What Is Burning the Amazon?

What Is Burning the Amazon?

From CrimethInc.

A Plea from Brazilian Anarchists

As the fires in the Amazon rainforest continue to burn, our comrades in Brazil have sent us this analysis of the causes of the catastrophe and how it should inform our vision of the future.

“I worry about whether the whites will resist. We have been resisting for 500 years.”

Ailton Krenak

Living Dystopia

The scene is gloomy. On August 19, 2019, smoke covers cities across the state of São Paulo, turning day into night at 3 pm. The previous day, in Iceland, people organized the first funeral, complete with a gravestone and a minute of silence, for a glacier declared dead. The smoke that engulfed São Paulo is caused by forest fires in the Amazon Forest far away in the North of Brazil; the glacier has disappeared due to rising temperatures related to the carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere.

Chief of the Tenharim people of southern Amazonas fighting wildfire.

These tragic scenes—almost picturesque, almost absurd—could sound comical if they weren’t real. They are so extreme that they remind us of fictional scenarios such as those described in the novel And Still the Earth, a Brazilian environmental dystopia by Ignácio de Loyloa Brandão. Written in the 1970s during the military dictatorship in Brazil, the book describes a fictitious dictatorial regime known as “Civiltar,” which celebrates cutting down the last tree in the Amazon with a jingoistic declaration that it has created “a desert greater than that of the Sahara.” In this story, all the Brazilian rivers are dead; jugs of water from each of the extinct rivers are displayed in a hydrographic museum. Aluminum can dunes and highways permanently blocked by the shells of abandoned cars are the backdrop of São Paulo. The city itself suffers from sudden heat pockets capable of killing any unsuspecting person; mysterious diseases consume the citizens, especially the homeless.

The author claims that he was inspired by real events that seemed absurd and unusual at the time. Today, these are becoming ever more ordinary.

News of the increased burning of the Amazon has sent shockwaves around the world. Burns rose 82% in 2019 over the same period last year in Brazil, according to the National Institute for Space Research, and new outbreaks of fire are still being reported as we write. The catastrophic images of destruction have fueled the indignation of people around the world who are concerned about the future of life on earth, seeing how important the Amazon rainforest is for climate regulation and global biodiversity. Images of the fires compelled French President Emmanuel Macron to bring the subject to the G7 summit and to exchange barbs with President Jair Bolsonaro in the media after France offered millions of dollars in funds to fight forest fires.

Protest against deforestation in the Amazon, in São Paulo, August 23, 2019.

Since the end of 2018, half a billion bees have been found dead in four Brazilian states. The death of these insects that are essential to fertilizing 75% of the vegetables we eat is linked to the use of pesticides banned in Europe but permitted in Brazil. In August 2019, the court dismissed the charges against a farmer who used pesticides thrown from a plane as a chemical weapon against Guyra Kambi’y indigenous community in Mato Grosso do Sul in 2015. The same month, groups of farmers, “land grabbers” [people who falsify documents in order to obtain ownership of land], union members, and traders used a Whatsapp group to coordinate setting fires in the municipality of Altamira, Pará, the epicenter of fires consuming the Amazon rainforest. As reported in Folha do Progresso, the “day of the fire” was organized by people encouraged by the words of Jair Bolsonaro: “The goal, according to one of the leaders speaking anonymously, is to show the president that they want to work.”

The recent wave of fires linking President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies to attacks against forests, peasant farmers, and indigenous peoples is an intensification of a process as old as the colonization of the Americas. While the Workers’ Party (PT) was still in power, many projects were introduced to expand and accelerate growth, including the construction of the Belo Monte plant, which displaced and impacted indigenous communities and thousands of other people living in the countryside. The approval of the Forest Code in 2012 enabled farmers to advance over indigenous territories and nature reserves with impunity, while suspending the demarcation of new protected lands.

Both left and right governments see nature and human life chiefly as resources with which to produce commodities and profit. The government of Bolsonaro, a declared enemy of the common people, women, and indigenous groups, doesn’t just threaten us with the physical violence of police repression. In declaring that he will no longer recognize any indigenous land, Bolsonaro is intensifying a war on the ecosystems that make human life possible—a war that long precedes him.

A 500-Year-Running Disaster

For centuries, we have struggled to survive the greatest disaster of our time, a disaster that threatens the sustainability of all the biomes and communities on this planet. Its name is capitalism—the cruelest, most inequitable, and destructive economic system in history. This threat is not the result of the inevitable forces of nature. Humans created it and humans can eliminate it.

Anarchists in Sao Paulo on August 23, 2019 protesting against the government and against the deforestation of the Amazon: “Burn fascists, not forests!”

