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05.12.2019 – Democracy Now!

Brazilian Indigenous Leader Davi Kopenawa: Bolsonaro is Killing My People & Destroying the Amazon
Brazilian Indigenous Leader Davi Kopenawa (Image by Democracy Now)

Democracy Now! sat down with Indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa, one of this year’s Right Livelihood Award honorees, along with the organization he co-founded, Hutukara Yanomami Association. Kopenawa is a shaman of the Yanomami people, one of the largest Indigenous tribes in Brazil, who has dedicated his life to protecting his culture and protecting the Amazon rainforest. He says indigenous people in the Amazon are under threat from business interests as well as politicians, including far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has a long history of anti-indigenous statements and policies. “He doesn’t like indigenous people. He does not want to let the Yanomami people to live at peace, protected. … What he wants is to extract our wealth to send to other countries.”

AMY GOODMAN: We are going to play now the words of Davi Kopenawa, the fourth Right Livelihood winner, the laureate, tonight. I want to thank you, Ole von Uexküll, for joining us today, executive director of the Right Livelihood Foundation based here in Stockholm, as we turn to this indigenous leader in his own words.

Last night I sat down with Davi Kopenawa, who is a Right livelihood laureate, along with his organization Hutukara Yanomami Association. Kopenawa is a shaman of the Yanomami people, one of the largest indigenous tribes in Brazil, dedicating his life to preserving his culture and protecting the Amazon rainforest. I began by asking him to talk about the threats facing the Yanomami people.

DAVI KOPENAWA: [translated] My name is Davi Kopenawa Yanomami. I am a representative of the Yanomami people in Roraima and Amazonas states in Brazil. My people, the Yanomami, is a sacred people. Up until today, the non-indigenous peoples have not recognized where we come from, where we were born. And that is why the non-indigenous society is always messing up with our homes, destroying our land, our territory, contaminating our rivers, killing our fish and hindering the health of the Yanomami people, who are now contaminated by men, men who came and contaminated our home.

AMY GOODMAN: The recent election of Jair Bolsonaro as the president of Brazil, how has that affected indigenous people?

DAVI KOPENAWA: [translated] President Bolsonaro was elected by his own people. As indigenous peoples, we haven’t participated in it. We have not voted for him. But he is now there. And he is preparing a trap. He is preparing a trap for my Yanomami people in order to fool us and manipulate us.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain more what that trap is.

DAVI KOPENAWA: [translated] It is a trap, just like the one you use to hunt an once [sp], Brazilian jaguar, or a snake when they are sleeping at their homes. Men prepare a trap to get the animal. So it is a trap to mistreat us. He threaten us to make my people fall ill, to make our children fall ill and get diseases. That is what I mean by trap. That is the trap he always uses, to any kind of indigenous people. And to planet Earth.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain Bolsonaro’s latest moves, trying to get a law passed that would allow for more gold mining, and what that means for the Yanomami and other indigenous people?

DAVI KOPENAWA: [translated] Before he was able to become a president, he already had this thought, this intention of reducing the size of our land. He says it is too much land for just a few indigenous peoples and it is a land very rich in minerals, in wood. He says that the land is good for plants such as crops of soybeans or sugarcane. They want to use the land to plant things that they use for food. Food for the city. That is his reasoning. He wants to extract things from the underground. That is his concern. He wants to extract the wealth from the earth, right from the land where Yanomami people have been living for many, many years. That is why he keeps talking about it. He created a legislation. It is a bill for mining. And he wants to get it approved at our national Congress. And I am aware of it. I know that if they let it happen, this is really a worry for me.

AMY GOODMAN: Mercury—what’s used in the gold-mining process—how does it make people sick?

DAVI KOPENAWA: [translated] I am going to explain it to you. This mercury that they use, they use it when—they actually got it from somewhere else, from Japan or from here in Europe, and then they use it in their mining activities. The machines come to dig a huge hole to extract minerals, and then it goes on the rivers. The rivers are full of minerals, full of gold, full of sand and mud. The mercury is then dropped on the rivers, and they use it to separate mud and sand so that the only thing left behind is gold. That is what they use it for.

