Published in the Italian journal Il Manifesto on Sept. 3. Translation by John Catalinotto.
Faced with the spread of fires in the Amazon, the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, changed its agenda to “tackle the emergency.” The seven — France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Canada and the United States — have assumed, together with the European Union, the role of global firefighters. French President Emmanuel Macron, in his capacity as chief fireman, sounded the alarm: “Our house is on fire.” President Donald Trump has promised the greatest U.S. commitment to extinguishing it.
The media spotlight is on the fires in Brazil, leaving everything else in the shadows. First of all, the fact is that not only the Amazon forest (two-thirds of which is Brazilian), which declined by almost 3,800 square miles each year in 2010-15, is being destroyed, but also the tropical forests of equatorial Africa as well as those in southeast Asia.
Tropical forests have lost, on average every year, an area equivalent to that of Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto as a whole. [About the equivalent of Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts in the U.S. — ed.] Although conditions differ from one world region to another, the fundamental cause is the same: the intensive and destructive exploitation of natural resources to obtain maximum profit.
In the Amazon, trees are cut down to obtain valuable wood for export. The remaining forest is burnt [so the land be used] for agriculture and stockbreeding, which is also intended for export. These very fragile lands, once degraded, are abandoned and new areas are deforested.
The same destructive method is used, causing serious environmental damage, to exploit the Amazonian deposits of gold, diamonds, bauxite, zinc, manganese, iron, oil and coal. The construction of huge hydroelectric basins to supply energy for industrial activities also contributes to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
The intensive and destructive exploitation of the Amazon is carried out by Brazilian companies. These companies in turn are basically controlled — through shareholdings, financial mechanisms and commercial networks — by the major multinational and financial groups of the G7 and other countries.
For example, JBS, which has 35 meat-processing plants in Brazil where 80,000 cattle are slaughtered a day, has large offices in the U.S., Canada and Australia. It is largely controlled through shares of debt by the following financial creditor groups: JP Morgan (U.S.), Barclays (Britain) and the finance companies of Volkswagen and Daimler (Germany).
Marfrig, in second place after JBS, is 93 percent owned by U.S., French, Italian and other European and North American investors.
Norway, which today threatens economic retaliation against Brazil for the destruction of the Amazon, causes serious environmental and health damage in the Amazon with its multinational group Hydro (half of which is state-owned). Hydro exploits bauxite deposits for the production of aluminum — so much so that it has been placed under investigation in Brazil.
The governments of the G7 and others, which today formally criticize Brazilian President Bolsonaro in order to clear their conscience in the face of reaction from public opinion, are the same governments that favored his rise to power so that their multinationals and financial groups have even freer hands in the exploitation of the Amazon.
The Indigenous communities, in whose territories illegal deforestation activities are concentrated, are especially under attack, under the eyes of Bolsonaro’s Minister of Agriculture Tereza Cristina, whose family of landowners has a long history of fraudulent and violent occupation of the lands of Indigenous communities.
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