The Amazon crisis: A response

Jaret Hughes is a senior political science and economics double major. He is a guest writer for the Newswire from Canton, Ohio.

To almost anyone of college age, the climate crisis might not be at the forefront of our minds. But we do, at some level, realize its importance and the impact it will have directly on our lives in the decades to come. It seems like such a far off issue, occurring elsewhere in places that we’ve only heard about. As a result, it’s easy to brush off some of the current manifestations of the ongoing crises as isolated events – occurring separately on separate continents with no real link between them.

But such language is dangerous and belies the truth hiding right underneath the surface. Repeating such language can cause real harm, too, especially when it takes the form of “everything is fine.” I am reminded of Leslie Nielson in The Naked Gun, standing in front of a burning building comically bursting with fireworks and explosions, saying “Nothing to see here!”

The planet is dying. That this bears repeating is shocking enough, given the overwhelming evidence in support of it. The polar ice caps shrink year after year. The Holocene mass extinction event, the fastest mass extinction event in recent geological history, is ongoing since the Industrial Revolution. Natural disasters at massive scales, year after year, combining with rising sea levels, sweep whole cities under the cover of floodwaters. The constant, slow, methodical upward tick of the global average temperature toward the dreaded two degrees Celsius mark. And, most recently, the ongoing destruction of the world’s rainforest at the hands of a far-right president.

I’m referring to Jair Bolsonaro, the current far-right leader of Brazil and former legislator who said “(former American-backed Chilean dictator) Pinochet should have killed more people” and dedicated his vote in favor of impeaching former President Dilma Rousseff to Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, the former head of a torture unit under the Brazilian dictatorship. These comments, words alone, are much less troubling than the actions he’s taken as president: stripping indigenous lands of their protections, eliminating Brazil’s ministries for dealing with climate change and giving corporations free reign over the Amazon to do as they see fit. It is clear that Bolsonaro is dangerous not only to the people in Brazil but also to us in the U.S.

Similar to literature on climate change, the evidence that the Amazon is burning is vast. Since Bolsonaro took office, the destruction of the Amazon has increased by 88%. As of right now, three football fields of the world’s largest rainforest are burnt to ash every minute. You’ve been reading this for, what, a minute and a half? That’s almost five full football fields gone since you began reading.

But Bolsonaro, aided (unwittingly at best) by voices within our own Xavier community, has denied this is occurring, claiming that the clear facts are “sensationalist,” and “hysterical and misleading.”

Comments appearing in the Newswire have gone so far to say that it is “no crisis whatsoever, but, in fact, perfectly normal.” Such comments either show shameful ignorance of the situation in Brazil at best, or are a covert justification of the ongoing ecological catastrophe and wholesale murder of indigenous peoples at worst. Either way, such comments legitimize and provide cover for the Bolsonaro regime to continue its sale of the world’s wonders to those who would destroy them.

We should vehemently oppose and reject those who tell us that the status quo is normal when all around us we see evidence of our world slipping further into chaos. We must stand against those who would tell us that everything is normal and OK, and we must stand with each other to protect our planet. If we don’t, what will we tell ourselves and our children?