In Brazil, we have witnessed firsthand how this system exploits people, promotes genocide, and degrades and pollutes the earth, water, and air. Even if we ultimately manage to abolish it, we will still have to survive the consequences of letting it go on for so long. The destruction of entire ecosystems, the poisons in rivers and in our own bodies, the species that have gone extinct, the glaciers that have disappeared, the forests that have been cut down and paved over—these consequences will remain for many years to come. In the future, we will have to survive by gathering what we need from the ruins and waste that this system has left in its wake. All the material that has been torn from the ground to be strewn across the earth’s surface and dumped into the seas will not return overnight to the depths it came from.

Recognizing this should inform how we envision our revolutionary prospects. It is foolish to imagine that the abolition of capitalism will expand that the consumer activities that are currently available to the global bourgeoisie to the entire human population; we must stop fantasizing about a regulated post-capitalist world with infinite resources to generate the sort of commodities that capitalist propaganda has led us to desire. Rather, we will have to experiment in ways to share the self-management of our lives amid the recovery of our biomes, our relationships, and our bodies after centuries of aggression and exploitation—organizing life in regions that have become hostile to it.

The ways we organize our resistance today should be informed by the fact that our revolutionary experiments will not be taking place in a world of peace, stability, and balance. We will be struggling to survive in the midst of the consequences of centuries of pollution and environmental degradation. The best-case scenario for the future will look like the situation in Kobanê in 2015: a victorious revolution in a bombed-out city full of mines.

Last stand: neither utopias nor dystopias—revolution!

So What Is Burning the Amazon?

There is a consensus among scientific researchers, government institutions, social movements, and rural and urban peoples regarding the impacts and risks of global warming and increasing industrialization and urbanization. Some of these consequences are about to become irreversible. The deforestation of the Amazon itself may become irreparable if it reaches 40% of its total area.

It has never worked to demand that governments solve these problems for us—and it never will. This is especially foolish when we are talking about the environmental disasters caused by their own policies. Land seizures and the deforestation of the Amazon are inextricably interlinked with the organized criminal enterprises that smuggle and kill in the countryside. Fully 90% of the timber harvested is contraband supported by a vast apparatus of illegal capitalism involving armed militias and the state itself.

Populist leaders like Bolsonaro aim to benefit from the unfolding ecological catastrophe at the same time that they deny it is occurring. On the one hand, they claim that there is no need for action to curb global warming—alongside Trump, Bosonaro was the only other leader who threatened to abandon the Paris Agreement, claiming that global warming is a “fable for environmentalists.” This helps to mobilize the far-right base, which admires and celebrates outright dishonesty as a demonstration of political power. On the other hand, as the consequences of climate chaos and environmental imbalances become obvious undeniable facts, these leaders will opportunistically take advantage of environmental crises, product shortages, refugee migrations, and climate disasters such as hurricanes as pretexts to accelerate the implementation of ever more authoritarian measures in the fields of health, transportation and security. Using authoritarian and militarized means to determine who can have access to the resources they need to survive in a context of widespread scarcity is what many theorists have called ecofascism.

The intervention of foreign states in the Amazon forests according to their own economic interests is simply the continuation of the colonialism that began in 1492. No government will solve the problem of fires and deforestation. At best, they might slow the impact of the exploitation they have always engaged in. Neoliberal capitalism demands endless growth, mandating the transformation of forests and soil into competitive consumer goods on the global market.

So what is burning the Amazon—and the entire planet? The answer is clear: the pursuit of land, profit (legal or not), and private property. None of this will be changed by any elected or imposed government. The only truly environmental perspective is a revolutionary perspective seeking the end of capitalism and the state itself.

Mundurukus warriors without state support set out for direct action to expel loggers from the Sawré Mybu Indigenous Land in Pará.

Exercising Our Ability to Imagine

The dystopian images of And Still the Earth and George Orwell’s novel 1984 were intended as warnings: exaggerated projections of the worst that can happen if we fail to change the course of history. Today, with cameras around every corner and our own TVs and cell phones carrying out surveillance on us, it is as if these dystopian novels are being used as a handbook for governments and corporations to bring our worst nightmares into reality.

Dystopias are warnings; but utopias, by definition, represent places that do not exist. We need other places, places that are possible. We need to be able to imagine a different world—and to imagine ourselves, our desires, and our relationships being different as well.

We should use the creativity that enables us to picture zombie apocalypses and other literary or cinematic calamities to imagine a reality beyond capitalism right now and begin building it. Today, as reality surpasses fiction, our activities are largely characterized by disbelief and passivity. But you cannot be neutral on a moving train—especially not one that is accelerating on a track into the abyss. Crossing your arms is complicity. Likewise, acting individually is insufficient because it maintains the logic that has brought us here.

