Why shouldn’t Brazilians burn down trees?

Why shouldn’t Brazilians burn down trees?

The Western hysteria over the rainforest fires is riddled with colonial arrogance.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill

Every now and then the environmentalist mask slips. And we get a glimpse of the elitist and authoritarian movement that lurks beneath the hippyish green facade. The hysteria over the rainforest fires in Brazil is one of those moments. As well-off, privileged Westerners rage against Brazil for having the temerity to use its resources as it sees fit, and as they even flirt with the idea of sending outside forces to take charge of the Amazon, we can see the borderline imperialist mindset that motors so much green thinking. In the space of a few days, greens have gone from saying ‘We care about the planet!’ to ‘How dare these spics defy our diktats?’. And it is a truly clarifying moment.

You don’t have to be a fan of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, and spiked certainly isn’t, to feel deeply uncomfortable with the Western outrage over his policy on the rainforest. Observers claim the Amazon is experiencing its highest number of fires since records began. That those records only began in 2013 should give the Western hysterics pause for thought – this isn’t the historically unprecedented End of Days event they claim it is. There are always fires in the Amazon, some started by nature, others by human beings logging or clearing land for farming. Some of the current fires were started by people who need wood or land – how dare they! – while others are just part of the natural cycle.

More tellingly, NASA has attempted to counter the hysteria. Its data suggests that, while the number of fires might be larger than in the past few years, ‘overall fire activity’ in the Amazon is ‘slightly below average this year’. How striking that the people who wave around NASA reports when making their case that mankind has had a terrible impact on the planet are ignoring NASA’s reports that there is less fire in the Amazon this year in comparison with the past 15 years.

The Brazil-bashers will not be convinced by reason. To them, the fact that there have been 74,000 fires in the Amazon between January and August is proof that human beings – well, stupid Brazilians – are plunging the planet into a fiery doom that will make Revelations look like a fairy story in comparison. The earth is ‘being killed’, greens wail. ‘Our house is burning. Literally’, says French president Emmanuel Macron, committing the grammar crime of saying ‘literally’ when he surely means ‘virtually’. Unless the Elysée Palace really is on fire?

Leonardo DiCaprio says ‘if the Amazon goes, we the humans will go’. So Brazil is killing us all. Bolsonaro, by giving a green light to development in the rainforest, is holding a gun to mankind’s head, apparently. No wonder Macron has suggested holding an international conference on how to save the rainforest, while some greens have said we need to intervene. Westerners going overseas to rescue natural resources from the ignorant natives? Yes, that went so well in the past.

The discussion about the rainforest is not only unhinged, using Biblical language to describe fairly routine events. It is also riddled with a colonialist view in which people in the developing world are presented as irresponsible and destructive, while Westerners, like the leader of France, are held up as the saviours of nature and mankind. This expresses one of the key ideas in the environmentalist movement – that the developing world cannot possibly industrialise and modernise as much as the West has, because if it does the planet will die. Hence eco-Westerners’ fury with ‘filthy’ China, their loathing of Modi’s promises of modernity in India, and now their rage against Bolsonaro for elevating economic development over natural conservation. They cannot believe these idiot foreigners are defying green ideology and seeking the kind of progress we Westerners already enjoy.

Indeed, the current fuming over Bolsonaro and the rainforest fires has been a long time coming. When he spoke at Davos in January, one headline summed up the response: ‘Bolsonaro alarms climate activists with pro-business speech.’ Environmentalists were horrified, the Guardian reported, that Bolsonaro ‘stressed that protecting his country’s unique ecosystem has to be consistent with growing the economy’. That is, Bolsonaro had the gall to suggest that the eco-sanctification of the entire rainforest ran counter to Brazil’s own need to develop – via agriculture, logging, urban expansion, and so on – and therefore a better balance would have to be struck between protecting ecosystems and achieving economic growth.

During the presidential campaign last year, Bolsonaro often argued that Brazil’s economic development was being stymied by ‘the world’s affection for the Amazon’. He said that companies interested in clearing parts of the rainforest would be allowed to do so. That he won the presidency suggests many Brazilians share his view that the Amazon has been sanctified at the expense of Brazilian growth and Brazilian sovereignty. And on this they are right, and the rich Western greens telling them to stop being so dumb and irrational are wrong.

For years, green-leaning NGOs have been swarming Latin America and using their clout to demonise and even try to reverse economic development. And Latin Americans rightly experience this as an assault on their sovereignty and aspirations. As early as 1972, UNESCO and WWF were writing to the Brazilian president, Emílio Garrastazu Médici, and warning him to halt economic activities in the rainforest. In the 1980s, there was an intensification of efforts by NGOs and outside forces to keep the rainforest as sacred ground that Brazilians shouldn’t interfere with. French president Francois Mitterrand even suggested Brazil should accept relative sovereignty, where a significant part of its territory – the rainforest areas – would be subject to international oversight. As one account describes it, many in Brazil came to see NGOs and others as ‘collaborating with foreign powers against Brazilian economic interests’. And it wasn’t only Brazil. Ecuador and Peru have both expelled foreign-funded NGOs over their agitation against development in forest areas and other natural areas.