And the mercury is then left inside of the river. It won’t melt like sugar does. It stays there. It is a disease that stays within our rivers. And then fish come and eat smaller fish, just like fruits that fall into the rivers, and then fish get contaminated. And us Yanomami who live by the rivers, we use the water to make food or to bathe in it and to drink it. And after, we get sick. We get cancer. And our children then born smaller than usual, underdeveloped. That is what mercury is causing. Our health is terrible in Yanomami people because of it.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Brazilian indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa, cofounder of the Hutukara Yanomami Association. He will receive the Right Livelihood Award tonight here in Stockholm, Sweden. We will continue with our conversation with Davi in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, The War and Peace Report. In our next segment, we will be speaking with the former U.N. rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, about the new study on the imprisonment of children around the world. But first, we continue our conversation with Davi Kopenawa, Yanomami indigenous leader in Brazil, receiving the Right Livelihood Award tonight here in Stockholm, Sweden.

Davi, I wanted to read a few of Bolsonaro’s quotes. In 1998 he said, “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry hasn’t been as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated the Indians.”

DAVI KOPENAWA: [translated] The president of the United States, they exterminated our indigenous peoples who lived over there. He is doing just the same. He is repeating it. He wants to kill my people. He wants to get rid of the forest. He wants to destroy our health. That is the role he is playing. That is a law that came from the United States and the Brazilian government is using it as a copy, like you call it.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read another quote from a few years ago, 2015. Bolsonaro said, “The Indians do not speak our language, they do not have money, they do not have culture. They are native peoples. How did they manage to get 13% of the national territory?” And he said “There is no indigenous territory where there are aren’t minerals. Gold, tin and magnesium are in these lands, especially in the Amazon, the richest area in the world. I’m not getting into this nonsense of defending land for Indians,” Bolsonaro said. If you could comment?

DAVI KOPENAWA: [translated] He heard other people talking, and that’s why he says that us Yanomami people do not speak Portuguese. Of course we don’t speak Portuguese, because we are not from Portugal. We are Yanomami from Brazil. We have our own language. It exists. It is Yanomami. Yanomami do not need any money. Yanomami do not need money to go on and steal from others, to steal from friends, from your own relatives and brothers. We don’t need that. Yanomami has a different way of thinking.

He wrote things against us. He has wrote things because he lost when we had our victory, when we were able to have again, to get back for us our land that had been stolen from us. And that is why he talks against us and he speaks these bad things about us. And I defend myself and my people. On behalf of my people, I defend the name of my people and our language. What is the use for the Yanomami to speak Portuguese? We are not interested in it. We are interested in our own language, our knowledge. The knowledge of our people who uses its own language, that is what is interesting for us.

But I wanted to respond to the second thing that you read about, his words when he speaks of our wealth. Of course there is a lot of wealth. Brazil is very rich. Our country Brazil is very rich. Rich in good land, in forests. Rich in mountains and waters. The natural medicines that we use and beautiful places. That is where we are rich as Yanomami who lived there, who have never experienced hunger before people who came to invade our land, to invade Brazil.

When they first met us, we were healthy. They found us healthy with lots of food—banana, manioc, sugarcane, palm heart, kara [sp] fruit, and all the fruits you find in the forest, animals, game that we hunt, tapir, fish, everything that we are rich in. It is not the kind of wealth that you need to dig a hole in the earth to find it, to destroy the land. Our people is different. That is why he speaks against us.

And I don’t want to say bad things about him, but he attacked us so I will attack him. I am not going to attack him with a bow and arrow. However, I am going to fight using my mouth and paper. He uses words and the word that he use, which is prejudice. He does not like indigenous people. He does not want to let the Yanomami people to live at peace, protected.

He does not want that. He doesn’t want to let it happen.

What he wants is to extract our wealth to send to other country. The wealth of our Yanomami land, he will take it and send it to China, to Japan, to Germany and other places. That is his way of thinking. That is his concern—making money, earning money so that he can become rich. And when he becomes rich and when he dies, he won’t take any of it with him, not even his underwear.

AMY GOODMAN: Bolsonaro calls the climate crisis a hoax. President Trump calls the climate crisis a hoax. Can you talk about what the climate crisis means for the Yanomami people, for the people of Brazil?

