Brazil: Environmental crisis – How long do you have to wait to start making changes ? – La Via Campesina

Article published in Da Folha de S. Paulo
Environmental crimes and tragedies are occurring more frequently in Brazil. Droughts in the Amazon, floods in Maranhão and Recife, fires in the Pantanal, deforestation, and the lowering of the water table in the Cerrado—these affect the water reserves of the country’s three largest river basins.
The tragedy in Rio Grande do Sul is just the tip of the iceberg of many assaults affecting millions of people, compelling society, and especially the government at all levels, to reflect on the urgent need for change.
It was a tragedy foretold. For a long time, the scientific community has been warning that monoculture and pastures lead to an imbalance in rain distribution.
Changes to the Forest Code, promoted and approved by the agribusiness lobby in the 2000s, reduced the size of vegetative cover areas along streams and rivers and eliminated the obligation to replant deforested areas. Without any oversight, it was a free-for-all.
The state government of Rio Grande do Sul also changed hundreds of articles in the state’s environmental law. All to benefit agribusiness, which doesn’t even leave wealth in the state because it exports agricultural commodities without paying a cent of tax on circulation of goods and transportation services (ICMS), thanks to the Kandir Law of the government – Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Adding to this outrage are the predatory actions of mining, everywhere from sand extraction to large iron miners, along with the crimes of illegal miners.
Lastly, the use of pesticides is perhaps the greatest assault on nature. Brazil is the world’s largest user of pesticides, including products banned in Europe, which eliminate biodiversity, disrupt the balance of nature, and contaminate the water table. But who cares if this is controlled by a handful of transnational companies that don’t pay taxes but finance politicians?
The crimes are blatant. And the most affected are always the poor, who pay with their lives. These are people living in unsuitable areas, pushed there by urban real estate speculation, along riverbanks, and small farmers.
What can be done? We don’t need to cut down any more trees to plant crops or raise cattle. Zero deforestation needs to be extended from the Amazon to other biomes like the Cerrado, the Atlantic Forest, and the Pantanal. This policy should be combined with a large national reforestation plan for these biomes, in cities, along highways, and on riverbanks. State companies should create nurseries and distribute native and fruit tree seedlings.
We need to limit the expansion of agribusiness, a predatory model that only enriches transnational export companies and a handful of landowners.
Only family farming can “cool” the planet, protect biodiversity, and combat hunger.
To achieve this, we should promote the polyculture of healthy foods, with a large agroecology program that provides necessary inputs to family farmers, along with a reindustrialization policy that supplies appropriate agricultural machinery and organic fertilizers.
Land reform is essential to ensure access to land for farmers who don’t have any—many of whom have been displaced by the advance of agribusiness—and to relocate those affected by climate disasters. In cities, it is crucial to guarantee decent housing in safe and sustainable locations.
All this costs a lot of money, but it’s better to prevent and save lives and nature than to lament later. Rio Grande do Sul now needs R$ 60 billion just to cover its losses.
Will we continue chasing after repairs, or will we prepare for a better life for everyone?
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