Sunday, August 25, 2019

Five Powerful Responses to the Amazon Fires

– Artwork: Giovana Medeiros

As I mentioned in my previous post, a wildfire has been burning west of Guruk (aka Port Macquarie) for over a month. Called the Lindfield Park Road bushfire, the blaze, writes Robert Dougherty, has been responsible for a “thick blanket of choking gray smoke [that] rolls across the hills and highways. . . . edg[ing] silently forward [and] consuming Port Macquarie like something out of a Stephen King horror novel.”

The "horror," however, is not confined to Port Macquarie. All around the world there are wildfires burning – in Indonesia (right), Siberia, the Canary Islands, Alaska, Greenland, parts of Africa, including Angola and Congo, and throughout South America.

In Brazil, as I'm sure everyone reading this would know, the Amazon rainforest is currently burning at a record rate. In fact, Brazil has experienced more than 76,000 fires this year; last year’s total was about 40,000. About 10,000 of this year’s fires have started in the past two weeks, and most have been deliberately lit as part of the Brazilian government's deforestation agenda. Many other parts of South America are burning too, including Bolivia, Paraguay, Colombia, and Venezuela. The map below, created by Global Forest Watch using satellite data, shows every fire that has started burning since August 13 across central South America.

How does one even begin to respond to such a nightmare scenario?

The first thing I always try to do when confronted with a seemingly overwhelming situation like the one occurring in Brazil and elsewhere is to ground and center myself in an awareness of Sacred Presence, both within and beyond me. What I find helps me most in doing this is spending time in nature.

So, yes, I've been doing exactly that a lot lately, mostly down by the ocean at places that as I've noted previously, I experience as “sacred ground.”

Second, I turn to thinkers, writers, activists, and artists whom I've come to trust. I trust them because they give me hope;. I trust them because I recognize that their words, art and actions provide the tools and strategies and insights needed to move forward in positive and proactive ways.

Tonight I share the responses of five such people to the crisis in the Amazon and beyond. These people are artists Giovana Medeiros and Eduardo Sanabria; spiritual author, activist and Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson; activist Christian Poirier; and my friend, Kurt Seaberg, who is a Minneapolis-based artist and activist. I hope the responses of these five people inspire you as much as they inspire me.

The Amazon burning is a reminder of humanity’s pathological irreverence toward the earth, a self-destructive dysfunction from which we will either heal or possibly not even survive as a species. This is more than a climate crisis; it is a survival crisis and it should be seen as such. Our ability to take in both the horror of what is happening environmentally, as well as summon up the courage to do something about it, will define the most critical moment in humanity’s history: whether we choose to continue the journey of evolution, or rather through our own selfishness and greed and recklessness elect to end it.

Marianne Williamson
via Facebook
August 22, 2019

– Artwork: Eduardo Sanabria

This is the twilight of the capitalist system, the religion of western “civilization,” which views nature as a “resource” and consumes her at an ever accelerating rate. That system rests upon the delusion of never ending growth and development, as it consumes the world like a metastasizing cancer. What we haven’t learned yet is that we are setting fire to our own house and to the next generation that lives in it. Our survival, and perhaps the survival of all living things, depends upon our recognition, in the final hours, that everything is connected, and what we do to the living earth we do to ourselves.

Kurt Seaberg
via Facebook
August 22, 2019

We are witnessing [in Brazil is] a government that denies its responsibility for this tragedy while it dismantles [the country]'s environmental protections and rejects its duty to uphold human rights. A president so desperate to deflect culpability that he concocts pathetic theories that the very organizations dedicated to defending the rainforest are themselves responsible for this disaster. We are witnessing a perfect storm, with no end in sight.

Amazon Watch is working around the clock to ensure that the world understands both the causes and the solutions to this crisis. These fires were set deliberately and those who are resisting need our urgent support. A global solidarity movement must rise to directly oppose [President] Bolsonaro, and as a solidarity organization Amazon Watch aims to spearhead these critical efforts.

Our recent Complicity in Destruction II report exposes the global corporate financiers of Amazon destruction, but the power to force them to change their actions comes from organizing and raising our collective voice. Today's massive outcry over the Amazon fires and the outpouring of support toward solutions is magnifying our ability to shift these actors and ultimately the Bolsonaro regime. We will channel this support to our allies on the ground to amplify their messages and their struggles, empowering acts of resistance from all quarters.

. . . We are heartened by today's global backlash to Bolsonaro's assault. Protests are mounting around the world targeting Brazilian embassies and consulates as well as some of the companies complicit with Bolsonaro's agenda, and heads of state are calling for multilateral action to curb this disaster, given its implications for us all. We are joining with other allies to call for an International Day of Action for the Amazon on Thursday, September 5th. We hope many around the globe will join a march or organize their own actions to send a unified message to Brazil that it must defend the Amazon and support indigenous rights.

