Displacement of the Indigenous Amazonians

Kayla Lien, Editor-in-Chief

Indigenous tribes of the Amazon rainforest are being pushed out of their lands and sacred spaces due to the fires currently raging there. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, self-ordained “Captain Chainsaw,” got rid of Brazil’s strict environmental regulations, saying they hinder economic growth. Currently, there is no evidence that supports this absurdity. Most of the fires are man-made, because loggers and cattle ranchers are using a “slash-and-burn” technique to clear land since there’s no regulation. These fires are destroying indigenous homes and villages, as well as hindering infrastructure development and causing deforestation.

The rainforest accumulates $8.2 million a year to Brazil, and it’s obvious that Bolsonaro intends to wring out more. According to him, “Where there is Indigenous land, there is wealth beneath it. We have to change that.” If that in itself isn’t mildly alarming, it’s worth noting that Brazil’s foreign minister blatantly lied about the fires, stating that “The Amazon is not burning, not burning at all.” Yet, satellite images show the blazes going strong. Satellite images also show a rise in deforestation in recent years. When the National Institute of Space Research released data proving that deforestation was accelerating month-by-month, Bolsonaro sacked the director and replaced him with a military official.

President Bolsonaro also isolated Germany and Norway, two of the main contributors to the Amazon Fund, which supports forest preservation initiatives, thus causing them to withhold tens of millions of dollars. Environmental scientists warn that the damage to the Amazon could be irreversible. While Bolsonaro did sign a 60-day decree on August 28th prohibiting people from starting any fires, it will likely become futile as the peak of the dry season starts as soon as the 60 days is up. 

Natives predict that if the fires keep raging, there won’t be a rainforest in 50 years’ time. Without the forest, they can’t live. They won’t be able to farm or eat. They are turning to prayer to protect their homes. These people who are being displaced have few places to turn. Some of the rainforest is in both Columbia and Peru, and having nowhere else to run, indigenous people flee there and end up dying from attacks on both sides or disease. In 2017, at least 70 indigenous murders occurred over land disputes. People like the Awá are in danger of disappearing entirely. 

Due to the trees burning, there’s an excess of carbon in the air, causing more greenhouse gases, hurting our atmosphere. This causes a warming of the oceans and the world’s temperature. The smoke in the atmosphere retains solar radiation, inhibiting photosynthesis and the growth of plants. 

The cities surrounding the Amazon are also facing negative effects from the fires. It’s becoming harder to breathe, respiratory problems are on the rise along with loss of oxygen in the blood and heart disease. The low-class are most at risk being unable to afford ventilation or to move. It’s a series of calculated attacks against the most disadvantaged in the country, and there is very little those outside of the Brazilian government can do anything. 

Many of the uncontacted tribes are threatened by loggers, ranchers, and cattle drivers. Sources say that they are starting to abandon their land due to the noise and pollution from construction. 

Mass destruction of indigenous land is a threat to people worldwide, not just the Natives. The greenhouse gases are destroying the atmosphere, which affects all of us dramatically. We have to save the planet before it becomes inhabitable, there’s no question.