DAVI KOPENAWA: [translated] They are a sick group—the president of the United States, the president of Brazil and the president of Venezuela. They are talking to each other and discussing and then they tell people there are no problems in Brazil because they want to hide it. This is very clear. Everyone knows it is taking place, climate change. He sees the fire burning up our forests, but he is not concerned about it. He is not worried when he sees the forest burning up. He is taking advantage of it. Because the fire burns at the forest and the trees burn up and then workers come and take advantage of it and bring trees down. Yeah, that’s his way of thinking. But it truly took place. It is happening. Wildfires in the forest and deforestation are increasing.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the murder of Paulo Paulino Guajajara, the indigenous forest protector? Your organization has worked with him for some time. Recently, a group of experts released an open letter to Bolsonaro warning a genocide is underway against the indigenous tribes of the Amazon Rainforest. Do you feel threatened yourself? And respond to that murder.

DAVI KOPENAWA: [translated] Well, I am the leader, a leader who fights. I have been fighting for 40 years. And I am threatened. I am threatened by a group of illegal gold miners and also farmers and politicians. Politicians have a way of finding someone who enjoys killing and who kills indigenous peoples. And I am persecuted. Our indigenous leaders who really fight, they want to get rid of us. So I am threatened. And I think that this will happen again. We have talked about his name, Bolsonaro. He will know that we are talking about him, about his name, Bolsonaro. So I am asking your help in order to protect us so that we won’t let it happen again as it happened to other leaders who got murdered. It is a very dangerous struggle. In Boa Vista, well, it is a small town, so the Bolsonaro people, they pay others to go after the leaders who are fighting.

AMY GOODMAN: What message do you have for the leaders of the U.N. Climate Summit, the thousands of people who come from around the world? And what message do you have to the people of the world?

DAVI KOPENAWA: [translated] Well, I would like to give a message, a message from the Yanomami people. I would like to ask the leaders, the non-indigenous leaders from here, to gather with other leaders who are at their homes, their cities, their capitals. I would like to take this opportunity to send them a message so that they can know about what is going on so they won’t let it happen again, something very bad to my Yanomami people. So that they won’t let people destroy the environment, so that they won’t let people destroy the lungs of planet Earth. That is my message to everyone, all of those who fight, all of those who love the forest, all of those who like to protect, to take care of nature for their children, grandchildren, and the other generations.

I also need help. I need help on that, because we have grandchildren, so that they have their protected land, so that they have the protected land for them. That is why I am giving you this message, to ask for your strength, your strength, your European people to talk to Bolsonaro, to talk to the president of Brazil so that he takes care of his country, so that he can take care of it. protecting it together with the indigenous peoples and together with the people who lived in sacred land, and also the Yanomami peoples who have never seen the white man, uncontacted Yanomami people who live in sacred land. So I would like you to protect us, protect the isolated indigenous communities.

I do not want the president of Brazil to destroy the lungs of our forest, our real Amazon. It is unique. Lots of people are trying to get their hands on the Amazon. Just like bees who collect honey and take it to their homes, I do not want to let him do just the same. That is my message. This is a message for women who fight for having the right to land, men who fight for their forest, their education, their health. Nowadays, the young people, the youth is fighting and they are the ones who will keep on fighting. It is a struggle, a fight so we can keep alive. Because without the struggle, we won’t live. There will be no forest. So we need to fight for it so we can live.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does the Right Livelihood Award mean to you? Why you’re here in Stockholm, Sweden.

DAVI KOPENAWA: [translated] I think this award is really important. It is very interesting. It is interesting that the government of Sweden invented this and created this award. This award is important to bring recognition to my struggle, to bring recognition to my Yanomami people so that people from the city and the people of the planet get to know us. This is really important that the people from here are offering me this award. I never asked for it. You offered it and I am happy to accept it. It is really important. It is the result of our fight.

AMY GOODMAN: Brazilian indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa, cofounder of the Hutukara Yanomami Association. He will receive the Right Livelihood Award tonight along with the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Sahrawi human rights leader Aminatou Haidar, and Chinese women’s rights lawyer Guo Jianmei. When we return, we speak to the former U.N. special rapporteur on torture who just released a devastating report on the more than seven million children worldwide deprived of their liberty, from immigration jails to orphanages to prisons. Stay with us.

05.12.2019 – Human Wrongs Watch

The Huge Potential of Agriculture to Slow Climate Change
(Image by Neil Palmer, CIAT)

Soil’s contribution to climate change, through the oxidation of soil carbon, is important, and soils—and thus agriculture—can play a major role in mitigating climate change.

