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Editor's Note: Leila Salazar-López is the executive director of Amazon Watch. Lindsey Allen is the executive director of the Rainforest Action Network. The opinions expressed here are those of the authors.
(CNN) - We call it "the lungs of the Earth": the Amazon rainforest and its lush trees procure approximately 20% of the planet's oxygen. However, right now, the skies of Sao Paulo, Brazil, are black and smoke is seen from space.
The llamas are ravaging the Amazon basin. Although climate change has catalyzed several devastating fires in recent years, experts say that these fires were intentionally caused by farmers who, in response to the exhortation of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to develop the region, wanted to clear the land in order to take advantage of it for agriculture. As Bolsonaro said, "the Amazon is available to do business."
But the Amazon is on fire and, while burning, contributes drastically to the climate crisis: both because of the carbon released by forest fires and the loss of trees' ability to absorb carbon in the future. A healthy Amazon is not only vital for the survival of the 400 local indigenous groups that consider the jungle their home, but also for the entire planet.
The companies and financial institutions that support the businesses that Bolsonaro wants to attract, drive deforestation and destruction, which will generate exhorbitant profits in the short term at the expense of the Amazon.
It is a heartbreaking global emergency that requires immediate decisions.
Now that the world is finally paying attention to the Amazon basin, it is important that we also understand that governments and businesses around the world are encouraging the toxic policies of the Bolsonaro regime by signing trade agreements with their government or investing in companies of the agribusiness sector operating in the Amazon.
Companies such as BlackRock, the world's largest investment company, which has announced plans to expand its operations in Brazil following the election of Bolsonaro, a key financier of agribusiness giants involved in deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon, according to the organization without Amazon Watch profit.
The more money invested in these businesses, the more extensive logging of forests will be for agricultural purposes. Plays like this are a strong signal of support for Bolsonaro, who has advocated opening new areas in the Amazon rainforest for agriculture and industry and whose rhetoric can feed hatred against indigenous peoples and others. Many operations of the oil, mining and agricultural industry, in which BlackRock allegedly invests, contribute to the violation of indigenous rights and promote the expansion of development into the interior of the Amazon, according to Amazon Watch.
In response to the accusations of Amazon Watch, which argues that they are contributing to the destruction of the jungle, BlackRock told the Financial Times that “we invest on behalf of our clients, to whom we have a fiduciary duty to implement their investment decisions. We do not own the assets in which our clients invest. They decide to invest in a wide range of assets and we strive to offer them a wide variety of investment options, including sustainable investments. ”
For years, the indigenous peoples of the Amazon have been trying to draw attention to the consequences of the lack of protection of the forest. They have also been opposing their destruction, sometimes at the cost of their own lives.
Thanks to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Western science has confirmed what indigenous people have known for a long time: strong and organized local communities constitute a key defending force against industrial destruction. It is imperative that we support them in their fight for the protection of biodiversity in their lands and the immediate deceleration of the effects of climate change.
Since Bolsonaro came to power, deforestation advanced rapidly in the Brazilian Amazon. Its anti-environmental stance, which mistakenly points to the protection of forests and human rights as impediments to Brazil's economic growth, is burning wood. The illegal clearing of lands with fires is a horrible practice, driven by the business sector, which occurs throughout the world. In Indonesia, for example, approximately 2.6 million hectares of forest were burned in 2015, and it is estimated that the consequent fog crisis caused some 100,000 premature deaths. Daily greenhouse gases worldwide during the crisis exceeded emissions throughout the US economy.
It is no exaggeration to say that the destiny of a habitable future is at stake and we must hold those who bet against it responsible. BlackRock must transfer its investments in industries that destroy the vital Amazon rainforest and the homes of the indigenous communities that live there to other assets. Shareholders and the public must force them to make decisions. The other companies that are doing business or investing in the destruction of the Amazon must also actively purify their supply chain or divest.
Global solidarity with the indigenous and environmental movements of Brazil can make a difference at this critical moment. The Bolsonaro regime is susceptible with respect to its image abroad and is increasingly dependent on financial actors and international corporations to rescue the battered national economy. Therefore, the international community is facing a unique and urgent opportunity to put pressure on the companies most responsible for the current crisis. The hectares of forest that are now on fire unfortunately have already been lost, but these efforts can prevent the rest of the Amazon from becoming smoke. This hell is not a natural event: most forest fires are intentional to promote the business interests of a group of participants with bad intentions.
The Amazon is burning, the Arctic is burning, and the list of burned land would seem to grow steadily: Alaska, Greenland, Siberia, all of Europe, and again Indonesia. We must act now.
Protecting the rainforests and defending the rights of indigenous peoples are some of the most important tools to mitigate the effects of the growing climate crisis, but in order to stop it, we must hold the multinationals, financial institutions and governments that drive the destruction. Our house is on fire and the indigenous peoples have sounded the alarm. Are we ready to answer your call?