Extinction Rebellion and teenage climate activists from Fridays For Future gathered outside Brazil’s embassy in Dublin and consul office in Cork city today to protest the Bolsonaro government’s position on the Amazon.
Fires are continuing to burn in the vast rainforest this week at the fastest pace in years according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). Many of the fires are caused by the clearing of land for agricultural expansion.
About half of this year’s fires began in July, the same month that saw a new record set for the highest Amazonian deforestation rate in a single month. It is estimated that deforestation accounts for over 10 per cent of the earth’s carbon emissions each year.
Since taking office, the right-wing Bolsonaro government has pushed for economic activities in the Amazon such as mining and agri-expansion.
Mr Bolsonaro has said that environmental regulations are hindering economic development and his government has cut funding and staff at state environmental agencies.
‘Humans to blame‘
Some young protestors in Cork were wearing animal masks to highlight the demise of wildlife in the Amazon rainforests. Sarah O’Mahony, a 15-year-old climate activist at the protest told The Green News that humans are to blame for the continual burning of the Amazon.
“It is caused by human works such as farming, mining, drilling and it’s been burning for 18 days,” she said. “It is important that we respect that there are people and animals living in the Amazon and biodiversity and wildlife is all gone now.”
Mira Henchi, a 14-year-old climate activist at the protest criticised Mr Bolsonaro, adding that she was baffled as to how “one person can cause so much damage”.
“He could be responsible for the extinction of so many species and the destruction of indigenous tribes, their homes and habitats of animals,” she told The Green News.
On Wednesday, Mr Bolsonaro accused environmental NGOs of starting the fires to retaliate after the State pulled NGO funding, albeit he did not present any evidence to back up his claims. When pressed for evidence, Mr Bolsonaro said that it was just his “feeling” that it was happening.
Embassy social media criticism
The protest at the embassy in Dublin follows criticism of social media messages that it posted on Wednesday in an apparent response to criticism of State policy under Mr Bolsonaro. The Embassy claimed that “facts and figures and not rhetoric” prove that “Brazil is a true environmental conservation champion”.
A thread of comments on the Embassy’s page quickly appeared criticising the post, including claims that such statements were “adhering to the propaganda machine created by the [Brazilian] government”. Another comment stressed that the post was “fake news”.
People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith today called on the Brazilian Ambassador Eliana Zugaib to appear in front of the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action to answer questions about the fires.
The TD said: “I have asked the Dáil Climate Action committee to call on the Brazilian ambassador to appear before the committee to answer questions about the policies and public statements of Jair Bolsonaro who wants to tear down the rainforest, the lungs of the earth, for agricultural use.
“Bolsonaro’s policies, climate change denial and public statements are dangerous and we are now seeing the bitter fruit of this,” Ms Smith added.
“We must also note that the Mercosur trade deal has incentivised forces around Bolsonaro to press ahead with the destruction of the Amazon and the people who live there.”
Mercosur under pressure
Yesterday evening the Taoiseach warned that Ireland will vote against the EU-Mercosur trade deal if Brazil’s poor record on the conservation of the Amazon rainforest continues.
“There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments,” Mr Varadkar said.
With the deal still two years away from a vote on approval, the leader of the Green Party Eamon Ryan, who joined protesters at the embassy, called for Ireland to “pull the Mercosur trade deal now”.
Speaking on RTE Radio One today, Mr Ryan also called for economic sanctions against Brazil over the Amazon issue. The fires are set to be raised as an issue at the upcoming G7 summit in France.