This photo, which I got from La Mina Circle in Los Angeles, reveals a tragic moment in the politics of the earth.
Chief Raoni of the Kayapó people broke down crying when he learned that the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff. approved construction to begin on the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant & dam project on Xingu indigenous lands.
If it does go through as planned, the Belo Monte dam will inundate nearly a million acres of rainforest & indigenous lands. The new water body will be bigger than the Panama Canal. 40,000 local and indigenous people will be forced off their native lands, all that habitat vitally useful to countless local and migratory species destroyed, and millions of unknown species of animals and plants murdered.
The goal to produce electricity is a good one, but this way of attaining it is not. It brings unconscionably high environmental and social costs, and could just as easily be met through greater investments in energy-efficient, place-appropriate methods of generation.
Let’s just call the Belo Monte project what it is: a horrific genocidal project for the short-term financial gain of a few. This project means a death sentence for the people of the Great Bend of the Xingu river, as indigenous peoples’ culture and survival are inextricably tied to the land. It also means irreversible environmental destruction.
Large dam projects like this are just the sort that North Americans endorsed for so many years as a symbol of successful “progress” but which we are now are coming to regret, as we realize their contribution to unintended unpleasant environmental consequences. For example, such dams play a key role in the tragic loss of salmon populations, who need an adequate flow of very cold water in contiguous waterways to survive. This means less delicious wild salmon to eat and serious economic trouble for all the folks making a living from the fishing industry, as well as an unimaginable loss to the native peoples for whom salmon is an extremely important totem of their identity.
I stand with the Xingu River and its people of all species in opposing this madness. If you do too, AmazonWatch.org has a petition to the Brazilian president that you can sign:
From their website: “This is the last chance we have to paralyze Belo Monte’s construction,” said Renata Pinheiro. “The future of the Xingu is in your hands, indigenous peoples and social movements. You succeeded in stopping Belo Monte for 30 years – now more than ever we need to strengthen our resolve.”