Brazil is either a sovereign nation or it isn’t. If it is a sovereign nation, then it has every right to pursue economic growth as it sees fit. The rainforest belongs to Brazilians. A Brazilian approach that boosts economic development while keeping a close eye on the natural environment sounds like a good one. But it horrifies Western greens who are allergic to any kind of meaningful economic development. Under the guise of environmentalism they are pursuing the ugly old colonial goal of subjugating non-Western nations to their rules and diktats. And that’s far more horrifying than a few fires in the Amazon.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 11:47 pm

British state do you remember that one what you did?


Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 11:55 pm

Armoured cars and tanks and guns came to came away our sons
But everyman must stand behind the man who stands behind the wire


Winston Stanley

26th August 2019 at 12:02 am

No British border in Ireland

No British State in Ireland

Do you remember?


Winston Stanley

26th August 2019 at 12:47 am

Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 10:16 pm

Many of us stood and many of us fell

But do not fear the Reaper


Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 10:34 pm

Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 10:40 pm

All ye down on cobbled streets gather around


Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 10:49 pm

Will come ye no come back again?


Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 9:23 pm

I is Jerry Owen and it is ALL about me.

Or maybe it is not?

Jerry Owen

25th August 2019 at 9:12 pm

‘Sky News Australia’ Youtube .. BON does a good one on the Royal wokes .

Jerry Owen

25th August 2019 at 8:38 pm

In response to Peter Jenkins … very clearly humans !

Jerry Owen

25th August 2019 at 8:35 pm

Winston Stanley at 8.pm.. WTF has your post got to do with this online magazine ?

Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 8:57 pm

You tell me. Look at it as an open question where you get to excel at being yourself.

Jerry Owen

25th August 2019 at 9:10 pm

Answer my question !

Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 9:13 pm

“Arguing” with ghosts?

I try to avoid that?

Peter Jenkins

25th August 2019 at 3:38 pm

BON’s tired tactics- formulaic “argument” in hyper-inflated language. Yes point out the hypocrisy of those politicians calling for action – although I think most people are aware of this – but what about your own hypocrisy EG using NASA report when convenient but dismissing most reports by them and other scientists or defending a regime and its capitalist allies that are destroying the livelihoods of indigenous people – in the name of the “masses”. Such dumbing down of debate is helping to destroy intelligent discourse, a dumbing down that has seeped into politics and education.

Jerry Owen

25th August 2019 at 8:29 pm

News to me .. please enlarge !

Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 9:22 pm

Jerry wishes that he had a bigger di ck than he does?

And maybe a bigger mouth?


OK, maybe not?

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 1:43 pm


This is gonna be about you being an oven-bitch.

I’d suggest that you pull yer fat head in, , Dim Bawrie.

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 12:43 pm

Ok….so we’ve had to have some drama over the last few days….let’s all just see it for what it is…if there are nazi’s amongst us, then you are a nazi if you don’t btpring this minda thing to light…

I’ve currently got Peeved Gobbett’s at 48%, and Dim Bawrie at 27%.

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 1:33 pm

This is as serious as it gets…there are actual nazis amongst nus..

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 1:35 pm

Sorry..cro-nuts is a typo…

Let’s all out the nazi’s while we still can…

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 2:07 pm

I’ve found Dim Bawrie to be consorting….we honestly can’t bbe pharked wiith a w anker like you, Dim Bawrie….that’s what it is…

You need ro phark off to the guardian, too. I can’t stand you.

Brandy Cluster

25th August 2019 at 11:19 pm

Don’t forget the nazis were enthusiastically supported by the then ‘bien pensant’ – the academics and middle class. The rest followed after them.

Also, I presume the term “brazillian” – (the complete removal of hair from the genital region) was named after that nation’s practice of stripping forests?

Jerry Owen

25th August 2019 at 9:31 am

It is beneficial to burn deadwood as the minerals go back into the ground and lessen the dangers of forest fires.
In many parts Of America farmers are no longer allowed to burn their land due to ‘pollution’. We now see more very large forest fires difficult to put out as there is a build up of flammable deadwood.
The AGW zealots point to these fires as proof that earth is on fire.
The irony is that it’s the green zealots that are responsible for these large fires.

Jerry Owen

25th August 2019 at 9:40 am

… the dangers of *large out of control* forest fires.

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 9:55 am

You can’t possibly think for a second that ur gonna be able to bluff this out.

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 9:57 am

I wanna get your wife in on this.

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 9:58 am

What’s her name, oven-bitch?

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 10:01 am

I’m gonna start asking around if you don’t tell me.

I’m gonna relate to her all of your charges.

