Saturday, June 11, 2016

Over the Ruins of Amazonia: At the Frontiers of Climate Change

The indigenous population of the Amazon are key chess pieces in the current 'game' of climate change. Located mostly in Brazil but shared with neighbouring countries, and representing over half of the world's remaining rain forest (!!!), what happens in the contest between protectors of the Amazon rainforest - including activists, some scientists, some NGOs, and indigenous populations - and those neoliberal multinationals and government forces which would want to exploit it in the context of Brazil's emerging economy, will play a large role in determining to what extent irreversible damage is done to this particular pivotal area, and have a reverberating effect on similar conflicts. As with many contested sites: the battle-lines are increasingly clear, the stakes are global, and those defending the Amazon are in a position of increasing weakness against well-resourced, in a way unbeatable, global machine of capitalism. As hopeless as it is to struggle against this overwhelming force, it won't stop soon.

Brazil's 'coup' (parentheses only for technical definition reasons, I am happy to call it a coup) last month has not exactly helped the situation, although as architect Paolo Tavares points out in his comprehensive lecture, part of HAU's curated Brazil-focused program called The Sky is Already Falling, it's just another complicated political event in a long tradition of Brazilian political history. The leftist governments of the 1980s, he points out, actually accelerated the forced relocation of indigenous populations in the Amazon, in the name of forest clearing and cultivation. The impeachment will have an effect, and yes that would appear to be largely negative in terms of the aforementioned conflict, but it's not necessarily a large change from what was already occurring anyway. This is a bipartisan project of colonial violence propelled by capitalist interest.