During the Davos Climate Conference in January, 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg gave a speech in front of before the various celebrities and world leaders in attendance, where she delivering the following message:
“I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”
Thunberg was urging those in charge to stop pretending that they could continue with business as usual while the planet began to enter the violent death throes of man-made climate collapse.
Earlier this month, pictures began emerging which showed the Amazon Rainforest being burnt at a rate never before seen. The fires were so widespread they could be seen from space.
These fires are not natural nor are they accidental. The fires are caused by farmers clearing land for livestock and crops. Worse, they now have the implicit support of Brazil’s far-right nationalist president Jair Bolsonaro.
He is a terrible human being in so many ways – from his praising of Brazil’s brutal military dictatorship, his fierce anti-LGBT+ stance, his love of torture – but for today I want to focus on his appalling attitude to environmental issues.
Bolsonaro rode to victory on the back of working-class disillusionment. The administration before his was dogged by corruption scandals, poverty continued to affect many citizens, and it was generally felt politicians were “out of touch” with the common person.
Bolsonaro promised to bring back jobs in sectors such as agriculture, mining and logging and his way of doing so is to completely gut Brazil’s environmental regulation and call open season on the Amazon Rainforest.
This attitude, while extreme, is the predictable end-result of our current capitalist economic and political system that demands a constant increase in short-term profit at the expense of any long- term consequences.
It is this system which leads to companies like United Fruit and Coca-Cola hiring death squads in Latin America to suppress labour unions; it is this system which leads to Exxon Mobil deliberately suppressing reports that link fossil fuels to climate change for over 40 years; it is this system that leads to politicians in Brazil giving the go-ahead for the complete destruction of one of the most important rainforests in the world.
Greta Thunberg was right. Our home is on fire and we should all be panicking.
“The Earth isn’t dying, it’s being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.”
– Utah Phillips