“Through multiple agricultural practices, we could help store vast amounts of atmospheric carbon in the soil, while at the same time regenerating soil fertility, plant health and whole ecosystems. This is a no regret option that offers multiple benefits and deserves high-level visibility,” says a recent United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Foresight Brief titled Putting carbon back where it belongs – the potential of carbon sequestration in the soil.

Industrial farming systems succeed in producing large volumes of food for the global market. However, they cause significant soil erosion, biodiversity (including pollinator) losses and pollution of freshwater bodies. They promote a high dependency on the agro-industry and its products and require huge amounts of freshwater and fertilizer. Agriculture contributes about 23 per cent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, with the livestock sector representing 14.5 per cent of such emissions.

The fragility of soils, the thin layer of the earth which is the foundation of nearly everything growing and almost all that we eat, puts the “sustainability” of industrialized agriculture into question. One major problem is that we are losing soil due to poor land management practices.

“Overall, soil is being lost from agricultural areas 10 to 40 times faster than the rate of soil formation, imperiling humanity’s food security,” says UNEP soil and landscape expert Abdelkader Bensada. “A quarter of the Earth’s surface has already become degraded.”

Fertile topsoil equivalent to a land area almost the size of Greece or Malawi is being lost every year, says the UNEP Foresight Brief.

Photo by Neil Palmer, CIAT

Around 33 per cent of our global soils are degraded, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Meanwhile, new research in Germany suggests that warmer, drier conditions expected under ongoing climate change will reduce the rates at which soil fauna (such as earthworms, springtails and mites) and microbes (such as bacteria and fungi) break down dead plant matter.

This may have important implications for agriculture and natural ecosystems worldwide, as plant decomposition is a key process in cycling and distributing nutrients throughout ecosystems.

Sustainable land and soil management require an understanding of the fundamentally important relationship between plants and soil life. Plants interact intensively with a vast number of microorganisms, in particular microbes and fungi, in the soil. “In a single gram of healthy soil one can find 108–109 bacteria, 105–106 fungi and much of other microscopic life which influences the plant’s growth and health, as well as nutrient and water storage in the soil,” says the UNEP Foresight Brief.

Left: 10 years no-till with cover crops and rotational grazing. Right: Conventionally tilled wheat-fallow-wheat rotation. Both soils are silt loam, 50 metres apart. Photo by Michael Thompson

A key conclusion of the Foresight Brief is that agricultural practices that increase soil organic matter are supportive of enhanced food production, increased biodiversity, enhanced water retention, drought resistance and other important ecosystem services.

Upcoming global report on soil pollution

“Soil pollution is one of the main threats to soil health,” says Bensada.

“It jeopardizes the ability of soils to provide key ecosystem services and endangers human health and well-being. Human activity is the main source of soil pollution. Industrial and agricultural activities, mining, manufacturing, transport and waste disposal are all sources of soil pollution which is becoming a global emergency,” he adds.

United Nations Environment Assembly Resolution 3/6 Managing soil pollution to achieve sustainable development calls on Member States to take steps to address soil pollution. Specific areas for action include: the evaluation of the extent and future trends of soil pollution, and of the risks and impacts of soil pollution on health, the environment and food security; promoting a coordinated approach to combat soil pollution through a strengthened science-policy interface; and information-sharing at national, regional and international levels.

UNEP, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization are working together and with other international, regional and national institutions on a global report on the status of soil pollution in the world and its trends, including the impact of fertilizers and pesticides on human health. The aim is to launch the report at the United Nations Environment Assembly in February 2021.

Photo by Pxhere

Healthy, fertile soils will help to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 1 (No Poverty) and Goal 2 (Zero Hunger), better soil management will help achieve Goal 13 (Climate Action) and Goal 15 (Life on Land), and eliminating dumping and minimizing the release of chemicals and hazardous materials into the environment will help achieve Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) by contributing substantially to reducing soil pollution.

“There is, therefore, a clear link between soil health and most Sustainable Development Goals, requiring governments, the private sector and civil society to join forces to prevent new pollution, minimize its negative effects, and remediate polluted sites and soils that pose a risk to human health and the environment,” says Bensada.

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We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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