| August 23 2019,

10:22 pm

This is the weekly column written by Blavity:Politics Senior Editor Kandist Mallett. 

The current president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has been deemed by Brazilian environmentalists as “Captain Chainsaw” because of his deforestation policy. The fires are believed to have started from farmers and loggers who have long used fire as a way to clear land for business use. According to CNN, in a statement from the National Institute for Space Research (known by the abbreviation INPE), “there have been 72,843 fires in Brazil this year, with more than half in the Amazon region...That's more than an 80% increase compared with the same period last year.” 

This “war” of environmentalists against pro-deforestation has been long and deadly in Brazil. In 2005, 39 environmentalists were killed in Brazil. And in 2018, 57 environmentalists were killed due to clashes with poachers, miners, loggers and ranchers, according to Global Witness and reported by the LA Times

In the U.S., environmentalists who called themselves “water protectors” were surveilled, teargassed and brutalized by police during the Standing Rock protest in the anti-Dakota pipeline protest in 2016. One of the water protectors, Red Fawn Fallis, was targeted by the FBI and had an informant assigned to her. Fallis was later arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to shoot at a police officer. The gun that was reportedly used was from an FBI informant who made Fallis believe they were in a mutually romantic relationship. 

It would be poetic to say the earth’s lungs being on fire is a metaphor for a body that's sick, for a society that refuses to address the harm it’s causing to itself. But sadly, it is not a metaphor. Humans as a species will not survive without rainforests. We require a planet full of trees for our survival. And surviving as a species is something we won't be able to do for much longer if we don’t begin to make drastic changes in our approach to the environment and those who are fighting to protect.