Indigenous leaders call on US companies to stop supporting deforestation – Mother Jones

André Penner / AP

This story was originally published by Guardians and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Help Desk cooperation.

Indigenous leaders from the Amazon have pleaded with leading Western brands and banks to stop supporting the ongoing destruction of vital rainforest through mining, oil drilling and logging, warning that the ecosystem is on the brink of disastrous collapse.

Representatives of indigenous peoples from across the Amazon region descended on New York this week to lobby governments and businesses, gathered in the city for climate meetings and the United Nations, to stem the flow of funding for activities that are polluting and deforesting vast rainforest areas.

A new report from the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) claims that brands like Apple, Microsoft and Tesla all have products that could be contaminated with gold illegally mined in the indigenous territories of the Amazon.

These companies are supplied by two refineries, Chimet and Marsam, which are under investigation by the Brazilian authorities for their links to illegal mining. The total area occupied by illegal mining in the Amazon has increased dramatically over the past decade, according to the APIB report, growing 495% to nearly 6,000 acres in 2021.

Illegal gold mining in Brazil has soared since the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, whose allies are currently attempting to pass a bill at the country’s congress that would allow the mining of minerals in indigenous lands. The mining business is accused of mercury water poisoning, deforestation and conflicts with local natives.

“We are seeing the destruction of ecosystems and entire communities and people are dying from this deadly industry,” said Dinamam Tuxá, leader of the Tuxá people of the state of Bahia in northeastern Brazil and executive coordinator of the APIB. “Our lives are threatened, mainly by miners, loggers and agribusiness.

“These activities directly threaten our traditional way of life. All the destruction and violence stems from the interest of these giant corporations in the advancement of industries, such as agribusiness and mining within indigenous lands. “

Indigenous activists have also accused several prominent US financiers, including Blackrock, Vanguard and JP Morgan Chase, of funding ongoing logging and mining activities in the Amazon that are contributing to rainforest degradation. The Amazon deforestation rate in Brazil hit a six-year high, according to data released in July, with scientists warning that the legendary ecosystem is facing a transformation into a grassy savannah due to global warming and felling. trees to make way for agriculture.

“We see large infrastructure projects across the Amazon, projects that are not designed for people living in the Amazon,” said Toya Manchineri, leader of the Manchineri people of the Amazon state of Acre. “They are planned by people who live outside and know nothing of our reality.”

Manchineri said logging operations, new dams and oil drilling disrupt traditional indigenous practices, hampering the ability to catch fish or find medicines in the forest. “These large infrastructure projects bring thousands of strange people to our cities, they bring disease, violence, prostitution, alcoholism, filth, crowd our hospitals,” said Manchineri..

These great enterprises are bad for the indigenous peoples. This development does not happen for us, what remains for us is poverty, violence and abandonment by the state ”.

The Amazon has long been a major cause of environmentalists, and some of New York’s indigenous leaders have admitted they are tired of trying to rally those in power to safeguard what is both a home for natives and a crucial ecosystem. and a carbon stock that could help prevent climate breakdown if preserved.

“Sometimes I wonder why I go. I’m tired of saying the same thing and things move so slowly, ”said Domingo Paes, of the Achuar people in the Ecuadorian Amazon. “But I have met many people, in the government and in the young activists, who say that we need to act and that this is urgent. When I hear people say this, it gives me hope that things are changing. “

An Apple spokesperson said, “Our responsible sourcing standards are the strongest in the industry and strictly prohibit the use of illegally mined minerals.” If a foundry or refinery is unable or unwilling to meet our stringent standards , we remove it from our supply chain and since 2009 we have directed the removal of more than 150 smelters and refineries. “

Tesla, Microsoft, JP Morgan Chase and Vanguard were all contacted for comment but had not responded at the time of publication. Blackrock declined to comment.