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 10:02 am

And yes, that includes the bit about Eve Braun.

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 10:03 am

You are such a pharking oven-bitch.

Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 8:00 pm

Hanah, you liked that solstice psytrance? Check this one out. It is “psycore”, which is toward the more harder, underground end of the underground psytrance spectrum. Some claim that it is not psytrance at all but they likely have not been paying attention. Others say that it is clearly closer to the UK rave roots of goa trance which is the root of all trance music. Everyone has their opinion, especially when people do something different or maybe the same? Anyway there comes a point where distinctions break down between black metal/ psytrance and punk / rock, it is all music at the end of the day. Anyway, this is what I is getting into just now. Maybe you like it or maybe you don’t? Sorry if you don’t but, whatever.


Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 9:52 pm

I is going back to my roots


Disco > house > uk rave > psytrance > ?

Hana Jinks

26th August 2019 at 9:13 pm

I like all of the vids you put up. I’ve really only ever heard very little reggae, but there’s something about the tracks that you post….sorry, l can’t really articulate properly ..there’s just something about …those tracks – absolutely love it. I think I’d like the psytrance if l was in a club, but l couldn’t listen to more than a few seconds of it, but if l ever need a pacemaker, then I’ll know where to go.

Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 10:06 pm

Tell you what, you can ring my bell. Never said fairer.


Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 11:07 pm

But I have no time to play your silly games


Alan Smith

25th August 2019 at 9:30 am

Not terribly impressed with this. Your paper is usually very quick to criticise use of the race or sex/gender card by liberals. You have deployed the colonialism card because it suits your argument.

Zoltan Harangozo

25th August 2019 at 1:49 am

My humble feeling about the Greens is that in reality it is the money-making division of the communist party. And they use very cleverly the rich to pay them for attacking competing companies or countries.
In this particular case I rather see the developed West’s attempt to keep the less developed the way they are. The last thing they need is more competition. The article mentioned very well China and India as a new menace for the monopolists, who in my understanding is now planning to create a worldwide monopoly on everything. In this picture developing underdeveloped countries does not show off too well. In other words, they force the poorer countries to stay poor and do not allow them to progress. On the other hand just to make sure we can’t have a normal life here either, they flood us with millions of migrants, who the monopolists hope will bring down minimum wage in the West to the point that living in Malawi will be better than living in the USA, Canada, England or Germany. Sadly, and somewhat surprisingly the so called communists are fully engaged in this plan. (Why I am not really surprised about the communists would require a long article.)
I just hope I am wrong about these things, but seemingly this is what happening nowdays.

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 2:03 am

Great post.

curt Lizzi

24th August 2019 at 2:52 pm

While I agree Brazil should be allowed to develop its resources as they see fit, the question as to why they are burning the forest is unanswered? Why are they not logging? Is there not a better way to clear the forest? You don’t see forests burned even in North America when areas are cleared. This part doesn’t make sense to me.

Zoltan Harangozo

25th August 2019 at 1:30 am

Logging sometimes is difficult to tough terrain.

Zoltan Harangozo

25th August 2019 at 1:52 am

I meant “due to tough terrain”.

Hana Jinks

26th August 2019 at 8:57 pm

What? And just start a wildfire? Surely we have the technology these days to ensure those logs aren’t just wasted.

Jerry Owen

24th August 2019 at 2:26 pm

The planet is getting greener so the rainforests aren’t that vital.

Amin Readh

24th August 2019 at 9:27 pm

Don’t be a tit. Amazon rainforest has been there before humanity. It is a valuable resource in itself. Not to be destroyed so that there are a few more billionaires about the place.

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 1:43 am

Amin. I must inform you that Jerry “Babydoll” Oven-Kraut is a convicted nazi, and those found to be consorting with him could be brought in for further questioning.

Jerry Owen

25th August 2019 at 9:26 am

NASA satellite images show the planet is greening because of a slight rise ion CO2
Don’t be such an ignorant fool.

Mark Houghton

25th August 2019 at 1:13 pm

Starting off a comment by insulting the other person doesn’t help your credibility you know. Much better to put together a cogent argument – if you can.

Hana Jinks

26th August 2019 at 10:45 pm

There’s been lots of insults and funny names on here over the last few days…and l can’t see that changing now anytime soon.

Zoltan Harangozo

25th August 2019 at 1:55 am

I believe that useless trees (useless for humans) in rainforests can be replaced with useful ones. If that is what they do, there is absolutely nothing wrong about it.

Alberto Dietz

24th August 2019 at 7:29 am

Guardianship? So infantile.

Winston Stanley

24th August 2019 at 2:13 pm

They are infantilising the species of the rainforest by saying that they need special protections, it is patronising to them and basically speciesist. /s

Mark Houghton

24th August 2019 at 6:57 am

Two points.
1. Can the Brazilians lecture the British for killing off the native wolf?
2. If the West are really bothered why don’t they ask the Brazilians how much money they’d like from the West in order to not burn down the rainforest?

