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Fires in the Amazon: we can’t be indifferent to negligence. By Ricardo Lorenzetti

Those of us who desire a better world are terrified by this living hell taking place in the jungle.

The media has done a great job spreading the scientific data, the unparalleled consequences, the indignation of many and the imprudence of a few.

I’ve been in the Amazon several times defending environmental positions, particularly in our loving neighboring country, Brazil.

The first step we need to take is to cease the fire, but it’s time that we ask ourselves: how have we reached to this point?

Environmental crisis are systematic

A fire of this kind is overwhelming, but is the result of a series of small negligent actions that have accumulated throughout time. Tolerating what should be intolerable, doing what shouldn’t be done, focusing on one aspect and not the whole picture and searching for an immediate result rather than looking at the mediate consequences is what is generating a process of accumulation of underground tensions that will eventually explode.

Examples are at sight. Authorizing a construction site in the middle of a city or blocking the water course might be initially irrelevant. However, things start to change when, due to the excessive amount of constructions, a storm floods the city, generating material and personal damages. Another example could be the excessive crop rotation, which changes the climate in a progressive way until eventually everything explodes.

Systems have an homeostatic balance: they need heat and cold, animals that create life, depredators, rains and droughts, diversity and not homogeneity. When one of these factors changes, people don’t notice it, but the effect is accumulative and it corrects itself.

The process of dynamic interaction alters variables until it reaches a new point (the tipping point), where the situation shifts. Is in that moment when we see violent hurricanes, massive fires, cold winters, very hot summers, climate change, loss of resilience and so on and so forth.

Human impact is making the environment lose its identity and we are heading now to a brand new level, where human life will be different and sadly tragic. In Barbados or South Africa there are water crisis, in the Arctic ice is melting and in the Amazon there are fires.

We are scared of the results, but indifferent to the causes.

This mediocrity in the gaze, this simplicity in the way of acting while being systemically blind is putting the world we know at risk.

That’s the reason why it’s not just about reacting to this catastrophes but to act upon the little changes that will have dramatic impacts.

The deforestation

It’s likely that lots of people agree on cutting down trees in order to plant seeds, but if it is done without any regulations, it will end up in disaster. That is what occurred in the Amazon.

Very different is to authorize the intervention of one plot of land versus one million acres of land. It is imperious to make an environmental impact study.

Ten years ago, we, the Court, cancelled the authorization which allowed to clear plots of land in the northern region of Argentina (Salas 2009) because it could substantially change the regime of the whole region’s climate, affecting not only its current inhabitants, but also future generations. The environmental impact study of one plot of land is not enough. The whole system must be studied. That is why we said that “it must concentrate in the analysis of the environmental accumulative impact related to deforestation, in relation to the climate, the landscape and the environment in general, as well as inhabitants’ living conditions. It must propose as well a solution that harmonizes the protection of environmental goods with development in relation to costs and benefits involved. In that sense, the study should identify probability margins for the tendencies that points out and value the relative benefits for the relevant involved parts and the future generations.

It is not possible that a person or a State adopts measures with no regards whatsoever about the systemic outcomes. It is not admissible that local authorities feel they have the right to ignore the environmental impact on other countries or the planet. “It is not about irrationally prohibiting, but about reasonably authorizing” (Comunidad del Pueblo Diaguita de Andalgalá) and, in case of doubt, we have to protect nature (in dubio pro natura) (CS Majul 2019) in order to achieve sustainable development.

Systemic and valued blindness

The sad spread of simple and effective arguments is nothing but intellectual mediocrity and a way of turning a blind eye to the system.

But it must be said that that adds up to the “valued” blindness because the true enemy is environmental crisis and those who feed it irresponsibly. That is why we should say:

Us, who are sensitive to the birds, fishes and whales disappearing,

Us, who are hurt by the pollution of the rivers, the seas and the thaw of the glaciers.

Us, who are worried because we know there will be thirst of water and justice,

Us, who are afraid of the new diseases produced by contamination,

Us, who want our children and the future ones to have a future full of dreams rather than nightmares,

We are against the “others” who, by imprudence, unconsciousness or bad faith, ill-treat nature and make Earth an inhabitable place.

This is the fight for a moral change, an ethic of the vulnerable.

Every single one of us is fighting in their own way, in their place, by their own means. There is no space for is indifference.