The Amazon is Burning: Who to Lobby, What to Say and Why.
The Amazon is burning. Unless you’ve had your head under a rock for the past week or two, you already know this, since everyone on social media is aghast, and quite rightly so.
What you may or may not know, depending on how many posts you click on or how deeply you like to read the news, is that it it’s mainly happening in Brazil, and that the vast majority of the fires aren’t accidental; they’re being set on purpose to clear the land for logging, ranching, mining, soy production and cattle farming. CNN reported that the number of fires in Brazil this year is up by 85%, the highest on record since 2013, and they’re even visible from space.
The effects of damage to the Amazon go far beyond Brazil and other local regions. The Amazon is critical in helping to mitigate climate change. As a carbon sink, its trees absorb around a quarter of the CO2 released each year from the burning of fossil fuels, playing a major role in regulating our climate. As of today, the fires are still active, this is urgent, and it’s everyone’s problem.
Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough.
At Ash, we’re all for raising awareness – we live for deep discussion around the issues affecting our planet, culture and experience of the world. But, whilst we applaud every post about the burning Amazon, we also stand for action. Thoughts aren’t enough. Prayers aren’t enough. Lamenting its devastating loss with your online echo chamber isn’t enough.
Measures we can personally take in own lives to help halt deforestation in the Amazon have been well publicised – quit eating beef (especially fast food products, especially Burger King), arguably quit eating meat from soy-fed animals full stop! Check where your wood products are sourced, switch from using Google to Ecosia, stop taking cocaine. Making better choices on a personal level is essential, but it can only work alongside political and systemic change. We believe that each and every person is powerful and even more so together, with the right tools and knowledge at our disposal. Before we look at the easy measures you can take to instigate political change, it’s super important to understand the politics behind this deforestation.
President Jair Bolsonaro: climate denier.
President Jair Bolsonaro has said that he’s mobilising the Brazilian army to combat the flames, but don’t be fooled. Bolsonaro is a stone-cold climate denier. He has long dismissed the scientific consensus on climate change as a hoax and since his election on January 1st of this year, the world has watched in horror as he has systematically dismantled environmental protections and efforts to fight illegal logging, ranching and mining, together with his extremist environment minister, Ricardo Salles and Vice President Hamilton Mourão. As Danicley Aguiar of Greenpeace Brazil explained in a press release on Thursday: "Those who destroy the Amazon and let deforestation continue unabated are encouraged in doing so by the Bolsonaro government's actions and policies.”
Former Brazilian Presidents have been far from exemplary on environmental issues, but Bolsonaro is entirely different. His party expressly campaigned on a pledge to exploit the Amazon for economic gain, a pledge they are now making good with speed and aggression. They have claimed that European countries are exaggerating Brazil’s environmental problems in order to disrupt its commercial interests, and recent leaked documents have shown the extent of their intentions: to sabotage vital conservation efforts, to incite hate speech against indigenous peoples and to build bridges, motorways and hydroelectric plants on the cleared land.
Make no mistake, deforestation is their goal, their priority; the safety and rights of indigenous communities living on the land are inconsequential, and they are already being annihilated. It’s a living nightmare.
Where are our world leaders?
You might ask yourself – since the health of the Amazon affects every single person on this planet, what are our world leaders doing to oppose this? And good question. Norway was the first to take a stand, freezing its contribution to the Amazon Fund. Under increasing pressure, the G7 nations quickly made a combined pledge of $22 million, and Canada offered to send water bombers and a $15 million aid package. Bolsonaro since rejected the G7 aid package in an angry spat with French President Emmanuel Macron, which is as yet unresolved.
Those calling him out, amongst them Jeremy Corbyn and senior Labour Party shadow cabinet ministers and Finland’s Prime Minister, Antti Rinne, are right to do so, but it’s arrogant for developed countries to simply state that Brazil must not exploit its resources when the West has already done so with severe environmental consequences. Destroying the Amazon is wrong, and we can’t stand by, but solutions are complex.
Our world leaders must collectively prioritise negotiation with Bolsonaro and his government, using sanctions if necessary, with plans drawn out and funds offered up to support poor Brazilians in affected areas, in return for the protection of this vital asset. The destruction of the Amazon must be considered as important a priority as any nuclear disarmament deal, as any major terror threat, as any deadly contagious disease. We have the capabilities to save the Amazon, but it won’t happen without a heavy amount of grassroots pressure.
What political actions can we take, and will it make a difference?
Yes, it will make a difference. We’ve solved global environmental problems before; thirty years ago, 197 countries developed the Montreal protocol to address the thinning of the ozone layer. According to the latest UN story, the ozone holes are healing, showing that international co-operating can have dramatic effects.
It’s easy to shy away from taking direct political action – maybe you don’t fully understand the politics surrounding the issue, maybe you’re busy. Maybe you don’t yet know what direct political action even is. We hear all of that, and we’re here for you.