Winston Stanley

24th August 2019 at 2:03 pm

We are not responsible for what previous generations did. Everyone is born with a clean state. Indeed “responsibility” is a made up convention and it applies as we find useful to society in the here and now.

Winston Stanley

24th August 2019 at 3:05 pm

* clean sLate

Amin Readh

24th August 2019 at 3:34 am

“The rainforest belongs to Brazilians.”

No they don’t. That is BS. They have the guardianship over it.

Alberto Dietz

24th August 2019 at 7:27 am

Guardianship? So infantile.

Winston Stanley

24th August 2019 at 2:05 pm

Or is it adult to have guardianship? Adults do take responsibility, there is nothing infantile about that, on the contrary.

Amin Readh

24th August 2019 at 9:25 pm

The Taliban blew up Buddha statues that had been there longer than they had. Did they have the legal or moral right? No. They’d been there for around 1700 years. So yes… “guardianship” and not ownership.

Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 6:41 am

That is the problem with “guardianship”, it is a flexible and potentially loaded concept and there is always going to be someone who wants to use the concept as a trojan horse to impose their entire worldview, their own legal and moral dictates and their own cultural hegemony on other countries, even in the name of “tolerance” although that is a relatively recent spin on the concept.

Amin Readh

25th August 2019 at 5:51 pm

@ Winston Stanley

You make some valid points. But, I have far more trouble with the word “ownership”. Who does the Amazon belong to? Which Brazilians? Some shiftless corporate types who will pay a choice few folk and then do away with the timber? It is not morally or legally acceptable to destroy this valuable ecosystem. No matter what the overreactions of a few unwashed keyboard warriors is.

Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 6:58 pm

Indeed property “rights” are entirely made up and the convention functions only by agreement and not by fetishization or reification. By the same token if 99.7% of the population of Afghanistan decide that they would rather be rid of the towering icons of a culture that they do not incline toward, an allegedly nihilistic culture at that, then they are entirely entitled to remove them. It is all entirely made up after all, just like the statues.

How often they may bathe is just a silly comment really and not especially pertinent from a rational point of view. I would imagine that they cope just fine and that we can make more cogent arguments than that. “You dirty this and that?” It is an elitist argument and few us get included when it goes that way. We are “the masses”, “the great unwashed”, that is us historically that they are talking about? Yet we get as much say as anyone else. Do you not just love democracy and all that it stands for?

Jim Lawrie

25th August 2019 at 2:52 am

It seems to me Amin that your guardian is not doing his job. Ask for your money back.

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 8:17 am

I’ve got a 40% Dossier on you, Dim Bawrie.

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 9:16 am

You’ve got a serious problem if it gets anywhere near 80%.

Jerry Owen

25th August 2019 at 9:32 am

How very nineties and how very kumbaya !

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 10:11 am

What a farking oven-bitch.

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 10:13 am

Make your apologies, oven-bitch. There’s obviously no t going to be any way back from this.

Neil McCaughan

25th August 2019 at 12:49 pm

Guardianship? Accountable to the likes of you, no doubt.

How very neo-colonial.

Martin Bishop

23rd August 2019 at 11:55 pm

Hey look kids, it’s O’Neillville!

Brandy Cluster

23rd August 2019 at 10:40 pm

I’m really glad we have somebody with the intelligence of Brendan O’Neill to fight the culture wars, etc. But I think he has over-egged the pudding with this one. It seems he is straining to put international issues through the strainer of ‘elitism’ and this one didn’t work. We all need to be worried when huge swathes of land-clearing take place, no matter where this is. Environmentalists tell us that forests are the lungs of the world. For me, quite simply this entire issue is one of over-population and unsustainability on planet Earth. There just have to be less people.


24th August 2019 at 1:20 pm

Well said. To politicise and oppose every environmental concern is puerile. The human race really does need the Amazon and our bio resources are not infinite.

Neil McCaughan

25th August 2019 at 12:52 pm

Note carefully the neo-colonial implications of “our”. Znob and his like are in charge of everyone, apparently.

Zoltan Harangozo

25th August 2019 at 2:10 am

Not that I don’t agree with the concept of less humans, but how do you plan to achieve it? The white “race” is already dying out and in the USA by proportion black women overuse the abortion clinics compared to any other group. In every developed countries women are not really willing to have more than 2 children, and the average is below 2.
On the other hand in poor countries they have 5-8 children in average. In some of those countries there is hope but most of these are Muslim countries. Contraception of any type is forbidden in Islam. Furthermore, during the last few thousands years (even before Islam) they got used to having 15-20 children from one woman because only 2 or 3 survived to be able to beget children. It is simply impossible to change Islamic laws, never mind the mindset of people.
I think it will come to a huge calamity, in which billions of people will starve to death all around the world. I see no other “solution”.

