Europeans must face their own role in the destruction of the Amazon

(Climate Change News, 30 Aug 2019) Comment: Through consumption of agricultural products that can drive deforestation, the EU is complicit in the loss of the great forest, it’s time lawmakers stepped up.

Images of the Amazon burning have caused global alarm.

They have also, say observers, triggered a response unparalleled in the history of the politics around climate change: the setting of international red lines on environmental destruction. For President Macron and others, the fires tearing through the world’s largest tract of rainforest are an outrage that can’t be ignored.

All humanity will suffer if the devastation continues, yet it is Brazilians – and above all the one million indigenous people who call the Amazon home – who are bearing the brunt of this crisis right now.

In all the analysis of the fires’ causes, and the (rightful) opprobrium heaped on the Bolsonaro government for paving the way for it by, among other things, systematically weakening environmental laws, one thing has been largely overlooked: Europeans’ complicity in helping create this catastrophe.

After all, what we’re witnessing in the Amazon is just the latest chapter in a tragedy that’s been unfolding for years – one which is driven, to a large degree, by external demand for agricultural produce.

The Amazon fires were started by landholders to improve grass cover in cattle pastures, or to burn felled trees in preparation for crops and pasture. They are acting to help meet the insatiable demand for beef and – indirectly – soy in Europe, as well as in China, whose meat industry, like the EU’s, relies on huge quantities of soybean animal feed to raise livestock.

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Climate Change News, 30 Aug 2019: Europeans must face their own role in the destruction of the Amazon