Queimadas em Novo Progresso, Pará - Foto: Fernando Souza - AGIF-AE/arquivo

Searching climate security: what does the Amazon have to do with it?

Professor at Universidade Estadual do Pará [State University of Pará] and member of the Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública [Brazilian Public Security Forum].

Aiala Colares Couto

Translated by Silvia Benchimol and Ewerton Branco (UFPA/ET-Multi)


It is very likely that the Amazon has never been so intensely discussed at a United Nations Conference on Climate Change as it happened in Egypt, from November 6th to 18th, in the city of Sharm El-Sheikh. At the event, the consortium of Amazonian states launched the Sustainable Rural Project (PRS-Amazônia), with a view to developing low-carbon agriculture. In fact, this issue already represents a demand that draws attention to the debate on climate security.

It is pertinent to understand the relationship between climate and security, as it starts from several aspects with the most varied meanings, but, in essence, is defined from the relationship between society and nature in the search for a sustainable model. In other words, the aim of a sustainable model is to reduce the rates of deforestation and fires in the region, since protecting the Amazon forest is not only a matter of human security, but of planetary security.

Climate change promotes a series of catastrophes that result in: food insecurity aggravated by droughts, forced displacements due to water shortages, soil infertility and floods, and the intensification of conflicts over control of natural resources. In other words, global warming has been compromising life on Earth, its biodiversity and its populations, and, in relation to the Amazon, we find ourselves quite vulnerable in relation to the presence of economic activities that disrespect the limits of nature and affect the way of life.

A change of attitude is necessary, above all, relying on the participation of the states and the federal government in a collective effort to curb deforestation and build opportunities that value the standing forest. The Instituto Homem e Meio Ambiente (IMAZON) revealed that, currently, Pará is the state with the highest deforestation rate in the Legal Amazon: just to illustrate a real picture of the problem dimension, from August 2021 to July 2022, 3,858 km² of forests were cut down, which is equivalent to 36% of the total in the Amazon region. The municipalities of Altamira, Itaituba, São Félix do Xingu and Uruará are among the most deforested ones, adding together 259 km² of depleted area, which represents 44% of the territory of Pará.

Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Acre and Rondônia and Roraima also contribute to increase their deforestation rates. This is still a consequence of a limited governance capacity, in whose context the institutions responsible for investigating and punishing do not do it, either because they have few agents to deal with a vast region like the Amazon, or because of the federal government interference that weakens the actions to combat environmental crimes, as evidenced in recent years.

In any case, the criminal fires and illegal deforestation that fuel the smuggling of wood must be faced as a guarantee that the states are committed to environmental justice and the planet's climate security. Besides that, it is also necessary to consider the participation of traditional peoples in decision-making processes, as we understand that indigenous peoples, quilombolas, riverside dwellers, chestnut and rubber tappers can indeed be regarded as the guardians of the forest. To foment these ecologically sustainable activities means to guarantee land rights and the maintenance of biodiversity.

At the COP, the Brazilian panel set up by organized civil society gathered people from the Amazon rainforest and other biomes, uniting them with the Brazilian Black Movement and the most varied social and collective movements, environmental activists and representatives of non-governmental organizations.

This is COP-27 or Conference of the Parties (COP), an event that has the potential to bring together governments, diplomats, researchers, civil society and private entities, all bringing reflections and debates on solutions to the global climate crisis. Brazil is one of the 197 nations which have agreed to the United Nations (UN) environmental pact since 1990, when, it signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, whose main goal would be to stabilize the emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

But what does the Amazon have to do with all this? The Amazon has everything to do with it. We still represent the region that, even considering all the environmental catastrophes and crimes that are perpetrated against its peoples, has a rich biodiversity, due to the variety of species found and its fauna and flora. It is also the largest forest in the world, with a rich ecosystem, with more than 40,000 species of plants, trees and flowers. Thousands of species have not yet been cataloged by scientists and many are not yet known. In addition to all this, the Amazon Basin is the largest hydrographic system on the planet and covers an area equivalent to a continental territory, being responsible for 16% of the fresh water that reaches the oceans.

The Amazon, then, has everything to do with the planet's climate security. It is no wonder that the world is concerned about our region. We have become a global problem and ensuring the existence of all this outstanding wealth is, above all, having the courage to change developmental paradigms. In my personal view, this is the biggest challenge ahead of us – the challenge of convincing people to change attitudes and, at the same time, to have ecologically sustainable alternatives that can, in short, promote social and environmental justice.