Winston Stanley

25th August 2019 at 7:21 am

“they got used to having 15-20 children from one woman… It is simply impossible to change Islamic laws, never mind the mindset of people.”

LOL The birth rate in Muslim countries falls as they modernise and get richer. To take some examples, Pakistan has fallen from 6.54 kids per woman in 1980 to 3.6 in 2016. Iran has fallen from 6.48 in 1980 to just 1.66 in 2016, Turkey from 6.37 in 1960 to 2.05 in 2016. Algerian, Morocco and Tunisia have each fallen from around 7 in 1960 to around 2.5 in 2016. Libya from 8.13 in 1970 to 2.27 in 2016, Syria from 7.57 in 1970 to 2.92 in 2016. It really depends on the level of material development, the same as elsewhere.

By the same token, most population growth is projected in Africa as the continent develops materially. It may be anticipated that birth rates will fall there too once it develops.

Brandy Cluster

25th August 2019 at 9:26 am

I don’t say that I have the answer, sir; I merely state the problem. And it may be ‘easier’ than you think. It would take a pandemic like the influenza outbreak of 1918 to kill millions anyway. This is nature’s way – that and natural disasters.

Zoltan Harangozo

27th August 2019 at 7:15 am

Yes, if we carefully select from the 56 muslim countries we’ll find a few where the birth rate is normal, or even below normal. Especially true that is if we do not count those children that died of diseases or war, or for whatever reason before they reached the age of 18.
However, in Africa many muslim countries women still have 4-7 children in average.

But it is true that looking at it worldwide, in most countries the tendency is less children, even at places where they are at the rate of dying out.

The population-explosion happens in Africa, and it happens even in countries that not yet muslim, but in 20-30 years they will be – because the muslim population grows fastest.
By the way we can see similar trends in North America and Western Europe, too. White women have less than 2, muslim women have around 4 kids in average. With more and more migration, and with the current tendencies just about all Western Europe will be muslim in 20-30 years.


23rd August 2019 at 7:59 pm

Even by Brendan’s standards this is mind-numbingly thick. “A Brazilian approach that boosts economic development while keeping a close eye on the natural environment sounds like a good one.” – yes, this is the point. It isn’t keeping a close eye on the environment and the economic boost will be short lived.

Interesting that Brendan isn’t concerned about indigenous people living in the Amazon. Perhaps these are the “filthy” people he imagines the rest of us see Brazilians as.

Brazil is a great country, it’s being run by a quasi-fascist who is happy to burn the environments of the poorest Brazilians and demonise unions, socialists, gay people – basically anyone not on the far right. He is there because of a judicial coup supported by the US. And as per usual, Brendan, the “Marxist”, takes the side of capital.

M. R

25th August 2019 at 1:38 am

My friend I am brazilian and I voted for Bolsonaro. You obviously do not have a clue about what really was going on in Brazil for the last 20 years. I suggest you research a bit more.
Brazil was plagued by corruption and incompetent politicians.. either are bad real bad, workers party in Brazil stole hundreds of billions.: check it out
Petrobras – Passadena refinary deal/ Lula and his kick back schemes BNDES loans to Venezuela, Cuba, Angola… Globo enterprises are behind all the propaganda against Bolsonaro, because he cut all of the free money they have been getting.
Bolsonaro has integrity.. cannot be bought and the power hunger lefists hate not making Brazil a communist country..
I bet u won t have that view if you really knew the facts..

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 1:49 am

Look forward to hearing more from you, Mr R.

Jerry Owen

25th August 2019 at 9:36 am

Thanks for that, Bolsonaro is a duly elected leader by his people .. good enough for me.

Zoltan Harangozo

25th August 2019 at 2:18 am

Bolsonaro is a liberal. But don’t worry we heard from others as well, he is a nazi, he is fascists…etc. We all have a good laugh about this. I love when certain people think everyone else is retarded. Even Wikipedia came out with a mouthful:
” He is currently a member of the conservative Social Liberal Party. ”
Conservative Social Liberal Party??? Conservative? Really? Socialist liberal es conservative? Wow!
You guys are funny! Thanks for the jokes.

