María José Gordillo – Bolivia
“I feel that Latin Americans should go back to the ancestral wisdom that inhabits our collective memory. And if it is already too long gone, we should try to rediscover it with new approaches, to see the problem with new lenses. However, on a global scale, we all should start focusing on sustainable development, on new forms of production and generation of power, on new ways of construction, of consumption of recycling and optimization of resources. Our forests are burning, and it means the beginning of the end if we do not come up with drastic solutions and a complete change of our mindset.”
The Amazon is burning, the fire is consuming the Bolivian Chiquitano region and its forest, also the Pantanal —located between Brazil and Bolivia— is burning. International media has been giving attention to the ongoing disaster, but the state of “national emergency” has not been declared by any of the mandatories of the two most affected nation-states; Bolivia and Brazil. Arrogance and the political flags are infiltrating this struggle, which is not only against the left, or the right, it is about climate justice. Bolsonaro and Morales (who are ironically in strong political opposition to each other), are after almost three weeks of fires, accepting international aid, and even the G-7 got together to discuss how to proceed, as the lungs of the world are burning down.
In Bolivia, we are fighting to turn off the fires, and we as citizens are joining forces to provide the firefighters with the equipment, medicines, and food they need. Not only the population and non-profits, but also small and big scale companies are donating; some aid goes for the affected communities and their peoples, some other goes for the affected animals, but most of it goes for the firefighters and volunteers, who are doing the most difficult job right now. But I ask myself constantly, what comes next when the firefighters finally get to turn off the fires? Of course, I am assuming that they are going to manage, I am assuming that the world’s population is not going to let the biggest rainforest of the world (and it’s neighbor ecosystems) to burn down and die.
As I already mentioned, the Bolivian agenda is highly political right now. Parts of the population, like the indigenous activist Alex Villca, are planning to sue Bolivian president for authorizing the fires through a supreme decree. This was created for, on the one hand, benefiting the mass-scale meat production companies, and on the other, the colonization of the protected areas by farmers who are at the same time aligned to the government —as we find ourselves in the middle of the electoral campaign— for which Evo Morales is running for his fourth and non-legitimate term. Even if Evo Morales’ left-wing government advocates for the rights of the Mother Earth, what has been happening these weeks gives us enough evidence to understand that it is an empty discourse. In this concern, the population has been showing their anger and disconformity.
Mass demonstrations on last Sunday evening filled the streets and the national news. To what the president and ministers are answering that it is the neoliberal’s right-wing fault, it is Bolsonaro’s fault, it is everyone’s else fault, but not theirs.
The main reason why I wrote this text is not to excuse the government because it is quite obvious that the last decisions are on their hands, and they have to accept the consequences of their acts. I do not want to say that the efforts of the population and the firefighters are not enough, these are more than enough, and we should be still donating and contributing to mitigate the emergency. But I cannot help to feel discomfort by complaining about the government and authorities and not seeing that I am also part of the problem.
I want to recognize today that I should start by educating myself, by getting awareness and trying to change my actions. I do not want to romanticize the “small-steps” because I believe that we are in urgent need of a system change, but of course, it has to be accompanied by my own individual efforts, life-style change, and consistency.
I do not believe that Bolivian or Brazilian governments are not to be blamed for what is happening, they should be. But, let’s reflect… Are the politicians the only human beings who believe that development exclusively arrives along with economic growth? Are they the only people who strongly believe that the global North is the perfect model of industrialization? Are they the only individuals who believe that wealth should be the first thing to consider, even if we put our natural resources in danger? Are they the only ones ignoring the sovereignty and the basic human rights of the indigenous communities? Are they the only people who are not listening to scientists, climate justice advocates, and indigenous leaders? Definitely, our authorities are not the only ones following these “progress” paradigms, it is also us.
Our ways of consumption and production are not sustainable, our ways to understand economic growth and development are counter-productive and do not follow the ideas of contemporary climate justice. The still ongoing colonial legacies are impeding that South America reaches sovereignty over their production and sustainable ways of livelihood, and we are lacking that analysis at the time of brainstorming for the solutions to this disaster. I am not intending to say that consciousness and information must come from the Global North and continue under the coloniality of knowledge and power.
On the contrary, I feel that Latin Americans should go back to the ancestral wisdom that inhabits our collective memory. And if it is already too long gone, we should try to rediscover it with new approaches, to see the problem with new lenses. However, on a global scale, we all should start focusing on sustainable development, on new forms of production and generation of power, on new ways of construction, of consumption of recycling and optimization of resources. Our forests are burning, and it means the beginning of the end if we do not come up with drastic solutions and a complete change of our mindset.
Yes, authorities should be held accountable for what they have caused, international aid must arrive as soon as possible, and we should exterminate the fires. But, then what? Our mother earth needs our extreme compromise and critical reflection. Climate justice for South America and for the world, NOW!