– Christian Poirier
Excerpted from “With the Brazilian Amazon in Flames,
We Must All Be the Resistance

Amazon Watch
August 23, 2019

Above: This is an image I've filter-treated with the Prisma app and which I found a while back on the Internet. I find it incredibly powerful, and although I've attempted to find information about it, I have not have much success. What I do know is that it's from a 2013 action in support of the environment and indigenous rights that took place somewhere in South America, but I'm not sure where exactly. If anyone can find or has more information about it, please feel free to share it in the comments section of this post. Thanks.

UPDATE: What Can We Do?

Note: The following is excerpted from Jonathan Watts's August 24, 2019 Guardian article, “Amazon Fires: What Is Happening and Is There Anything We Can Do?

The most important actions are political and collective. Join a party or campaign group that makes the Amazon a priority. Through these groups, urge your elected representatives to block trade deals with countries that destroy their forests and to provide more support for countries that expand tree cover.

Apart from this, donate to organisations that support the forest, forest dwellers and biodiversity, including Instituto Socioambiental, Amazon Watch, WWF, Greenpeace, Imazon, International Rivers and Friends of the Earth.

As consumers, think twice before buying Brazilian beef or other products unless certified by groups such as Rainforest Alliance. The Amazon connection is not always obvious.

Related Off-site Links:
Major Wildfires Have Ignited Across Europe, Asia, and Latin America – Umair Irfan and Kainaz Amaria (Vox, August 22, 2019).
The Amazon in Brazil Is On Fire – How Bad Is It? – The Visual and Data Journalism Team (BBC News, August 23, 2019).
Fires in the Amazon Could Be Part of a Doomsday Scenario That Sees the Rainforest Spewing Carbon Into the Atmosphere and Speeding Up Climate Change Even More – Sinéad Baker (Business Insider, August 22, 2019).
Record Wildfires Raging Through the Amazon Can Now Be Seen From Space – Claire Knox (ABC News, August 20, 2019).
Smoke From the Burning Amazon Rainforest Plunged Brazil's Largest City Into Darkness in the Middle of the Day – Stephanie K. Baer (BuzzFeed News, August 20, 2019).
The Only Three Things You Need to Know About the Amazon Rainforest Fires – Vrutika Shah (GQ, August 22, 2019).
Tens of Thousands of Fires Ravage Brazilian Amazon, Where Deforestation Has Spiked – Colin Dwyer (NPR News, August 21, 2019).
Leaked Documents Show Brazil’s Bolsonaro Has Grave Plans for Amazon Rainforest – Manuella Libardi (Common Dreams, August 22, 2019).
Amazon Rainforest Fire: How Artists (August 23, 2019).
Brazil's Indigenous People: “We Fight for the Right to Exist”BBC News (April 25, 2019).
“He Wants to Destroy Us”: Bolsonaro Poses Gravest Threat in Decades, Amazon Tribes Say – Tom Phillips (The Guardian, July 26, 2019).
Indigenous Movement Calls for International Support to Prevent Genocide in BrazilMorning Star for Peace and Socialism (February 7, 2019).
The Amazon Cannot Be Recovered Once It’s Gone – Robinson Meyer (The Atlantic, August 24, 2019).
Bolsonaro and the Apocalypse: The Most Dangerous Man on Earth – George Monbiot (via YouTube, May 30, 2019).

UPDATES: Brazil Isn’t the Only Far-Right Government Destroying the Planet – Basav Sen (Common Dreams, August 26, 2019).
The Complexity of the Amazon Fires – Sean McShee (The Wild Hunt: Modern Pagan News and Commentary, August 28, 2019).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
As the World Burns, Calls for a "Green New Deal"
Quote of the Day – March 16, 2019
Quote of the Day – November 19, 2018
Let Us Be “Energized by the Beauty That Is All Around Us”: Jane Goodall's New Year Message
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – August 29, 2017
The People's Climate Solidarity March – Minneapolis, 4/29/17
Prayer of the Week – April 24, 2017
"It Is All Connected"
Standing in Prayer and Solidarity with the Water Protectors of Standing Rock
Standing Together
Discerning and Embodying Sacred Presence in Times of Violence and Strife

Image 1: Giovana Medeiros.
Image 2: Photographer unknown.
Image 3: Getty Images.
Image 4: Global Forest Watch.
Image 5: Photographer unknown.
Image 6: Brendan Bayly.
Image 7: Eduardo Sanabria.
Image 8: Photographer unknown.
Image 9: Artist unknown.

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