Aerial spraying in the Sidrolandia soybean plantation, Cerrado. Photo: Thomas Bauer
The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (TPP), an international court of opinion based in Rome, has accepted a petition brought by Campanha em Defesa do Cerrado (Campaign in Defence of the Cerrado) on the ecocide being perpetrated against the Cerrado. This ecocide is a result of the intense expansion of the agricultural border over the last half-century in this immense region, which covers almost one third of the territory of Brazil. Under the slogan “it’s time to do the justice which springs from the earth”, the more than 50 organisations which make up the campaign presented the petition, which highlights the shared responsibility of the Brazilian state, foreign states and their development banks, international organisations (particularly the World Bank), private stakeholders, transnational agricultural, water, and mining companies, and pension and investment funds for the predatory occupation of the Cerrado and the consequent cultural genocide of its peoples. The organisations emphasise the breakdown of democracy which has occurred in Brazil since 2016, and the rise of fascism, racism, and anti-environmentalism under the Bolsonaro government, leading to worsening overlapping crises and the potential threat of the current ecocide becoming irreversible.
The petition underlines the fact that the Cerrado is the world’s most biodiverse savannah thanks to the efforts of indigenous peoples and traditional communities, who have continuously tended the land for almost 15 thousand years. The region, which is now considered the source of some of the main rivers and aquifers in South America, is recognised as a place of connection and transit between the diverse ecosystems and species of the continent. The petition points to the concealment of this social and environmental reality, with the Cerrado being classed as a “demographic vacuum”, as part of the historical colonialism and structural racism which are intrinsic to the process of ecocide and genocide of other populations. The organisations decry the legitimisation of widespread and intensive plundering and grabbing of the Cerrado’s land, water, and resources by a handful of corporations from the agricultural and mineral commodity chains, under the pretext that the region is “nobody’s land”, without people nor biodiversity – all in the name of so-called “development”.
In a context of numerous environmental and climate crises – when rampant erosion of biodiversity on a global scale has led to successive outbreaks of zoonotic diseases, and deforestation has led to water scarcity and contributed to an increase in extreme weather events – the devastation of the Cerrado and the expropriation of its peoples have become serious socio-environmental issues for the whole planet.
The petition filed by the Campaign calls for:
- a stop to the current ecocide against the Cerrado before it becomes extinct;
- the truth to be told about the relevance and ecological and cultural diversity of the Cerrado and its peoples;
- preservation of the memories of violence, expulsion, and enclosure of common areas, events which are often passed down by community elders;
- a stop to the impunity enjoyed by land-grabbers when violating the rights of populations, and also in the continuous harassment, manipulation, humiliation, and division of communities they use as part of their strategies to manufacture social hegemony;
- justice and reparations for the conflicts which populations still face and the right to own their land.
As one of the organisations involved in the Campaign in Defence of the Cerrado, GRAIN invites everyone to discover the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal session on the Cerrado on the website: https://tribunaldocerrado.org.br/. The livestream of the acceptance of the petition by the President of the TPP and jurors can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecDUgHBmgXs
“Five centuries ago, a system emerged which globalised inequality in trade and put a price on the whole planet and on human beings. To live – to survive – it needs inequality like lungs need air […]. International law is the offspring of the right of conquest, which the President of TPP calls “its original sin” […]. We have become accustomed to forgetting what deserves remembrance, and accepting the present as our destination: but despite this, we are here with the certainty that the world can, and should, be a home for all of us, and that a different type of law, which does not legitimise injustice, is possible […]”.
- Eduardo Galeano in “500 years of solitude” on the occasion of the TPP session on the Conquest of Latin America and International Law.