Many of us have been worried about the fires in the Amazonia and in many other parts of the world these days. In South America many countries are affected, with Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay and Peru suffering the most. Although, forestal fires are often considered to be natural disasters, sadly, in Amazonia in most cases, they are caused by people. What happens is that big farms and meat production industries are in need of new land for producing fodder for their ever growing beef sale (for the markets in Asia and Europe), and as they feel there is no other option available, they obtain land by clearing forests (burning forests, which gets out of control and destroys large areas of woods). The consequences are dear and scary, both to the environment, but also the thousands of poor indigenous ethnic groups living in the forests and from the forests… Their homes are ravaged, their livelihoods are destroyed, the air they breath is contaminated, and so is the water they drink… There are countless of other problems too, which are too long to mention here.
The cruel thing is that despite the international outcry, there is little done to deal with the fires, and more importantly with root causes. What is the saddest is that even if there may be some attention to physical burning of the woods, there is no attention given to the needs of the indigenous communities. They are poor, they do not seem to be important, they do not have a voice…
So yes, my visit to Bolivia was painful and disturbing, as it made me realise, how complex and complicated the ongoing crisis is, and that the fires are not so much about fires, but greed, money and economical interests of the rich, rather than the poor. The visit also made me realise that my work here will be difficult, and will require lots of sensitisation and advocacy… I am not under any illusion that my colleagues and I have enough weight to change the things, not at all, but then again, it is small steps and actions that sometimes trigger bigger events. And let this constitute some optimism for now.