A Section of the Latin American Studies Association

LASA Amazonia Section Statement on Fires in Amazonia

LASA’s Amazonia Section would like to call the LASA community’s attention to the devastating fires that have been burning in Amazonia for the past several weeks. We express our profound concern for the loss of life—human and non-human—and we call for urgent attention to the crisis of climate change and deforestation in each of the Amazonian countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. We must place pressure on politicians to protect the region from further devastation.

The fires currently raging through the Amazonian regions of Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru are the result of a constellation of factors—also occurring in other areas of Amazonia—including accelerated deforestation due to farming, industrialization and development in Amazonia; diminished resources for firefighting and prevention; and a political discourse and practice that flouts scientific inquiry. As a group of multidisciplinary scholars, practitioners, and activists from around the world with research, advocacy, and humanitarian interests in the Amazon Region, we urge immediate, multilateral dialogue among regional and international stakeholders. Such a dialogue should necessarily prioritize the voices of people living in the region. We recognize that the destructive coalescence of capitalism and climate change demands a unified global response.

The health of our planet is at risk when politicians promote economic gain without concern for life and livelihoods, yet large-scale ecocide such as that currently underway in the Arco Minero del Orinoco (Guayana, Venezuela), rarely makes the news until it is too late, as in the case of the fires. The forest, with 20% of its vegetation cover already destroyed, is dangerously close to the critical turning point of 25% deforestation. If that happens, the world’s largest rainforest will become a region with sparse vegetation and low biodiversity, with significant detrimental effects for local and regional populations. Even as the impact of these fires has become difficult for the global community to ignore, we insist, like so many activists from Amazonia, on the responsibility of protecting the planet, including the Amazon, even when the global impact is absent or unclear.

The peoples of Amazonia have been calling the world’s attention to the risks of climate change, extractivism, and development in the region for decades, all too often at the cost of their own lives and with increasing threats to those who continue to defend the forest. Dozens of demonstrations in defense of the Amazon took place on Friday, August 23 in Brazil and in ten other countries. Now that the destruction has reached immense proportions and the world is starting to pay attention, we urge politicians and leaders to lend support to put out the fires and place pressure on the Brazilian government to protect Amazonia and, in so doing, to promote sustainability and equity in this multinational watershed region of local and global importance that is home to immense cultural and natural diversity.

This declaration was approved by the membership of the Amazonia Section of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) currently with 55 members. A total of 30 members voted (55% of the Amazonia Section’s members), out of them 30 approved this letter (100%). This is not a political declaration of the Association of Latin American Studies, which neither supports nor rejects the declaration expressed above.