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What the Amazon forest fires can teach us about blindspots in sustainability

The Amazon rainforest is burning and so is Europe, Indonesia, Russia and Bolivia. Many of which have been burning for weeks with no knowledge to the West and once we did find out it has been amazing to see the outpour of support and awareness raised. 

But then something happened - we all went to our own sustainability corners to fight for what we believe to be right. And are we wrong? Not necessarily, but we are missing the point severely. 

Yes, these fires have been set by ranchers and loggers to clear land for cattle and if every single person in the world stopped consuming meat it would send a large message and hopefully end the production. 

Yes, soybeans are also grown in this area which a majority is used for feeding cattle but also used for the general population to eat. Yes, much of the foods consumed by vegans have problems of their own including mistreatment of farmers and deforestation.  

Yes, Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro is backing the burning of these forests and should be removed, but there is a larger problem at hand that we are not paying attention to - Capitalism. 

While we are busy having a pissing match about what is sustainable and will save the Amazon and planet; we have missed the true cause completely. 

"We cannot talk about sustainability without also talking about access, labor and capital," writes the informative artists and educators of Subversive Thread

We are listening to the wrong people. 

Veganism without the centering of the Indigenous communities who work tirelessly to resist the colonization thrust upon them fails to be effective against climate change. 

Any kind of sustainable movement that lacks inclusivity and does not analyze environmental racism and its effects on marginalized communities is harming the cause, not helping it. 

"Global warming and the climate crisis is a byproduct of White capitalism and colonialism. As White-owned corporations waste and pillage without regard, the ecology that Black and Brown people have respected for centuries continues to lose its balance." (Kendriana Washington via AmericaHatesUs)

The Indigenous people living on the lands of the Amazon have been living and breathing environmentalism for centuries. Black and Brown communities have been reusing butter containers as tupperware and grocery bags as garbage bags long before Capitalism started selling us reusable items under the guise of sustainability

We must center Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in this work. White people must stop yelling at each other from our respective corners and put the mic down. Pass it to those we can learn from. 

White people have created this issue for BIPOC communities and if we do not start to center those same communities in the narrative and work of sustainability then we will get nowhere fast. It's time to give up power to the people who have been caring for this planet far before we came to take their lands. It is a hard pill to swallow for some of us, and we often feel shamed by reading words like this, but often our shame is out of guilt for finally being held accountable for our actions. 

This is not just a blindspot in a movement that is popular at the moment. Lives and the planet are at stake. 

*Please note, many of the sources I have shared the work of here are Black, Indigenous or People of Color. I ask that when I send you to these spaces to learn, you are respectful of their spaces and work. Please read, learn and reflect; we do not need to speak nor insert our opinions. Thank you. 

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