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Sting Condemns Brazil’s Handling of Amazon Fires: ‘We Will All Suffer the Consequences’

Musician, rainforest preservation advocate calls response “criminal negligence on a global scale”

Jon Blistein Aug 28, 2019

Sting performs during the Sporting Summer Festival in Monaco. Photo: SYSPEO/SIPA/Shutterstock

Sting shared a statement condemning the Brazilian government’s response — or lack thereof — to the devastating fires raging across the Amazon rainforest.

In a note posted on Facebook, the musician heavily criticized President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic who has expressed contempt for the indigenous people of Amazonia, opened up the Amazon to deforestation and commercial exploitation and downplayed the global reaction to the ongoing fires. As The New York Times reported, Bolsonaro also rejected a $22 million aid package to help fight the fires that French president Emmanuel Macron announced at the Group of 7 meeting (Bolsonaro later backtracked slightly, saying he’d be open to accepting the offer if Macron took back “insults made to my persons” and insinuations that Brazil doesn’t have sovereignty over the Amazon).

Sting is a longtime advocate of rainforest preservation, having launched the Rainforest Foundation Fund in 1987, which has worked closely with indigenous communities in Brazil and across South America to protect their homes. In his letter he wrote, “Populist leaders citing nationalist agendas, or claiming that climate change and its handmaidens are a hoax, are guilty of much more than standing by and doing nothing. This is criminal negligence on a global scale.”

Read the full note below.

Legend has it that the Emperor Nero “fiddled while Rome burned”. While obviously bristling at the dubious factoid that such a stupid man could have been a musician, none of us, including me, can be complacent about the tragic dimensions of the disaster taking place in the Amazon as I write.

Amazonia is on fire at an unprecedented rate – 80% up from last year and with 39% more deforestation – and the world is suddenly taking notice.

Populist leaders citing nationalist agendas, or claiming that climate change and its handmaidens are a hoax, are guilty of much more than standing by and doing nothing. This is criminal negligence on a global scale.

This is no place for the outdated bromides of nationalism in a world where we all breathe the same air and where we will all suffer the consequences of this willful negligence.

Calling Amazonia the “lungs of the Earth” may not be exactly anatomically correct, but it does convey that it is a vital and irreplaceable link in the chain of wellbeing on our planet in the increasingly narrow band of climatic vectors where human life can survive. We simply cannot afford to let it burn.

We are fast approaching the tipping point where the fires will continue to burn and cannot be put out.

We appeal to the Brazilian government to change the policy that has opened up Amazonia for exploitation. Nationalist rhetoric has effectively ignited the flames which threaten to engulf the most important living laboratory on the planet. Countless species are in danger of immediate extinction.

The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has openly voiced that he is no friend to the indigenous people and now he is reneging on land treaties already signed, opening up new territories and dismantling the scientific and human rights organizations in Brazil to enable this. He has criticized the G7 countries for hypocrisy, saying that we cut down our own forests long ago, but that’s no reason not to learn from those mistakes.

We must all help to create a sustainable economic model which renders the destruction of the forests in Brazil unnecessary.

At the RF we have been working for three decades with the indigenous people of Amazonia – not only in Brazil but throughout the countries of South America to protect their land and their rights. It is their world that is in immediate danger, and their way of life that needs to be protected. Now more than ever we need to give them our support to ensure their survival .

Surely it is enlightened self-interest for Mr. Bolsonaro to understand and accept this. We urge him to rethink his policies and change his actions and his incendiary rhetoric before it is too late. This is no time for fiddling; the world is burning.

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