Michael Walker

23rd August 2019 at 7:52 pm

I think there should be limits to national soveriegnity and those limits should begin where and when the activity of a sovereign state imperil or adversely affect the rest of the world in a significant way. For instance, if a nation chooses to build nuclear reactors which explode, the rest of the world is not being “imperialist” if it seeks to bring pressure to bear on the nation in question to improve its safeguards! Destroying the rain forest is likely to have a very adverse affect on the world. Secondly, Spiked shares one thing with the eco movements and NGO’S of which it is so sceptical, and that is that it ignores human population growth as the major challenge of our time, not a major challenge but THE major challenge. Does Spiked’s notion of sovereignity imply that a nation can always do what it pleases -torture, seizure of land, burning of land etc etc and that trying to stop or even just criticising those actions is to betray oneself as a liberal eltiist imperialist do-gooder? So every ruler does what he or she pleases (including China-not sure when the leaders of China last held a popular fair election but Spiked wants to respect their decisions too because after all we must respect national sovereignity at ALL costs, so democracy is for home consumption only then, Spiked?). For the very first time in many years, this cynical article has half wakened a dormant sympathy in me for the chattering classes being attacked. I mean if I seriously could choose between the survival of Spiked or the survivial of a large tract of Brasilian rain forest, sorry guys, I wouldn’t hesitate. Lastly, out of whatever stable it comes, the implication of oh shock horror! racism or imperialism used in an argument on the lines “if you think or say that, then you are showing your racist/imperialist tendencies” gets my dander up. “That shows you are imperialist/racist/fascist”-is a way of scoring a cheap point, often used by the left and now I see that Spiked is doing it too.

Zoltan Harangozo

25th August 2019 at 2:32 am

Your point sort of implies that everyone else is braindead, only people of the Western world are smart enough to see the entire picture of everything. But no…
I was born to and grew up in a socialist country which I left for I didn’t like the entire idea. Socialism looks good only in the books. (But that’s another issue.) The people in my old country were lied to every day, and still we knew what the truth was. We knew and understood very well that we have our own interests to make our lives better and safer. No one is dumb enough, not even commie leaders, to create disasters on purpose, unless they want to mass murder some undesired folks. But other than that they were always seeking the most advanced way to build things, be that a nuclear or a hydro power plant. The same is true about Brazilians, or the people of Bhutan, or any other people.
Thus, you don’t need to worry about those folks, they have brains, and if they don’t know something they ask those who do. The world is safe without the international monopolists, and people in the developing world do not require your guardianship, as if they were little retards.
Thanks, but no. Guard yourself, and they guard themselves.

Frank Sutton

23rd August 2019 at 5:55 pm

If the world depends on Brazil’s oxygen, maybe the world should pay Brazil for it. Has Bolsonaro missed a trick here?

Mike Arthur

23rd August 2019 at 6:52 pm

I’d prefer rain-forest, but, at equilibrium (growing trees balanced by decaying trees) it produces as much oxygen as the same area of concrete.

Lord Anubis

25th August 2019 at 4:32 pm

Not only is the rain forest in equilibrium. It is in a really very aggressive one. Whenever one see pictures of freshly cleared Amazonian land, the fact that the underlying soil is essentially sand is quite obvious. the combination of fungi and living plants recycle any dead material almost instantly. Unlike temperate and Borial forests, there is almost zero organic material in the soil. This is why the land is only fit to grow crops on for a couple of years or so after clearance. Small scale Slash n Burn has been practised for millennia and it is actually quite sustainable. But doing so on a large scale will result in the whole region reverting to desert. This will not affect net O2 production, but it will cause massive changes to the weather patterns of south America and indeed the entire globe

Ven Oods

23rd August 2019 at 7:59 pm

I rather think that ‘trick’ might be a long-term goal.

Hugh Bryant

23rd August 2019 at 10:22 pm

There’s one small problem: the Brazilians have been cutting down forest for decades, yet the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere has not changed …

terence patrick hewett

23rd August 2019 at 5:43 pm

In the UK there is very little primeval forest left: we cleared much of it by the bronze age and after that got rid of most of the rest of it – most of our forests are man made.

So it is OK if we do it but Brazil isn’t allowed to?


Cedar Grove

23rd August 2019 at 7:38 pm

Context is relevant. When we cleared forests, there was a much smaller population everywhere. Now, we rely on the Amazon jungle and stretches of Africa to help us breathe.

So yes, it was OK when we did it – just as the planet was able to cope when we industrialised our small island. It’s a difference of scale when vast nations such as China and India catch up with industrial processes.

Winston Stanley

24th August 2019 at 2:44 pm

Yep, the argument about “someone did it, so everyone should be able to do it” really does not stack up. “Someone logged a tree, so that means that all trees should be logged?” There ought to be a name for that fallacy. As you say, it is about doing the sensible and responsible thing in the here and now. And none of us are responsible for what past generations did. In any case, China has reportedly burned as much coal in the last two years as Britain has in the last 150 years. It is like saying “oh maybe he did sta b someone, but you cut your dinner last night?” Or “maybe he did drown him in the bath but you brea st fed your baby?” The acts may be similar in some regards but the consequences are not the same and that is the key point.

Winston Stanley

23rd August 2019 at 5:26 pm

I will state a different opinion.

Brazil may be a “sovereign state” but we should not fetishize or reify that concept. Obviously national sovereignty is a made up concept, a convention that functions by mutual agreement, in so far as we agree that it should function in a certain way. It applies if and as we say it does. The West has intervened in sovereign states recently, eg Syria, Libya and it has opposed the formation of the new IS. It is always going to be the case that sovereignty is limited, qualified and conditional and there is no “reason” why that should not be so. There is no “independent truth” that says that states have complete sovereignty, it is only by agreement and it is inevitably qualified and conditional.

