Fires in the Amazon: Capitalism is burning the planet

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This summer, the images of the Amazon in flames have made their way around the world. This lush forest, a unique treasure of biodiversity and veritable “green lung of the planet”, has been consumed by more than 40,000 fires. The magnitude of the catastrophe is such that the course of the Amazon River itself has been disrupted. Scientists worry that the reduction of its flow risks causing oceanic imbalances. [1]

Faced with this disaster, the leaders of all countries have reacted by crawling over each other to multiply the declarations to… fight better from now on. The last G7, the scene of confrontation between the Brazilian and French states, would be a comical example of this if it weren’t so tragic. The planet may well be burning, but each capitalist nation sees this as nothing but an opportunity to hit its rivals in the global economic arena, a clear metaphor for a rotting system.

The destruction of the Amazon by flames is not an unfortunate natural disaster, nor is it the fruit of abnormally irresponsible local policies. It is symbolic of what capitalism has in store for all the planet, all species, and for humanity.

The number of fires is increasing all over the globe

Throughout 2018 alone, 12 million hectares of forest disappeared from the surface of the earth, including 3.6 million hectares of tropical rainforest. The traditional system of burning forest to obtain land for the growing of produce and the self-sustaining of rural communities has given way to the ravages of deforestation and fires on an industrial scale.

Across South America, trees are burned to facilitate the penetration of mining and logging, to create new pastures for the growing of livestock at low cost, and to mass-produce soy and palm oil. This policy of massive destruction is conducted in all countries, whichever party is in power.

In Brazil, before the populist Bolsonaro came in, the same policy of savage destruction was practiced under the successive governments of Lula, Dilma Roussef and Temer. In Paraguay, Peru and Bolivia, it’s the same disaster. The “revolutionary” Evo Morales, an emblematic figure of all radical leftist movements in the world, has loosened environmental protections and given authorisation to the companies to further destroy the forest. Since the start of the year, 400 000 hectares of trees have thus disappeared from Bolivia’s Chiquitania region (20 000 fires).

In Venezuela, under the reign of the “socialist of the 21st century” Nicolas Maduro, “the mining arc” has also caused destruction of vast magnitude: this vast region has suffered uncontrolled exploitation to favour the extraction of gold and other metals, which permit the civil and military leaders of Chavismo to conserve a certain level of income whilst in power. Since the time of Chavez, the “mining arc” has in effect been placed under the control of a military camarilla.

In Colombia, the “Marxist” guerilla outfit of the Army of National Liberation (ELN) is also active in the exploitation of mineral resources. With the blessing of the Chavez-Maduro duo, these mafias, who occupy elevated positions in their government, exploit (throughout an area far larger than in Brazil, Ecuador and Peru) gold, diamond and coltan mines. [2] These activities destroy the vegetation and animals, as well as causing elevated pollution in the rivers.

In Mexico, the president Andrés Manuel Lòpez (AMLO) has also launched grand public works which are going to eat still further into the woodlands: the “Mayan train” and the Dos Bocas refinery. “The president affirmed that not a single tree will be felled to construct the “Mayan train”, which seems unlikely given the Yucatàn peninsula is almost entirely covered by very dense tropical vegetation, not to mention the forests of Chiapas. The scientists warn of a threat to biodiversity, and notably to the large population of Jaguars in the Yucatàn.” [3]

The same findings can be established in Africa and Asia. In Angola, governed by the MPLA, 130, 000 fires have already taken place this year. In 2015, in Indonesia, the tropical forests of Borneo and Sumatra have been struck by gigantic fires, primarily caused by the generalisation of palm plantations (to obtain oil for the purpose of manufacturing biofuel).

Even in Alaska and the Arctic Zone, the earth is being fried. In Siberia, in one year, 1.3 million hectares have burned and cities like Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk have suffered clouds of toxic smoke which have sent thousands to the emergency department.

In Europe, the French state, through its president, has given a lesson to the world. At the recent G7 summit at Biarritz, Macron has threatened to put an end to the EU-Mercosur [4] agreements and has denounced, to the sound of loud trumpets, the carelessness of the Brazilian president, incapable of stopping the fire. But these grand, soaring words are based on unlimited hypocrisy and cynicism. Let us recall that France is one of the major actors in environmental pollution (notably through its massive usage of pesticides) and is also destroying ecosystems through its intensive agriculture. It is also an Amazonian country, owner of the only European tropical forest: French Guiana, which is the second-largest region of France. If for the moment its criminal project of facilitating the implementation of mining operations by the multinationals in what is known as the “Mountain of Gold” seems to have been abandoned by the government due to “the incompatibility of the current project with environmental protection requirements”, the fact that it now plans “a complete evaluation” does not signify its total and definitive abandonment. Besides, “the recent announcements have no legal value until a request made by the mining company has been dismissed by the state”. [5]

It remains the case that such a project was designed knowing that it would result in enormous quantities of toxic waste (arsenic, cyanide, etc.). If today Macron and his government express their desire to drop the project in order to appear responsible and concerned about the environment, let’s recall that in August of 2015, the minister of the economy Macron was ready to “do everything to see that a project of this scale could see the light of day.”

Capitalism is leading humanity towards the abyss

These forest fires, that have nothing natural about them, are a real threat to life. Besides the damage they directly cause, they also aggravate global warming. Today, the smoke from fires is responsible for 25% of the global gas emissions which cause the “greenhouse effect”. [6] The agro-food industry today pollutes more than the oil companies! It’s a vicious circle: global warming exacerbates fires, which facilitate deforestation, which in turn allows the spreading of fires, which release more carbon, which accelerate global warming, in an infernal spiral.

Air pollution (such as we have mentioned in Siberia or the one which has obscured the sky of São Paulo, 15 hours after the fires) is one of the main causes of premature death. A recent study from the UN estimates that 8.8 million people die each year as a result of this pollution. This rate is comparatively higher in the most “developed” countries.

Capitalism kills. It is destroying the planet and killing human beings. That’s the brutal truth! The bourgeoisie wants to make the working class believe that a greener, more just capitalism is possible; where the Amazon will not be treated as a business but as an “environmental reserve”, where everywhere nature and its forests will be more responsibly cultivated. Lies! Capitalism is based on the exploitation by a small minority of the immense majority, on the division of humanity into classes, the transformation of nature and humanity into commodities. Capitalism is a system driven by the pursuit of profit and accumulation. Nothing more! Its only other motivation is to mask its savage exploitation in a hypocritical veil, in this case one fashioned out of democratic ideology. Capitalism divides humanity into nations ready to compete to the death (to the point of war).

The entire planet must cease to be imprisoned by the dictatorship of this system; nature must be freed from its condition as a commodity. But this is not possible without establishing a new order across the world: communism, rising from the international revolution of the working class.

Valerio, 30th of August 2019

  1. The Amazon River accounts for 18% of the fresh water discharged into the oceans.
  2. Highly coveted minerals formed by two minerals (columbite and tantalite), exploited for their high resistance to corrosion and notably used in the manufacture of electronic components (mobile phones) but also in aeronautics and particularly in the manufacture of reactors.
  3. “In Mexico, the presidential project for a Mayan train on the path of controversy,” France Info (7th of March 2019).
  4. The Southern Common Market was first formed by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, then by Venezuela (now suspended), and Bolivia (the latter being in the process of admission).
  5. “Mountain of Gold: the government’s words do not bury the project,” Reporterre (19th of June 2019).
  6. “Deforestation: anatomy of a predicted disaster,” Le Figaro (21st of August 2017)