The easiest action you can take is to lobby your elected officials, by email or by written letter, to prioritise the issue and to enter into talks with Bolsonaro. Time and again on a variation of issues, letters from supporters have called governments and organisations to account. Policies have changed, and lives have been saved. Feel free to contact them more than once, if you can; sustained pressure is going to be entirely necessary.
In this article we’re providing email addresses, however physically writing a letter is always the most effective way of making your views known, by far. If you can, please post a letter (on recycled, FSC Certified paper, of course).
Who do I contact?
You can enter your postcode to find your local MP here, and click through to find their email address.
You can also contact any of the following:
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson:
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Dominic Raab:
Secretary of State for International Trade, Elizabeth Truss:
Minister of State, Conor Burns:
Secretary of State for International Development, Alok Sharma:
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Theresa Villiers:
Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn:
Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry:
Shadow Secretary for Business and Energy, Rebecca Long-Bailey:
Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Sue Hayman:
What do I say?
Here’s an example email (note: events are unfolding daily around this issue, and whilst this template should remain relevant, you may want to add in reference to any specific events as they unfold).
Dear Sir / Madam,
I am extremely concerned about the huge increase in forest fires across the Amazon this year and the wilful lack of action from the Brazilian Government under President Jair Bolsonaro.
Whilst I understand that President Bolsonaro wants economic growth and prosperity for the people of Brazil, he is destroying one of the most precious resources on the planet. Not only in its diversity but in its value as the ‘lungs of the planet’ , the Amazon is vital in helping to stabilise the current climate emergency we are facing.
And as you know, this doesn’t just affect Brazil. This affects our entire planet. The deforestation of the Amazon rainforest will affect global climate and weather patterns, release tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, create localised environmental disasters and severely hamper efforts to slow down the increasingly alarming effects of climate breakdown.
It’s also an incredibly precious resource of global significance as a home to incredible biodiversity and indigenous communities.
Fires are now spreading over the borders into Bolivia and putting other countries at risk. I know from reports that President Morales is also not accepting adequate assistance to stem the fires raging in Bolivia.
I urge the international community to apply pressure on the Bolsonaro and Morales government to act now to limit the damage caused by the current fires. I also urge you to enter diplomacy to seek a longstanding commitment from President Bolsonaro to make fundamental changes to his policy of encouraging increased clearances of the Amazon going forward.
What about the Brazilians?
We recommend that you contact:
Brazilian government’s general email address email@example.com
Brazilian government’s press office: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fred Arruda, Brazilian Ambassador to the UK: email@example.com
Of the three, sending physical letters to Bolsanaro via the Brazilian Ambassador in the UK will send the strongest message.
President Jair Bolsonaro c/o Ambassador Fred Arruda
Embassy of Brazil
14-16 Cockspur Street
I am extremely concerned about the huge increase in forest fires across the Amazon this year and the apparent lack of action from the Brazilian Government.
Whilst I understand that you want economic growth and prosperity for the people of Brazil, you are destroying one of the most precious resources on the planet. Not only in its diversity but in its value as the pulmões do planeta and vital role in helping stabilise the current climate emergency we are facing.
The current uncontrolled deforestation of the Amazon rainforest will not only affect local weather patterns which could adversely affect the Brazilian people, but will affect global climate and weather patterns and deprive people all over the world of the incredible natural wonders held within.
It’s an incredibly precious resource of global significance as it is, not razed to the ground for beef production, logging or mining.
I am also very concerned about the dangers facing Brazil's indigenous communities and uncontacted Indians. I fear that if these fires and this level of clearance is not stopped immediately, more uncontacted tribes will tragically be wiped out. They are completely dependent on their forest home and have the right to be able to stay there on protected land.
This isn’t just a Brazilian issue. This is of global concern and we need to come together to assist and protect The Amazon.
I urge you and your ministers to act quickly and decisively to prevent further catastrophe.
Hell, what about pressuring Bolsonaro himself?
Why not?! Emails aren’t likely to make a dent, so instead, send him a letter. Copy, paste and print the template above, and post it by Air Mail to Brazil:
President Jair Bolsonaro
Presidente da República Federativa do Brasil
Gabinete do Presidente
Palácio do Planalto
Praça dos Três Poderes
What else can I do?
If the sending of these emails has fired you up, and you can afford to, consider donating to Amazon Watch, The Rainforest Alliance, Open Democracy and Survival International. These NGO’s work on the ground to advocate for indigenous rights and to actively collaborate with these groups, giving them a voice and bringing them into the conversation. Any money sent to those organisations will directly help the people affected and help the Amazon.
To conclude: The Amazon Rainforest, a vital asset for carbon reduction, is burning, and the consequences for our planet are dire. The Brazilian Government are willingly allowing and encouraging this; their plans for the future are far worse. Our elected officials aren’t doing enough to stop it, but by applying pressure, we can force them to prioritise the issue. People power is a force. We’ve won before and we can win again, if we ACT NOW for the Amazon.
Written by Charlotte Ruth (IG: @charberto) and Lou Stanley
Art by Olivia M Healy (IG: @oliviamhealy)