We all have a stake in the rainforest and we are entirely justified in pushing for our common interests. It potentially “belongs” to all of us as much as to the Brazilian state and Brazilian capitalism. It is only by mutual agreement that states act with property rights. There is no “natural truth” that says otherwise. Property, like sovereignty, is a made up concept, a convention that applies only by mutual agreement and with qualifications. No concepts of human convention apply absolutely, by definition. If we commonly decide that the common stake in the rain forest outweighs the prerogatives of Brazil State, then that is just too bad for the latter.

For instance, we are entirely entitled to apply sanctions to Brazil State and to refuse to trade it, as Ireland is threatening. We could entirely isolate Brazil State economically if we wanted to, there is no “natural law” that says that we cannot.

It is conceivable that the international community would even consider environmental degradation as sufficient cause for military intervention and occupation, as has happened in the ME, but we are not there yet. States intervene and set up proxy states for their geopolitical and material interests and it is conceivable that environmental protection naturally falls within that scope in the case of the rainforests.

My bottom line would be that there is no “truth” about what we can and cannot do vis-à-vis the rainforests. It is all a matter of convention and we are entirely free to change and to apply conventions as we decide. There is no world in which that is not true.

I am not arguing in favour of any policy, I have clarified the situation vis-à-vis the sovereign prerogatives of states and the common practice of states to intervene for their own interests.

> Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has threatened that Ireland will vote against the Mercosur trade deal with South American countries unless Brazil observes environmental standards and protects the Amazon rainforest.
His warning comes as wildfires rage in the Amazon amid international criticism of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro for failing to protect the rainforest.
“There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments,” Mr Varadkar said in a statement on Thursday night. (Irish Times)

Hana Jinks

24th August 2019 at 9:47 am

Those last two points are horrifying.

Winston Stanley

24th August 2019 at 2:19 pm

Would it not be horrifying if states could do whatever they want? They “can” but we can also intervene if we do not like it. It is not an ideal world with set rules about the prerogatives of states, we make up the rules and we apply and change them as we think best. The sovereign state is an historical construct, it has no “truth”.

Jim Lawrie

24th August 2019 at 1:03 pm

“We all have a stake in the rainforest. … If we commonly decide that the common stake in the rain forest outweighs the prerogatives of Brazil State, then that is just too bad for the latter.” Who is we? what is “commonly decide”? Was Brexit commonly decided?
How are you going to back up your demands?

What about the forests of Russia and Canada?

Winston Stanley

24th August 2019 at 3:02 pm

“Was Brexit commonly decided? What about the forests of Russia and Canada?”

Apples and oranges. I am not arguing that all matters must be commonly agreed by the international community. I am saying that it is not counterintuitive or contrary to established practice if the international community intervenes in some especially grave matters. True, you can object that it is a grey, ill-defined area and it is. I am not arguing that there are any clear and “true” rules, on the contrary, they are made up conventions that apply as human see fit. We have seen fit to construct a world in which states have sovereign rights but not such as that those rights are absolute. Humans are making it up as we go along, trying to be sensible while all pushing for our own interests. Sometimes we are “consistent” and sometimes we are not, it depends on the situation and the consequences. That is just how the world is. As I say, I am not arguing in favour of any policy, I am clarifying the reality of the situation vis-à-vis the sovereign prerogatives of states.

Jim Lawrie

24th August 2019 at 4:13 pm

Winston Stanley – “The International Community”? – Who they.
Decided becomes agreed?

Are China, Russia, the Whole of Africa, India, the rest of The Americas etc … part of the “community”?

You shift the goalposts because you put them down without thinking, and now find them sinking.

Apples and oranges? I compared two forests. Argument by analogy is always weak and offers the protection of a smokescreen in the wind.

You are putting your weight behind an attack on Brazil that has united its people behind Bolsonsaro. Well done.

Winston Stanley

24th August 2019 at 5:57 pm

> “Are China, Russia, the Whole of Africa, India, the rest of The Americas etc … part of the “community”?”

That is a fair point, I never said otherwise. The world, and conventional “principles” are not neat and tidy on my reading. That is just how the world is. I am not a fanboy of the UN but it is the conventional way that the international community commonly acts. That is far from perfect but it is reality nevertheless. USA tends to do what it wants anyway and UK is a poodle, eg. Iraq II – as does Russia. What can I say? The world is not a neat and tidy place, sh it happens, it tends to happen in response and sometimes it is just a pretext for the same.

> “You shift the goalposts because you put them down without thinking, and now find them sinking.”

I disagree. I have laid down no goalposts, indeed that is the background to my entire argument, that there are no set goal posts, we make them up and plant them as we think best. If I have no firm rules, so I cannot be accused of breaking any. Rules are there to facilitate the good, not to dictate it. I am not being moralistic and it would be a mistake to argue against me as if I am. I really am not. Maybe that is unusual but it is so nevertheless.

