the villain of the environment,” Bolsonaro’s environment minister, Ricardo Salles, insisted during an interview in New York.

But observers are awaiting Bolsonaro’s speech – which one commentator expected to focus on the issues of “sovereignty, liberalism, communism/left, Christianity and the Amazon” – with considerable trepidation.

In January, Bolsonaro’s unusually brief international debut at the World Economic Forum in Davos was widely panned as well as being overshadowed by a snowballing scandal linking one of his politician sons to Rio gangsters.

Writing in Rio’s O Globo newspaper, the former head of Brazil’s foreign service, Marcos Azambuja, fretted that Bolsonaro’s address would showcase a new-look Brazil that has shocked the world: a place of narrow sectarianism, religious zeal and naive and foolhardy diplomacy.

“I have no advice for whoever is preparing our speech. I’d just like to recall the … warning once given to two inexperienced hedgehogs about how to make love,” Azambuja wrote. “Be very careful.”

BlackRock’s CEO Fiddles While the Amazon Burns

Massive ‘Amazon Is Life, BlackRock Kills’ street mural in San Francisco. Photo credit: Amazon Watch

We can’t allow asset managers to keep profiting from the Amazon crisis

Moira Biriss / Amazon Watch

(September 24, 2019) — A line of dark red paint, symbolizing blood, led protesters from the Brazilian Consulate to BlackRock’s San Francisco office on September 5th, the Global Day of Action for the Amazon. Activists painted a massive street mural with the words “Amazon Is Life, BlackRock Kills.”

Then on September 20th, thousands of young people in San Francisco took to the streets in a monumental climate strike, stopping, among other places, at the headquarters of BlackRock. “Help us,” they wrote in chalk on the company’s steps, as BlackRock security looked on.

This morning, September 24th, indigenous leaders from Brazil and environmental activists managed to deliver a letter from Brazil’s National Indigenous Movement to BlackRock’s headquarters in New York City, along with a global petition signed by over 260,000 people calling on the Wall Street firm to stop investing in the worst actors in the Amazon. Security personnel tried to block the delegation from delivering their message, but a company representative eventually received it after the group refused to leave.

But what does the world’s largest asset manager have to do with the fires raging in Brazil and other parts of the Amazon? In short: a lot.

As the world’s biggest money manager, BlackRock plays a key role in deciding where and how the $6.5 trillion in funds they manage are invested. As our friend Bill McKibben wrote last week in The New Yorker, “Money is the oxygen on which the fire of global warming burns.” The same can be said of the fires in Brazil’s Amazon.

BlackRock is one of the top investors in the agribusiness companies driving deforestation there. And the investment giant has expanded its staff and operations in Brazil since the election of extreme-right president Jair Bolsonaro, whose rhetoric and policies have fanned the flames of profit-driven deforestation in the rainforest.

In May, I accompanied Eloy Terena, legal counsel to the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) and a member of the Terena people, to BlackRock’s shareholder meeting. There, Eloy warned CEO Larry Fink of the impending crisis in the Amazon, telling him, “You bear responsibility for our future.” Although everyone in the room appeared to listen to Eloy with rapt attention, Fink and the rest of the BlackRock board members and executives clearly ignored his warning. And now we’re seeing the consequences.

This is particularly egregious because Eloy was not asking BlackRock to divest from agribusiness companies — something BlackRock claims it is unable to do, which is highly debatable because other asset managers have begun to successfully exclude the most egregious climate profiteers from their portfolios. Eloy was simply asking the firm to hold time-bound, consequential engagement with companies in which it invests.

If only Larry Fink had heeded Eloy’s warnings and effectively engaged with the companies it invests in that operate and source from the Brazilian Amazon, it may have made a real difference in the fires this year. If agribusiness companies clearly understood that one of their biggest investors would not tolerate new deforestation or indigenous rights violations, they would act accordingly. And it would almost certainly make a difference for the prevention of medium- to long-term deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.

BlackRock constantly says it is performing “engagement” and touts this in the press, although the firm almost always refuses to clarify the who, what, when, where, why, or how of that engagement.

Without being public about its engagement, BlackRock’s promises ring hollow. And upon deeper investigation, it’s clear just how profoundly hollow they are. A recent report from our allies at Majority Action revealed that BlackRock consistently blocks the passage of key climate proposals at shareholder meetings of the companies they invest in. And to date, there is little concrete progress to show from BlackRock’s private engagement with companies, although it makes for good publicity for the company and its CEO.

The shortcomings of BlackRock’s “engagement” strategy can be seen in the smoke rising from the Amazon. Left to their own devices, these asset managers and their beneficiary companies won’t stop until they burn the planet — so we must keep up the pressure and demand they wield their enormous power to stop the destruction of the Amazon.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.