The burning of the Amazon rainforest has unified the public in shock and fear like no other event in recent times. It has become a symbol of where ecocide meets human suffering.
Dismay at the destruction has come from diverse voices — from world leaders meeting at the G7 to indigenous people directly affected. But even in this moment, a cabal of commentators tied to networks pushing climate science denial have used their platform to defend the destruction.
“Not since the dictatorship have we lived through such a tough moment,” Jaime Siqueira, the head of the Indigenous Work Centre (CTI), a Brazilian NGO supporting indigenous communities fighting to defend their lands, told the Guardian. Although Jair Bolsonaro’s hostility to indigenous rights is well-documented, the latest assault on the Amazon was not anticipated. Campaigners now believe that under Brazil’s new administration indigenous communities face their most severe threat since the 1970s.
Interesting then to hear Spiked’s People’s Champion Brendan O’Neill speaking up for destruction in an inevitable tirade, arguing: “Brazil is either a sovereign nation or it isn’t. If it is a sovereign nation, then it has every right to pursue economic growth as it sees fit. The rainforest belongs to Brazilians.”
But clearly not the sort of Brazilians like Jaime Siqueira.
In Spiked’s analysis there is no distinction between national reserves, indigenous land and communities and illegal logging: it’s all just ‘Brazil’. In O’Neill’s analysis, the environmental catastrophe we face is either not happening at all or of secondary importance to the holy grail of economic development. Given the website is funded by the billionaire Koch industry empire, that’s perhaps no surprise.
And there were others cheerleading Bolsonaro’s burning. Over at Conservative Woman, Kathy Gyngell cautions:
“In the heat built up over this apparent climate catastrophe, few appear to have stopped to question the accuracy of the initial reporting or the meaning of the original Nasa pictures. The Global Warming Policy Foundation, however, have drawn our attention to a number of articles which suggest that the MSM may have been stoking the flames of panic.”
This is the same Global Warming Policy Foundation that was set up by Thatcher’s former chancellor Nigel Lawson to cast doubt on mainstream climate science at every turn. The same Global Warming Policy Foundation that was part of a coordinated effort to push for a regulatory bonfire courtesy of Brexit. And the same Global Warming Policy Foundation of which Gyngell is now a director (a fact she notably doesn’t disclose in her article).
Matt Ridley, another Global Warming Policy Foundation affiliate (and another who does not declare his affiliation to the climate science denial campaign group), repeats O’Neill’s notion of the magic of economic development and growth in The Spectator.
He argues: “Getting people on to fossil fuels and away from burning wood for fuel spares trees. It is in the poorest countries, mainly in Africa, that men and women still gather firewood for cooking and bushmeat for food, instead of using electricity or gas and farmed meat.”
From this observation he makes an impressive leap, arguing: “The trouble with the apocalyptic rhetoric is that it can seem to justify drastic but dangerous solutions. The obsession with climate change has slowed the decline of deforestation.”
Ridley does concede that “it is probably true that President Jair Bolsonaro’s rhetoric has encouraged those who want to resume logging and clearing forest and contributed to this year’s uptick in fires in the country.”
But, as befits his ideology, for Ridley the subject of blame should actually be (as usual) climate policy. In Ridley’s world, there is no climate crisis. There is no Amazon crisis. And if there was, it would be environmentalists’ fault anyway.
This is perhaps depressingly predictable, as the people arguing that we embrace such destruction are those that stand to profit from it — Ridley owns a coal mine, O’Neill’s website is funded by the Kochs, and Gyngell sits on the board of a group whose raison d’etre is to persuade everyone that environmental regulation is entirely unnecessary.
All while the Amazon burns.
Mike Small is the Founder and Editor of Bella Caledonia. He was DeSmog UK‘s Deputy Editor from March to December 2018, and continues to contribute to the publication.
Main image: Fábio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil/Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0