We have to rediscover revolutionary reference points for self-organized and egalitarian collective life. We need to share examples of real societies that have resisted the state and capitalism, such as the anarchist experiments during the Russian and Ukrainian Revolutions of 1917 and the Spanish Revolution of 1936. We should remember, also, that all of these were ultimately betrayed and crushed by, or with the connivance of, the Bolshevik Party and the Stalinist dictatorship that followed it, which carried out unprecedented industrialization and the mass displacement of agrarian peoples. This illustrates why it is so important to develop a way of imagining that does not simply replicate the visions of capitalist industrialism.

We can also look to contemporary examples like the Zapatista Uprising in Mexico since 1994 and the ongoing revolution in Rojava in northern Syria. But in addition to the examples offered by anarchists or influenced by anarchist principles, we should learn from the many the indigenous nations around us: Guaranis, Mundurukus, Tapajós, Krenaks, and many others who have ceaselessly resisted European and capitalist colonial expansion for five centuries. They are all living examples from whom anarchists can learn about life, organization, and resistance without and against the state.

If there is any fundamental basis for solidarity in response to the attack on the foundation of all life in the Amazon, it is the potential that we can build connections between the social movements, the poor, and excluded of the world and the indigenous and peasant peoples of all Latin America. To put a halt to the deforestation underway in the Amazon and countless similar forms of destruction that are taking place across the planet, we must nourish grassroots movements that reject the neoliberal resource management of soil, forests, waters, and people.

For a solidarity between all peoples and exploited classes, not between paternalism and the colonialism of governments! The only way to address the environmental crisis and global climate change is to abolish capitalism!

Another end of the world is possible!

There are 20 Comments

Bolsonaro has obviously and directly solicited the burning of the Amazon, which means he is burning Indigenous people's homes whether or not he lights the match himself. Same idea as someone who hires a contract killer instead of pulling the trigger personally is still guilty of murder. The fires of the Amazon rainforest have an arsonist, and his name is Jair Bolsonaro. He deserves to find himself tied to a tree in the path of one of his own fires.

Wow dude, that's heavy! What about tying the poor loggers to the trees also? You have to consider the driving needs and demands before passing judgement.

Yes, we are considering it. And it's worthless bullshit based on beliefs on the more or less admitted family, nation, race and whatev. People not asking themselves why they need a family before asking "how am gunna feed ma family!?" are part of the problem, not solution. They aren't much more than soulless chimps who'll just buy in whatever ideology that becomes norm.

Normies they are, and they already passing judgement on "us" the abnormals, "greenies", "gay commies", and etc.

Their society is fucking heavy, already.

Wow, antinatalism and its elite 2% of affluent devotees has become like green fascism, even in their stereotyping of normies as if they speak like " how um gunna feed ma famuly" is just not how 90% of mothers and fathers speak.
The ppl living in ghettos can burn as much coal as they like, and if they can't afford contraception or safe abortions, children become the physiological norm.
Love your green angst and hysteria.

Normies are being their own stereotypes. "Feeding my family" is the meme that's been used for as long as I can remember for workers to justify their terrible jobs. Why do they seek jobs that pay well.. because they gotta grow a family, and in some cases pay their kids higher studies. What else? For a yacht? Getting rich? Check mate.

I can't have a family because I can't get work, and therefore I've become an abnormal homeless person, and my hobo meme is " I can't afford a family and I'm not hysterical" Stalemate!


If it helps rid the planet of hipsters and emo's it would be a price worth paying.

No because a significant portion of them emos and hipsters will be enjoying a full automated gay luxury communism in their hermetic tech iBubbles. You'd rather hope of an data connection apocalypse where the hipsters get their nervous systems irradiated to a point of painful death due to overloads of screen interaction.


Okay so just as a reminder, the tactics above are pacifist activist circus at its worse. Bolsonaro's gang are most likely laughing in their offices as they're taking names while making sure non of this opposition becomes effective enough against their plans to destroy the Amazon.

Unless these "radicals" got several people in Brazil's media machine, and in outlets that got leverage in public affairs, if that IS the case in Brazil (not sure that is), then Crimethinc has reached a new low in terms of rooting for a bunch of clueless, toothless activists who're 2019's equivalent to the White Rose for the Nazi regime.

i.e. when these anarcho-left clowns get anywhere near being a problem for the fascist admin in Brazil, the latter will only have to pay a bunch of their lowest bidding mercenaries to rape, torture and kill these activists. Like we didn't read that horror show several times before, in the news coming from hellholes like Brazil.

