We’re living in a moment that has resulted from mercantilist capitalism and colonization, negatively impacting indigenous peoples and nature, and urgent changes are needed to preserve our common home, the Earth.

It is already a consensus among scholars that we are living in a new geological era, the so-called “Anthropocene.” This geological era is marked by the destruction of our common home, our mother, the planet Earth. We’re experiencing the loss of the diversity of life, the planet’s biodiversity. We’re facing a climate crisis, the disappearance of forests, the contamination of water sources, seas, rivers, streams and lakes, as well as the destruction of soils. Pandemics have become increasingly frequent, also putting human life at risk. It’s important to emphasize that all this is related to human actions.

So when and how does this geological era come to be? In the case of the Americas, we can say that, after the year 1500, with the arrival of Europeans, capitalism becomes the engine of colonization and (native) humans and nature are seen as commodities. However, it’s important to highlight that the process of colonization and so-called globalization are not limited only to goods, but must be seen as projects of cultural and territorial domination, enabling the appropriation of unpaid work/energy – the work of the natives and the exploitation of nature. Therefore, the so-called “Anthropocene” could also be called the “Capitalocene.” This is the term that I believe is most appropriate to call the geological era we’re living in, as not all humans contributed or contribute to the destruction of the planet; we must spotlight the holders of big capital, as they are primarily responsible for the collapse we’re experiencing.

Therefore, the so-called “Anthropocene” could also be called the “Capitalocene.” This is the term that I believe is most appropriate to call the geological era we’re living in, as not all humans contributed or contribute to the destruction of the planet; we must spotlight the holders of big capital, as they are primarily responsible for the collapse we’re experiencing.

Raquel Tupinambá

Let me emphasize here that my ancestors, the native peoples of the Amazon, used their knowledge, science and technology to produce biodiversity and agrobiodiversity, promoting soil fertility. The well-known Indian Black Earth is anthropogenic soil, rich in nutrients, essential for plant management, which highlights this relationship between humans and nature, this care for our shared home. Therefore, they cannot be grouped together with the colonizers, the land eaters, as my relative, Davi Kopenawa, said.

The Amazonian Capitalocene developed through the mercantilist capitalism of the early colonial period and then intensified during the military dictatorship, which announced the consolidation of the modern state and the entry of industrial capital into the region. Throughout the different phases of colonization, which constitute the Capitalocene onslaughts in the Amazon, from the missions down to the present day, in addition to the physical violence, indigenous peoples have suffered and/or suffer from epistemic and ontological violence.

It consisted in the systematic repression of beliefs, ideas, images, symbols and knowledge that do not serve colonial domination, as well as forms of knowing, being and producing understanding. The so-called “evolved” or “civilized” are actually responsible for a way of life and worldview that is destroying our common home, our mother, the Earth, the waters and the biodiversity of the planet, putting everyone at risk. This is why we must agree when it is said that the countries of Europe have a historical debt to the Americas.

The main cause of global warming, or as it has also been called, “global boiling,” is the emission of gases that result in the greenhouse effect, especially carbon dioxide (CO2). These emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels, with oil being one of the main villains. As such, we need to change this way of generating energy, since oil exploration today represents our death.

In the case of countries like Brazil, focusing here on the Amazon, it is crucial to emphasize the burning of the forests as a source of CO2. The destruction of the forests, in addition to contributing to the emission of gases that exacerbate the greenhouse effect, also represents the loss of biodiversity. When we look at the biomes of Brazil, it is sad to see that, in the Atlantic Forest, about 75% of its native vegetation has already been destroyed, more than 50% of the Cerrado vegetation has also disappeared and about 20% of the Amazon, this biome that is considered the heart of the planet due to its importance for life.

But big capital doesn’t care about that, and governments follow the same line. In Brazil in recent years, with the government under former President Bolsonaro, we experienced a reversal of socio-environmental policy and the denial of minority rights, especially to indigenous peoples, those who keep the sky from falling, as Davi Kopenawa (2010) said. Several proposed constitutional amendments and destructive bills gained momentum, highlighting Bill 490, recently approved in the House of Representatives, which, among many others, represents threats to peoples and the environment. The words spoken by the former Minister of the Environment, now a federal representative, Ricardo Salles, became famous, “it’s time to move the cattle in,” referring to the death agendas that they support. Society was blocked from participating in the government. It is also important to highlight that civil society was weakened, the councils that represented this society were dismissed.

So what now? We have a center-left administration, and although there is a clash between the ruling government and opposition when it comes to the socio-environmental agenda, we know that the Brazilian Congress and Senate are packed with Bolsonaristas. However, the government has shown signs that it is more open to dialogue. Therefore, it is time for civil society, social movements, to pressure the government to make changes happen. It’s now or never for us to stop or at least minimize the destruction of our common home. When talking about Brazil and the Amazon, this change is urgent, as we face agribusiness demanding more and more areas for grain monoculture, soil and human contamination with pesticides and river pollution, especially mercury in the Tapajós River and mining companies destroying forests and soil, in addition to polluting water sources. In this sense, proposals such as the agroecological transition and products that promote standing forests, in addition to strengthening indigenous and traditional peoples, appear as possible solutions that the current government needs to bolster. The future is now!

Opinion articles are the responsibility of their author.

About the writer

Raquel Tupinambá é mulher indígena, agricultora e militante pelos direitos indígenas. É uma liderança de seu povo e coordenadora do Conselho Indígena Tupinambá do baixo Tapajós Amazônia (CITUPI). Além disso, é doutoranda em Antropologia Social.

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