Covid-19 threatens rainforests: Brazil's Indigenous Peoples have retreated to the most remote corners of their territories

Fire season in the Amazon rainforest does not open with a political proclamation. Nor does it end with a parade. But everyone in the region knows how this calen

Covid-19 threatens rainforests: Brazil's Indigenous Peoples have retreated to the most remote corners of their territories

Fire season in the Amazon rainforest does not open with a political proclamation. Nor does it end with a parade. But everyone in the region knows how this calendar operates. Deforestation and fires in 2019 reached a record high in a decade and continued to rise in 2020.

A high-profilenew report,releasedonJune 2.confirms that Brazil what is responsible for more than one-third of all loss of tropical primary forests in 2019.The authors identified a particularly troubling trend is that most press accounts missed--deforestation ofprimary forests protected by the indigenous territorieshas risen dramatically, most of itfueled byillegal landgrabbers,

At the start of this year's fire season in the Amazon, with COVID-19 tearing through Brazil, Indigenous Amazonians face threats from all sides. A recent study showed that 3.7% of indigenous people in 21 of the Amazonian cities tested positive for COVID-19, in comparison to only 0.6%among whites, the alarming trend.

the Leaders of indigenous organizations in Brazil last week launched a campaign to demand the expulsion of illegal miners in order to curb the impact of the COVID-19 virus in the northern Brazilian Amazon. There are currently 20,000 illegal miners operating on the lands of the Yanomami, leading to fears the communities want to be infected by contact with the outsiders.

Like the Yanomami, many of Brazil'sIndigenous people have retreated to the most remote corners of their territories, worried about this plague from the outside world. Itís not so long ago that exposing communities to pathogens like measles and smallpox was a strategy used by colonizers to gain access to new lands. Current policies introduced by Brazil’s current government, added to concerns about the pandemic, have raised old fears and led to the call for desperate measures.

And yet these risks threaten populations far beyond the forests of the Amazon.

The strong spiritual and cultural values of Indigenous Amazonians have protected tropical forests and biodiversity for centuries. Their way of life benefits us all, in a modern world that seems diametrically opposed to an equilibrium developed and often passed down from one generation to another.

Trees are cleared for new cattle pasture, soybean farms, mines, hydropower projects, or felled by brazen land speculators or illegal logger. With drier seasonal weather now arriving in all of the southern Amazon, any clearing—legal or illegal—raises the risk of fires. These not only destroy more hectares of forest, but release dense smoke plumes that threaten the health of children, the elderly, and people already suffering from respiratory diseases—including conditions generated by COVID-19.

Updated Date: 17 June 2020, 06:19

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