On Amazon Day MAB reaffirms the need to protect the rainforest

With activities in several states from the “Planting Lives” campaign and a national act transmitted live, the movement celebrates a day of struggle, raising awareness about devastation in the region

Photo: MAB Communication / Pará state

This Saturday, September 5, Amazon Day was celebrated. This is a day considered important for all those affected by dams because, for the movement, the defense of the jungle includes the defense of life as a whole.

Due to the restrictions imposed globally by the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s day of struggle was different from previous editions, where it was possible to have demonstrations in the streets without concerns for mass gatherings of crowds. This time, the main national act occurred virtually through a live broadcast organized jointly with allied organizations operating in the Amazon region.

The main topic of the event was the condemnation of forest fires resulting from the progression of illegal deforestation and, as a consequence to this, the expulsion and death of indigenous people, quilombolas, and the riverside populations. Local leaders, inhabitants of the Amazon, in addition to activists and artists supporting the cause participated in the event.

To avoid mass gathering of people, a national act in defense for Amazon occurred virtually

Apart from broadcasting on MAB’s social networks, the social media followers of the following organizations also attended the event: Mídia Ninja, APIB (Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil) Terra de Direitos, Repam (Rede Eclesial Pan-Amazônica), CIMI (Conselho Indigenista Missionário), CTP (Comissão Pastoral da Terra), Amigos da Terra, International Rivers and the CUT (Central Única  dos Trabalhadores).

Biome destruction

Data released in August by the INPE (National Institute for Space Research after its acronym in Portuguese) shows a 28% increase in the rainforest’s fires index during July. There were 6,803 outbreaks of fire in 2020, compared to 5,318 outbreaks registered in the same month in 2019. The data referring to June month shows it has been the worst month on record in the last 13 years.

The threat of an increased rate of deforestation is deeply related to the life of the population that inhabits the nine states of the region, especially the people who are living in the jungle.

 “The ones who really take care of the jungles are the native peoples who are there; they know how to defend and treat the jungle, they preserve the rivers, they take care of the trees. They are the administrators, but it is necessary to say that this immense wealth is for all humankind,” affirms the theologian Leonardo Boff, who is part of this debate and participated in the virtual event.

According to a Greenpeace report, the outbreak of heat registered in July is more present in indigenous territories. There were 539 forest fires this month and 305 in July of last year, an increase of 76%. Environmental conservation units are also brutally affected: 1,018 forest fires were registered, 49% more than on the previous year.

“I have fought in favor of demarcation for a long time and know that it is necessary for the future. We need to take care of the rainforest for everyone’s sake,” says chief Juarez Saw Munduruku of the indigenous territory Sawré Muybu, in Pará.

Explicitly opposing the protection of the ecosystem and life in the Amazon, there’s no end to the current government’s statements  attacking on indigenous peoples and supports the destruction of the forest; the epitome of that was the famous phrase “we have to take the opportunity to let the bulls through,”[i] stated by the Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, during a ministerial meeting with President Jair Bolsonaro.

Angélica Mendes, granddaughter of Chico Mendes, historical militant in defense of the Amazon, reaffirms the compromise and dedication to preservation, and warns that “we need to talk about the consequences of destroying the most diverse biome in existence; we have to take care of humanity’s future, indigenous lives matter each and every life matters,” emphasizes Angélica Mendes.

Photo: MAB Communication / Amapá state

Local peoples’ resistence

In addition to the speeches made by supporters of the Amazonian cause, the virtual event showcased statements from the region’s fighters through stories of innumerable human rights violations.

“We’re experiencing a real genocide because of the big projects, the hydroelectric companies, and the exploitation of our labor force, from which small groups of foreigners profit. I’m affected by Belo Monte and what I see here are eight years of increasing extreme violence and misery for my people,” says Jéssica Portugal, MAB militant from Altamira township, in Pará.

Marcela Andrade, a fisherwoman, is affected by the Jirau and Santo plants in Rondônia state. “Our Madeira river is full of sediments; we have no fishes like we used to have before, and the companies don’t give us any kind of support,” denounces the victim.

The advance of agribusiness also affects the lives of quilombolas[i]. Francinete Medeiros from Maranhão state spoke about this about reality on the event. “We live in the middle of this dispute and we fear losing our sacred land at any time. We need to say ‘no’ to the destruction of our sacred land; we are affected by the monoculture of eucalyptus and soybeans. We are right in the midst of this unbridled advance, we are in danger,” declares Francinete.

The indigenous Rozeninho Saw Munduruku goes into the intimate relationship of his people with the territory.

The Amazon is important not only for all Brazilians, but also for the rest of the world, everything is interconnected, the air, nature. If we, the indigenous people, lost the rainforest, we would lose all our culture. We exist in our relationship with the rainforest, it is part of who we are,” says Rozeninho Saw Munduruku.   

