Last year, the devastation of the Amazon in Brazil increased by 22 percent compared to 2020. This is the highest annual deforestation in 15 years. Photo: quapan. Source: flickr.


This is how we Swedes can protect the Amazon and support its environmental fighters

The destruction of the Amazon, the lungs of the earth, threatens biodiversity as well as the rights and lives of indigenous peoples. Alarming reports of deforestation of an area as large as France and images of burning primeval forest arouse strong feelings in many and a desire to be able to help - and we in Sweden can be involved and influence.

You probably remember, just like me, the strong images from when The Amazon was on fire a couple of years ago. A fire inferno that swept away the large rainforest trees and orangutans that were left alone on charred branches. In fact, almost all fires that occur in the Amazon are caused by both legal and illegal loggers who want to make room for cultivation and livestock.

Since Brazil's current president Jair Bolsonaro came to power in 2019 has deforestation has increased sharply. Deforestation threatens not only the area's biological diversity, but also the more than 400 different indigenous peoples whose livelihoods and culture have been dependent on the Amazon for thousands of years. Bolsonaro defends itself against criticism from the outside world that the Amazon belongs to Brazil and is therefore a national matter. Indigenous peoples in the area and around the world protest and say that the rainforest was there before Brazil came into being, and that it belongs first and foremost to the earth, then its best protector - the indigenous peoples.

Consumers can boycott

Is there anything that you, I and Sweden in general can do to reduce the destruction of the Amazon and support the people, usually indigenous people, who with their lives at stake go against large forest companies and illegal forest mafia to protect the rainforest?

As consumers, we have the opportunity to refrain from the goods that cause deforestation. Brazilian meat has for a long time been chosen by many Swedes, as the rainforest is being cleared to make room for both livestock and its fodder. When it's 2020 was noted that the venture capital company Blackstone, Known for investing in the destruction of the Amazon and dismantling environmental protection, choosing to invest in Oatly led many consumers to boycott the previously self-evident eco-friendly oatmeal brand.

But, you might be thinking, should it not be up to the consumer to navigate between which oat milk one should pour into the morning coffee or which meat one can put on the plate? It's the big companies that are the big culprits, right? In today's environmental and climate debate, it is disputed precisely about the responsibility of the individual versus large companies and where the blame and demands for change should be directed. Representatives of environmental and rights organizations believe, however, that the path to change is not about investing everything in one or the other, but that we must use several strategies together at the same time.

Increase transparency

If we as consumers are to be able to pull our weight, it is clear that transparency and information about companies is required. Non-governmental organizations such as Amazon Watch Sweden has long worked to make consumers aware and put pressure on companies for increased transparency and the transition to greener alternatives. They have informed about the Swedish oil company Preems sales of products from Chrevron A company that for 30 years dumped 68 billion liters of toxic wastewater and 65 million liters of crude oil in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Amazon Watch Sweden has also conducted a campaign to draw attention how our pension money in Allmänna Pensionsfonderna, the AP funds, are invested in, among others, Chevron. The public has contributed to a name collection that was used at the end of last year when Amazon Watch Sweden together with 20 other organizations notified the AP funds to the UN for human rights violations.

Change policy

Representatives of environmental and rights organizations demand that the Swedish state contribute to strengthened legislation on the environment and human rights, and suggest, for example, that the trade agreement between certain Latin American countries and the EU, called Mercosur, should not be approved before it protects the rainforest and the human rights of environmentalists. 

In June this year, Stockholm will host the UN climate summit, Stockholm + 50, and environmental organizations and civil society are planning an alternative conference to raise demands for strengthened environmental laws and indigenous peoples' rights. This provides a great opportunity for both you and me to learn more about and get involved with the Amazon and its environmental protection.

Panel discussion on the devastation of the Amazon

Parts of the facts and options for action presented in the text come from speakers in a panel discussion organized by the Edelstam foundation in collaboration with FUF Uppsala, in Stockholm in December 2021. Representatives from civil society gathered to draw attention to the devastation of the Amazon and 2020 recipients of the Human Rights Prize The Noble Tribal Award, Osvalinda Alves Pereira from Pará, Brazil. Despite continued threats from various actors in deforestation, she has been able to continue the fight against both sanctioned and illegal destruction of the Amazon with the help of the prize money.

This is a chronicle. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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