Amazon fires: Educators join in global outcry and demand responsible environmental policies

published 23 August 2019 updated 27 August 2019

Over 2,500 fires have been reported in the Amazon rainforest over the past few days alone. Educators call for stronger environmental polices in Brazil and across the world.

The dire situation in the Amazon rainforest has made headlines across the world. Brazil recorded over 72,000 fire outbreaks this year alone - an 85% increase compared to 2018 according to the country’s National Institute for Space Research. More than half were in the Amazon.

The increase in the number of fires comes in the wake of the Bolsonaro government policy of opening the rainforest to commercial development, at the expense of environmental protection and indigenous communities living in the region. Since he took office at the beginning of the year, rates of deforestation in Brazil have soared and activists fear many have been emboldened to start fires to clear land for pastures. In response to the outcry, Bolsonaro brushed off concerns and launched an attack on civil society organisations, blaming local NGOs for starting fires without a shred of evidence.

In a video message, Fátima da Silva, Education International Latin America Regional Committee Vice-President and Brasil CNTE General Secretary, labelled the Brazilian government's environmental policy as one “of destroying and selling the Amazonia”. She called on the international community to condemn this policy and to defend the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest, as well as the rights of the indigenous peoples who live there, for the sake of Brazil and the entire world. The full statement is available below (in Spanish).

Susan Hopgood, Education International President, stated: “The Amazon fires are not business as usual. An 85% increase in the number of fires compared to 2018 – this is the result of rolling back environmental protections. Irresponsible policy making is not something the world can afford in the middle of the climate crisis. Favouring development over conservation, disregarding minority rights, baseless attacks on civil society organisations, undermining education – we are seeing this happen in Brazil and many countries across the world with devastating consequences. Educators stand against this tide. We will continue to speak the truth in our classrooms and the highest fora of power. We will not be deterred.”

Last month, the Education International Congress made the fight against climate change one of the organisation’s priorities for the next four years, noting that “education is the best tool to teach the public to be aware of the causes and consequences of climate change and other environmental problems, and providing people with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to seek solutions, change consumption patterns and transform society, thereby helping to change the unsustainable economic model that has led to the spiral of social and environmental destruction in which we currently find ourselves.”