What the fuck is this trash from a reactionary who talks about "hellholes like Brazil" and discourages people from engaging in any form of struggle whatsoever?

Why do the people who maintain this site delete responses to anti-anarchist/pro-capitalist garbage like this, but leave this post to spread spite for those who risk their lives against the ruling order?

Seriously, we're supposed to despise the White Rose and the anarchists fighting Bolsonaro, and feel despair about anything else being possible? FUCK YOU!

Isn't it obvious this trash was posted by people who like Bolsonaro, hate the White Rose (courageous heroes who died fighting the Nazis), and want YOU, a-news reader, to be passive and do nothing?





i find the post from someone who is criticizing a kind of activism to be relevant. the "hellhole" comment i read as unfortunate shorthand. i could of course be wrong.
and your comment i read as fairly empty name-calling and activist-apologizing. you are pretty much saying "you're for us or you're against us", and that kind of dualistic binary thinking is part of the problem, afaic. are you not trying to say (shout) that? would you like to respond more thoughtfully? or are you as interested in talking shit about anews as you are in defending crimethinc?

So why shit on the White Rose people? That's basically saying the Good Germans were the reasonable/intelligent ones, and the ones who fought the Nazis were idiots. Is that what you think, too?


Sorry, if DOING THINGS (like, anything at all) = "activism" and therefore = "BAD," you've signed up for one weird fucking quietist ideology and I have no clue what you think will come of it except giving yourself a pass to do nothing while other people are taking risks. If you want to be a Good German and shit on the White Rose people, fine, but I'm not going to give you a cookie for it. Screw you if that's your program.

I've read "Give Up Activism" and it has nothing to do with this kind of Good German garbage. Quietists who do nothing but shittalk those who are trying to be anarchists in their actions are trash humans. For real.

let us avoid just throwing labels back and forth at each other. where did i say that i was for "doing nothing" or "quietism"?
i don't know anything about white rose. would you like to inform me about what they've done that is so great?
i will avoid calling you names for being someone who says things like "doing something/anything" is better than pondering, thinking, critiquing, questioning, etc.
surely we both know that doing is not at all vs considering, yes? that is the most tired of false binaries, yes? perhaps you can talk about your experience with people who seem to be interested only in criticizing, and how depressed that makes you feel, and i can talk about my experience with people who are more interested in posturing through repetitive/useless action, and how depressed that makes me feel?
then maybe we can get beyond the most shallow type of online interaction, and instead talk about how action and critique go together, and maybe there's a better way to do both of them?
doesn't that sound nice?

"i don't know anything about white rose. would you like to inform me about what they've done that is so great?"

I'm not going to google and paste for you. It's faster if you just google yourself.

You're trying to be oh so moderate and evenhanded, but as a consequence, you're de facto defending the basically pro-fascist position of the explicitly anti-anarchist troll above. Shitting on the White Rose folks—all murdered by the regime in Nazi Germany—and insulting anarchists while urging against doing anything whatsoever is fucking nonsense. Don't play dumb and act like I'm the one getting crazy here. Educate yourself and see what kind of trash you're siding with here. It's fucking dumb. This site is a fucking cesspool compared to most anarchist venues.

I dunno, but this old-school pacifist activism is pretty absurd in the context of Bolsonaro's regime being in charge in Brazil. This is a guy who bluntly boasted that he's behind the bush fires, and at the same time comparing himself to Nero. But it's not only one guy... it's a whole bunch of retrograde fascist filth that seem to be of the same shit fabric than Duterte, Erdogan, Kadyrov and of course Trump.

We're faced with a new fascist international and all what the so-called radicals in Brazil are doing is... marches and other symbolic actions?

I guess that the problem with Brazil ain't as much its Far Right leadership as much as its weak-ass, over-civilized, sheepish goodwill opposition based mostly on wishful thinking, consisting of people who probably can't even punch someone even if they'd badly wanted to. I mean... this is another Latin American country dominated by a flaming kind of Christianity, Not unrelated, even if not at surface level. Weak.

Its only in the last 20 yrs approx, out of the previous 2,000 yrs of Western history, that we've actually seen X-tian values acted upon. As meak and gentle that they may be, there has been an overall decrease in death from war, disease and famine, and the world at the moment is in one of its most benevolent periods ever. As the NASA photos show, we shouls all be optimistic about the future and enjoy life to the fullest while one can. I'm the old hippy lady from the demo.

Have you been to Brazil? Why should we listen to you randomly making guesses about what you think it's like there? And why are you speculating about who can punch people? Obviously you're here commenting because you don't want to know the real answer to that question.

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