Climate campaigners demonstrated outside the Brazilian embassies in London, Paris, and Madrid on Friday to protest what they say is the Bolsonaro regime's role in dozens of fires that have ravaged large swathes of the Amazon rainforest over the past three weeks.
The Extinction Rebellion movement, which helped organize the demonstrations, said "every inch that continues to burn takes us further away from any hope of sustaining life on this earth."
"The Amazon is fundamental to the life support systems of this planet and for us as humans," Extinction Rebellion wrote in an Instagram post ahead of the protests. "We cannot sit in silence while life on Earth is being destroyed. We need governments around the world to speak up against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro—and put pressure on him to stop these devastating fires and protect the Amazon."
— Extinction Rebellion UK (@XRebellionUK) August 23, 2019
— nonouzi (@Gerrrty) August 23, 2019
The protests came amid growing global outrage over the Bolsonaro government's support for deforestation and refusal to take action to combat the fires, many of which were intentionally and illegally set to clear land, according to the New York Times.
Carlos Nobre, a senior researcher with the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of São Paulo, blamed Bolsonaro for encouraging the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, which is often called "the lungs of the world" for its capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.
"The situation is very bad. It will be terrible," Nobre told the Guardian. "A very large number of these fires are due to the cultural push that ministers are giving. They are pushing deforestation because it is good for the economy. Those who do illegal deforestation are feeling empowered."
Demonstrators on Friday echoed that assessment. Peter McCall, a pub owner based in London who attended the embassy protest, said he decided to take part because "the Amazon is so vital to all life on Earth, including ours."
"I'm scared that if we lose it then there won't be any hope for our survival," said McCall, "and yet the Brazilian government [is] actively encouraging its deforestation and exploitation."
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— Extinction Rebellion (@ExtinctionR) August 23, 2019
#France Several hundred people are in front of the Brazilian Embassy in #Paris, including organizations and associations @XtinctionRebel @ExtinctionR @Alternatiba_ @AnvCop21 #ActForTheAmazon #Bolsonaro
— nonouzi (@Gerrrty) August 23, 2019
The fires, which have been burning for nearly a month, forced the Brazilian state of Amazonas to declare an emergency last week.
As the Guardian reported Friday, the fires have "sparked international concerns about the destruction of an essential carbon sink" and increased pressure on France, the U.K., and other countries to cut off trade relations with the Bolsonaro government.
António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, said Thursday he is "deeply concerned by the fires in the Amazon rainforest."
"In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity," Guterres tweeted. "The Amazon must be protected."
I’m deeply concerned by the fires in the Amazon rainforest. In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity.
The Amazon must be protected.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) August 22, 2019
Bolsonaro, who campaigned in part on opening the Amazon to corporate exploitation, has not taken action to stop the fires. As Common Dreams reported Wednesday, the Brazilian president suggested without evidence that non-governmental organizations may have started the fires to embarrass him.
In a statement on Friday, the Indigenous Environmental Network and Rainforest Action Network said the fires devastating the Amazon are "not only a global emergency, they are a testament to Bolonsaro's racism, ignorance, and greed."
"His words and deeds have paved the way for these man-made fires," the groups said. "We know that protecting tropical rainforests, stopping fossil fuel emissions, and upholding the rights of Indigenous Peoples are some of the most important ways to address the global impacts of the growing climate crisis. That's true in the Amazon. That's true in the Indonesia rainforests. That's true at Standing Rock."