The Rich Amazonians in Planet Parliament Now! belong to Brazil’s powerful and rich elite. Their fortunes have been built from the natural wealth of the Amazon rainforest which is now being ravished by wildfires. The fires are destroying their livelihoods but their wealth is great. They are more resilient than the Poor Amazonians and they have powerful connections to lobby for help and turn disaster to new opportunity.
The wealth of the Amazon is inherent in its natural biodiversity – as a source for food, timber and the ability of the trees to capture carbon. Its mineral wealth includes copper, tin, nickel, bauxite, manganese, iron ore and alluvial gold. It is a living laboratory for the discovery of many modern medicines. 90% of medicinal plants used by indigenous people have not yet been studied by science and 70% of plants with anti-cancer properties are found only in the rainforest.
Once cleared (usually by burning) the Amazon rainforest provides land for large scale agriculture. Brazil is the world’s largest grower and export of soya , used to feed beef cattle. This land clearance has very negative implications with regard to local and global environmental impacts and social justice. Brazil’s agriculture industry meets the food demands of local and global consumers.
From the perspective of the indigenous people, who have lived in the Amazon rainforest for thousands of years as hunter gatherers, the history of the Amazon rainforest’s ‘development’ is one of capitalist exploitation. For them, Nature cannot be owned and is a sacred place to be looked after.
To get you into the right dramatic space for our performance on 20th March, here are is an extract from the eco-thriller novel Jabujicaba by Rosa da Silva to understand the conflict between Capitalism and Nature.
From ‘Jabujicaba’ by Rosa da Silva – the Akayan, leader of the Xana people speaks of history.
Every time we Xana welcomed your people to our Mother Forest, disaster struck. The first white man who sailed our rivers would have starved had we not helped him return to his people. As thanks he claimed our Mother Forest for his king.
Then your missionaries arrived. We allowed them to settle on our shores and to build their churches. As thanks, you killed our gods and kidnapped our children and enslaved their souls in your schools.
More of you came. The rubber tappers who stole the rubber. The miners who panned for gold. We let them live alongside us and as thanks they gave us diseases of their bodies ravished our women.
And always more of you came, destroying our forest in the name of your progress and you infected our young with the diseases of your spirit of greed.
On the day we will have science posters prepared by 3rd year conservation and zoology students University of Salford taking the Tropical Ecology module. The photos are from their recent field trip to the Amazon rainforest. Here is a sneak preview of one of the posters which critically examines the impacts of the current economic crisis in Brazil on politics and exploitation of the Amazon rainforest by E. Collins, S. Yildiz, I. Lowe, A. Johnson, K. Marratt, E. Dunbar.
FIND OUT MORE on rainforest science from Salford University students