Indigenous leaders in Peru’s Amazon region have revealed that a further 6 farmers were murdered last Friday by a criminal group looking to steal their land and clear it for lucrative palm oil production.
While some of those reading this right now may not think that news such as this should be published on CleanTechnica, the reality is that deforestation (especially of tropical rainforests) is one of the primary drivers of anthropogenic climate change.
In other words, Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma are directly the result — to some extent — of an agricultural system that has been rapidly destroying the world’s forests and jungles over the last few hundred years.
So, the news is worth covering here from the perspective that, if climate change is to be curtailed to any real degree, then deforestation will have to more or less cease very soon.
While you may not think that there’s much that you can do about a criminal gang murdering people in Peru, the truth is that such groups do so because there’s money to be made by doing so. Palm oil plantations can be quite lucrative. So, something that can be done is to realize that the cheap palm oil that sells on international markets isn’t truly “cheap” — not really — and to make choices that bear that in mind.
Many “cheap” commodities, for that matter, aren’t truly cheap when one looks into their production or growth. It’s simply that the costs are falling on people you never see or hear about — which includes future generations.
With regard to the murders in Peru, The Guardian provides more: “Local leaders in the central Amazon region of Ucayali say the victims were targeted last Friday because they had refused to give up their land. A police report seen by the Guardian details how the farmers’ bodies were found early on Saturday dumped in a stream near the Bajo Rayal hamlet where the men had lived.
“’It was a night-time ambush. They bound them by their hands and feet, then they killed them and threw them in a river,’ Robert Guimaraes, president of the local indigenous federation Feconau, told the Guardian by phone.
“The police report says most of the men had shotgun wounds to the neck and at least one was found bound by the hands and feet. An eyewitness told the police the victims were attacked by up to 40 armed men who had their faces covered. ‘We have received death threats from the same land trafficking gang,’ Guimaraes said. ‘We are afraid for our families and we are asking the state for protection.'”
Guimaraes went criticized state & local authorities for their inaction on land trafficking, but he went beyond that. He argued that much of the problem is that local agricultural authorities hand out falsified land titles to some criminal groups, allegedly.
“Everything points to regional government people being involved in trafficking land,” explained Jose Luis Guzmán, an environmental prosecutor in the Amazon region.
Considering the amount of money to be made through deforestation and accompanying palm oil production, and the involvement of large-scale agribusiness firms, none of this should be surprising.
It’s been an open secret for quite a long time now that many or most of the murders of land and indigenous rights activists in Central and South America are funded by large multinationals based in the US, Europe, China, and elsewhere.
Photo by Tim Ross
So, presuming that one doesn’t have an opinion on the “morality” angle of what’s being discussed here, why would someone care? Because the mass-scale deforestation of the world’s remaining rainforests is a primary driver of rising atmospheric greenhouse gas levels, and the accompanying climate forcing.
Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma didn’t just come out of nowhere — the trend towards increasingly powerful and common storms should be clear at this point. While it’s an easy thing to argue against the idea of any one particular extreme weather event being tied to anthropogenic climate change, the reality is that the rate of change seen in the environment over the last few decades can’t be easily explained away either. So, does one wave their hands around and say “there’s no way to know,” or does one realize that the ground beneath your feet is rapidly shifting and adjust accordingly? Big changes are now in order. If these changes are to be kept to less than “extremely catastrophic,” then the deforestation needs to cease pretty much immediately.
As an addendum to this, it’s worth noting that over 120 environmental and land rights activists have been murdered so far in 2017 around the world. Most of these murders are related to anti-deforestation and anti-pollution work.
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