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Amazon Defenders Part Three: Fires, Corruption, and Resistance in Brazil


EcoJustice RadioEcoJustice Radio celebrates the land and water protectors of the Amazon Rainforest in a Four-Part series called Amazon Defenders. In Part Three we discuss the Indigenous rights movement for community and ecosystem health in Brazil with guest Ana Paula Vargas, Program Manager at Amazon Watch. We also discuss the six US-based financial institutions complicit in deforestation, fires, and rainforest destruction. LISTEN TO PART ONE PART TWO

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Brazil Amazon Defenders - EcoJustice radio

Defending the Forest and Indigenous Territories from Corporate Land Invasion

We look into what is happening in the Eastern Amazon and the Brazilian Rainforest where the issues of deforestation, road development, forest fires, cattle ranching, land invasion, soy farming, mining, and COVID-19 are integrally impacting the health and viability of the rainforest and its peoples. We hear about the vital stewardship by an Indigenous-led movement for human and environmental rights, and efforts to demand accountability for the six US-based financial institutions funding the destruction.

In 2020, deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest surged to a 12-year high, losing 2.7 million acres. The number of fires so far this year are also at a decade high. In only the first 10 months of 2020, the blazes are up by 25% from 2019, when the destruction spurred international outcry.

So, why is the Brazilian Amazon, inside the Earth’s largest rainforest, on fire?

Fire in the Brazilian rainforest. Photo credit: Amazon Watch
Fire in the Brazilian rainforest. Photo credit: Amazon Watch

Could it be that the soybeans, meat, metals, minerals, and other commodities, produced in the Brazilian Amazon and shipped around the world, are taking their toll? Environmentalists have blamed the rising deforestation rate on the Jair Bolsonaro administration’s efforts to roll back forest protection, reduce environmental law enforcement and penalties for illegal forest clearing, sack career scientists from federal agencies, and demonize environmental defenders as enemies of the state.

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The flow of foreign investments into companies operating in the Brazilian Amazon encompass an intricate international network that financially enables actors responsible for egregious socio-environmental crimes. Within this extractive economic paradigm, Indigenous peoples are often treated as an “obstacle to development” and their lands are invaded, occupied, looted, and destroyed. Led by Bolsonaro, the country’s federal government is actively facilitating today’s mounting crisis.

Complicity in Destruction, published by the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB) in partnership with Amazon Watch, identified six major U.S.-based financial institutions – BlackRock, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Vanguard, Bank of America, and Dimensional Fund Advisors – that contributed more than US$18 billion (100 billion BRL) to nine companies between 2017 and 2020.

EcoJustice Radio explores inspiring stories of Indigenous resistance to protect sovereign territories from corporate invasion, exploitation, and extraction. In the Amazon, community-born resistance is the reason for change. Even recently, the largest number of indigenous peoples were elected to the Brazilian government.

Ana Paula Vargas, who goes by Paula, has been advocating for more than 20 years with communications and culture, human rights, and social justice in Brazil. As Program Manager at Amazon Watch, she has collaborated with international institutions to support and promote projects from popular associations, social movements, and grassroots organizations. Now, she is living in the Bay Area, California, where Amazon Watch is headquartered.

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Amazon Defenders - EcoJustice Radio

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Hosted by Jessica Aldridge
Engineer: Blake Lampkin
Executive Producer: Jack Eidt
Producer: Emilia Barrosse
Show Created by Mark and JP Morris
Music: Javier Kadry
Episode 86
Photo courtesy Amazon Watch

Updated 23 December 2020

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