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By Saulo Araujo
December 13th, 2012
By Jonathan Leaning
November 26th, 2012
A massive, very active social movement against the loss of land and ecosystems caused by hydro-electric dams is making headway in Brazil. The movement is little known in North America so far, but that’s changing. And it’s on the brink of spreading across the world wherever large dams are being built and waterways threatened.
But what’s all the fuss, some may ask. Doesn’t it usually only affect isolated communities, and isn’t hydropower a much more environmentally friendly source of cheap energy, especially compared with nuclear, coal, or oil? Are these anti-dam activists clinging to a kind of prosaic, but impractical pastoral way of life, or just trying to push the dams into somebody else’s backyard?
Leaders of the Guarani Kaiowá boldly announced that the entire community would rather die in their land defending from businesses and corporations. Their assertion is more than a war declaration. For us, the buyers of “clean energy,” their pronouncement is a jarring wake-up call that the “Green Economy” actually promotes genocide of indigenous people and Afro-descendent communities –whether in the form of a slow die off of disposed peoples or a quicker resistance.
Before becoming Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Roussef helped to engineer an ambitious development plan that would change the country. Known as the Accelerated Growth Plan and the Ten-year Energy Plan, it would build 134 dams by the year of 2020 in the Amazon alone. Among the losers in the plan: thousands of acres of forest; habitat for endangered species; and thousands of families unfortunate enough to have ancestors who chose to settle these lands. According to Grassroots International’s partner, the Brazilian Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), the ambitious development plan failed to include any funding to offset hunger and unemployment, or to revamp public services for those displaced populations whose livelihoods will be wiped.
Today [August 9] is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. The United Nations pronounced this day to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population. Today also gives us an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the achievements and contributions that indigenous people have made to improve world issues.
Grassroots International proudly supports indigenous organizations from Mexico to Brazil to Mozambique to Indonesia – groups engaged in ongoing organizing to protect their rights and the rights of Mother Earth.
This summer, a group of Grassroots International supporters and allies participated in a delegation to Pernambuco, Brazil. There they saw first-hand the resilient and powerful work of the Landless Workers Movement, the Movement of People Affected by Dams, and the Via Campesina. Along the way, delegates talked with with small farmers, families living in encampments waiting for land, and indigenous communities working to protect their ancestral lands from the incursion of impending dams.
Below is a blog from Peggy Newell, one of the delegates and a Grassroots International supporter, offering her reflections on the journey.
Traveling to Not That Brazil, by Peggy Newell
In rural areas like Seu Lazaro’s community in the state of Goiás, Brazil, vendors of genetically modified seeds used to drop by with wide smiles and black suitcases full of samples and colorful catalogues. Their dusty cars, parked in the middle of the road, are a map of their sales route across miles of unpaved, bumpy roads. According to Seu Lazaro, these vendors (often trained agronomists) go from house to house trying to convince peasant farmers to buy seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides by promising lush crops and a good return in the investment.
Those promises convinced Seu Lazaro’s father to use GM seeds, who then convinced him.
Yesterday I spoke with two members of Brazil’s Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) in Sao Paulo City. MAB is an inspiring organization formed by families who have been displaced by mega-dams in Brazil. Grassroots supports MAB in the organizing of displaced families, or atingidos, so they can collectively defend their land, water and food rights.