Who Speaks for the Trees?
The Amazon rainforest, one of the world’s most important carbon sinks and biodiversity refuges, has suffered 87,000 fires in the first eight months of 2019, almost double the number for the same period last year. This vast devastation is largely traced to intentional deforestation by ranchers clearing of land for cattle farming. The fires have been a climate disaster, releasing 228 megatonnes of carbon dioxide so far, akin to the annual emissions of neighboring Argentina. The response from Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro has been tepid at best and ecocidal at worst. By prioritizing the growth of extractive industries and export-driven industrial agriculture over basic environmental protections and the rights of indigenous populations, his administration has put recent efforts to save the Amazon in reverse. Astonishingly, Bolsonaro has even blamed NGOs working to protect the forest for causing its destruction. The world faces a conundrum that underscores the limits of sovereignty in a global age. Does the Amazon, the lungs of the Earth, belong just to Brazil, or does it belong to all of us?