The world with an eye kept on the Amazon

Instituted in 2007 via legislation made by Lula’s government, September 5 aims to raise awareness in the population on the topic of preservation. Last year, the Amazon region was the topic of reflection in the Synod (the international meeting of bishops presided over by the Pope), demonstrating the importance of the issue.

Pope Francis opposed the destruction of the Amazon biome and called on the world to defend the Amazon, which in addition to two Brazilian states, includes other countries: Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, Ecuador, French Guiana, representing the largest rainforest in the world with a total area of 5.5 million km2.

Currently, the Brazilian government has received harsh international criticism on the issue which has become central for both the political and commercial international community, with threats of boycotting the country if no measure is taken to contain the deforestation.

 “Planting Lives” Campaign

Last year, the Movement of People Affected by Dams inaugurated the campaign “Planting Lives” with the aim of planting tree seedlings in all the states where the movement is present. The opening balance resulted in 40 thousand seedlings planted.

Photo: MAB Communication / Rondônia state

Look at the actions carried out by the campaign on Amazon Day:

Rio Grande do Sul state

This Sunday, September 6, in the Erechim municipality, north of the state, activities aiming to unite the fights for Amazon Day and the Grito dos Excluídos[i], celebrated on September 7, will be realized. The actions consist of planting 11 natives trees’ seedlings in the Passo da Conquista Resettlement, where people affected by dams reside. This will be done in memory of the victims of Covid-19 in the region. A visual intervention will also be organized in the form of a clothesline at the Nossa Senhora de Fátima Seminary, displaying photos, banners, and posters in defense of the Amazon.

São Paulo state

This Friday, September 4, people affected by dams planted five tree seedlings in memory of the five people who died as a result of Covid-19 in the municipality of Eldorado Paulista, in the interior of the state. The message transmitted by those affected was that “while the Bolsonaro administration destroys the Amazon and despises human life, those affected are planting trees and preserving lives”. The symbolic act of the “Planting Lives” Campaign took place in São Pedro and Galvão quilombos. Young seedlings from Jambolão, Ingá, Pitangueira, and Cravo were planted.

Rondônia State

On Sunday 5, in Candeias do Jamari, affected people from the Paraíso das Acácias community planted seedlings in the sector. In Porto Velho, MAB militants place banners in public spaces for the defense and preservation of the Amazon.

Pará state

The MAB delivered 183 natives tress seedlings in Marabá in homage to the 183 deaths by Covid-19 in the city, on Saturday, September 5.

In Belém, the movement participated in a symbolic act in the Terra Firme neighborhood, together with the inhabitants of this community and several movements committed with the struggle in defense of the Amazon. On this occasion, in addition to denouncing the destruction of the Amazon and reinforcing the importance of its preservation, regional seedlings and species were planted in the community flower bed, near the Campus de Pesquisa do Museu Emílio Goeldi (Research Campus of the Emílio Goeldi Museum).

On Friday 3, the affected made an act of solidarity on the outskirts of Ananindeua, in the Belém metropolitan region, where hygiene kits were delivered for families in need. Regional plant seedlings were also delivered as part of the “Planting Lives” campaign to raise awareness of the importance of defending the Amazon and the environment. In Itaituba city, those affected also carried out actions in defense of the Amazon. The MAB carried out activities against the criminal fires and Bolsonaro’s mismanagement in the Munduruku people’s Praia do Índio village and on the margins of the city.

Photo: MAB Communication / Ceará state

Piauí State

On Saturday 5, in Teresina city, the affected planted seedlings in the Municipal Park Meus Filhos,

Ceará state

In Fortaleza, the MAB carried out a symbolic action in the São Cristovão community, planting trees seedlings and underscoring the concerning situation Brazil finds itself in under the Bolsonaro administration and Minister Ricardo Salles. It also called for the population to defend the Amazon, the inhabitants of the rainforest, the lives of the Brazilian people, and Brazil’s sovereignty.

Amapá state

In the Ferreira Gomes municipality, the MAB carried out an act in defense of the Amazon, distributing fruit-bearing plant seedlings to the community, with the presence of representatives of the CPT, REPAM, Guardiões Ribeirinhos, Levante, Quilombolas do Igarapé do Palha, Comunidade São Raimundo (Gato Preto).

Translation: Ciro Casique Silva

Translation revision: Selene Rivas


[i] The phrase refers to the ease with which the government has taken unpopular measures, taking advantage of the context of the pandemic.

[i] Afro descendant communities created during the slavery period.

[i] Set of popular demonstrations that speak out against inequality and exclusion in Brazil occurring since 1995, running through the Week of the Homeland and culminating with Brazil’s Independence Day.

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