Journalism from the center of the world

The National Congress put together an offensive against the environmental agenda of the Lula administration, undercutting the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples. Photo: Fernando Martinho/SUMAÚMA

In the last few weeks, we have watched Congress weaken the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and decide that the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples does not have the authority to decide on demarcation of indigenous lands. We have watched all of this happen with the blessing of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Workers’ Party). We have seen no attempt whatsoever from Workers’ Party ministers and pro-government deputies and senators to block the destruction. And we are looking at a press that mostly reduces these movements down to a game of politics played on a small board. It wasn’t Lula who was “put in check by Congress.” It was us and everyone else.

This is a huge part of this tragedy. It seems there is no way to take the climate crisis out of the ghetto and bring it to the center of the debate. Far too few people understand that acts of Congress compromise the survival of our own and other species, by tearing the ability to protect nature and peoples-nature away from the two ministries with direct connections to their protection. Nor do people appreciate that this is being done at – perhaps – the last chance to stop the Amazon forest from reaching a point of no return.

People still do not understand that the days are running out to stop global warming. They think it all boils down to a game of winners and losers, a routine that is already a mainstay on the paltry stage of Brasília. Now, the Workers’ Party and pro-government legislators say they “had no alternative, it’s governability.” We are the ones with no alternative. We must fight the urge to say these politicians’ names – the ones who did this, agreed to this, and allowed it to happen – will go down in history as villains, because there may not be any history.

How many catastrophes, the ones called “extreme events,” are needed for them to understand it is almost too late to stop the accelerating climate crisis and extinction of biodiversity that will condemn us to a planet unfit for humankind and for many other kinds? How many droughts and floods, how many mass migrations, how many exterminated species will be necessary to move the climate crisis out of the ghetto and to rise up against those who decree our death?

No, don’t talk to us about “governability.” Governability has been the rubber stamp for too many horrors in Brazil in recent years. “Governability” has blood on its hands. Claiming governability will save no one from extinction.

Those who see the scale of the crisis that we call a “climate” emergency wake up in a panic, because our existence is in the hands of people who say moronic things like: Indigenous people “don’t live off of worms” or “are enslaved by the left” or “want to live like white people.” Phrases like these were uttered by legislators while they were passing the atrocity known as the “marco temporal” (an unjust cut-off point for indigenous demarcation) in the Chamber of Deputies. Those who do find their lives are in the hands of this breed of people, who belch out ignorance with the certainty they are doing a fabulous job.

The idea of only letting lands be demarcated based on whether Indigenous people were occupying their territories on October 5, 1988, the date when the Constitution was enacted, is already a perversion that deserves psychiatric evaluation. If Indigenous people were not on the lands that their ancestors had lived on for centuries or even millennia, it is not because they were sleeping in the gutters of the closest city for fun, but because they were expelled by those who illegally appropriated their lands.

If Lula is the president, the facts show that what is continuing to set us on a path toward the climate abyss is a Congress with a Bolsonarist mentality. The current Congress, even worse than the last, is an embarrassment. Watching sessions is the fastest route to depression, because it’s not just that most legislators vote based on what’s good for themselves – with no thought of the common good, as would be expected – it’s that they are dumb too, they say unbelievable things, they put on a pathetic show. We need to stop calling men who think only of their own profits and personal advantages “conservatives.” Proclaiming oneself to be a conservative is a cheap trick, to gloss over their personal project of enrichment. It would be great if they were actually conservatives, because then there would be conviction, principles, and intelligence for a real debate. Yet for the most part, that is not the case. Most of this Congress – the Chamber and the Senate – is made up not of conservatives, but of predators.

In a pathetic show, impeached deputy Deltan Dallagnol and right-wing legislators laugh and hold signs showing the face of Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, who Lula welcomed on the day that the Chamber passed PL 490, the bill instituting the time limit trick. Photo: Pablo Valadares/Câmara dos Deputados

It is, however, important to remember that these guys – and most of them are men – were elected and are therefore legitimately serving. It’s a shame, but these are the kinds of people the public chose to represent them. It would be infinitely worse if it were a dictatorship, a direction in which the extreme-right government of Jair Bolsonaro was headed, because then there would not even be any checks and balances. And checks and balances are exactly what Bolsonaro and his gang tried so hard to eliminate, just as the January 8 rioters wanted to do by overthrowing the government.

Because there are still checks and balances, this Wednesday the Federal Supreme Court will resume judgment on the historic cut-off point, giving us a chance to bury this aberration instead of the planet. It has been proven that the Amazon forest along with other biomes, like the Cerrado, Pantanal, Caatinga, Atlantic Forest, and Pampa, have resisted best where there are Indigenous and traditional populations. So our lives also depend on this decision.

We are at a crucial moment. Not just for Indigenous people, not just for Brazilians, but for humanity. Not just for human beings, but also for non-human beings. It must be scary to live in any other country in the world and know that the survival of the Amazon, the great climate regulator, lies in the hands of men who do not have even a basic understanding of the climate crisis, nor are they interested in having one. If we could understand the language of other species, maybe we could hear their horrified screams.

A lady selling popsicles saw a four year old boy going to buy a popsicle by himself at a club: “Where’s your mom?” The boy answered: “She’s over there.” Then she asked: “Where’s your dad?” And the boy replied: “He died in the war.” That boy is the son of Bruno Pereira, the Indigenous expert murdered one year ago, on June 5, 2022, along with British journalist Dom Philips, in the Javari Valley, in the Amazon. His mother is anthropologist Beatriz Matos. She told this story during a conversation SUMAÚMA held with her and Alessandra Sampaio, Dom’s widow.

The boy is right. His dad died in the biggest war of our time, possibly of all time, the war waged against nature. His dad was on the front line, as are the Indigenous people occupying Brasília today. There will be fewer orphans if more people join forces now, right now, in the trenches of nature against the besuited predators.

Spell check (Portuguese): Elvira Gago

Translation into Spanish: Meritxell Almarza
English translation: Sarah J. Johnson
Photography editing: Marcelo Aguilar, Mariana Greif and Pablo Albarenga
Page setup: Érica Saboya

In the biggest war of our time, the war waged against nature, we are all needed in the trenches. Photo: Matheus Alves/SUMAÚMA

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