> “Apples and oranges? I compared two forests. Argument by analogy is always weak and offers the protection of a smokescreen in the wind.”

Totally agree, I have been sort of saying that. Analogies are not logically valid arguments. We need to look at the specific situation and the specific consequences in order to come out with a coherent, practical solution to unique situations. Analogies are redundant and even lazy when we have clear information about the particular situation. Of course you can argue that precedents can be dangerous but I am not trying to lay down precedents but to respond to, or rather to describe, particular situations.

> “You are putting your weight behind an attack on Brazil that has united its people behind Bolsonsaro. Well done.”

No I have not. I have been honest, which is my tendency. The world is what it is, what we do with it is up to us, we are entirely free on that count. We are free to destroy the rainforests for a quick profit and we are free to intervene to stop that. That much is “true”. What we decide to, and how we decide to do it, is up to us. I have advocated no policies and indeed that is not my prerogative. I do not fantasise that my words have any weight on what happens in the world and I expressly avoid playing that “role”.

Ed Lauber

23rd August 2019 at 5:03 pm

The poor are almost universally poor stewards of their environment. Their short term exigencies prevent from exercising the kind of long-term decision-making needed to manage the environment well. When one’s children are hungry, cutting and selling some prime tropical wood, for example, is reasonable. Protection of the environment, therefore, requires economic development that lifts the most poor.

Mark Storm

23rd August 2019 at 4:49 pm

Err….you do realise that the current inhabitants of Brazil are the colonisers, right? Bolsonaro isn’t a descendant of some indigenous tribe…

Ven Oods

23rd August 2019 at 7:56 pm

And the current inhabitants of the UK are no longer predominantly Picts and Celts, so pretty much the same scenario as during our Industrial Revolution, then?

Ian Mutch

23rd August 2019 at 3:45 pm

Brendan makes a lot or interesting and almost valid points but his article misses one critical point. The Brazillians, including Bonsanaro are all living in the same world as the rest of us.

Dominic Straiton

23rd August 2019 at 3:40 pm

Meanwhile were burning millions of trees at the Drax power station while sitting on hundreds of years worth of coal.

Poppy Piway

23rd August 2019 at 3:04 pm

If the leftie luvvies in the western world see the “white” male as pale, stale and toxic, why are they expecting the white male to sort out the world’s problems or anyone’s problems for that matter. Why do they not make this appeal to protect the environment to predominantly “non-white” countries like the middle eastern countries, or China, Japan, India etc etc.

Gustavo Souza

23rd August 2019 at 2:55 pm

While I, as a Brazilian, agree that international ecologysts meddling smacks of colonialism and snobbery, I think Mr. O’Neill largely failed to stress a few issues just as important. The Amazon fires are not a mere ecologic crisis, but a human one as well. Big farmers in Brazil (especially in the Amazon region) are heavily subsidized by the state, so they invest little in modernizing agriculture and cattle raising and keep with archaic methods, expanding their territory instead of making the most of the land they already own. This expansion is frequently violent towards small farmers and indigeneous peoples who live in protected areas of the rainforest. Bolsonaro have a long record of not caring about protecting these peoples’ rights and his poor excuses about the current fires have less to do about boosting economic growth than with making a stunt to please his hardcore supporters (even though most people who voted for him does not approve mindless environmental damage).

Hysteria about Bolsonaro is just as annoying and virtue-signalling as hysteria about Trump, but that’s no excuse to overlook both Western snobbery and Bolsonaro’s stupidity and spitefulness.

Cedar Grove

23rd August 2019 at 7:39 pm

Thank you for your measured response.

Zoltan Harangozo

25th August 2019 at 2:41 am

Gustavo, I’d like to ask what you meant by this: “making the most of the land they already own” ?
Did you mean genetically castrated crop and tons of artificial fertilizer and more and more insecticide and pesticide?
Because if that is what you had in mind I want to ask: Do you know what happens to the soil and the entire environment when someone decides to use these “advanced” form of agriculture?

Zoltan Harangozo

25th August 2019 at 2:47 am

One more thing, you as a Brazilian probably feel this more than us foreigners: Don’t you think Bolsonaro “became” stupid, and nazi and fascist (etc) only because he is not willing to play the international monopolists’ game of flooding one’s country with millions of migrants, and seeks development – the latter, which is not in the interest of our monopolist friends?

John Millson

23rd August 2019 at 2:47 pm

Anthropocentric hyperbolic nonsense as usual. Extraordinay willful ignorance.
Yes, states are separate and sovereign but there is one integrated planet.

Jim Lawrie

23rd August 2019 at 4:14 pm

In that case let’s invade China and put out all those coal fires. Germany for the same reason. And Poland for coal trafficking. Then onward to Donetsk.


23rd August 2019 at 8:02 pm

Is anyone threatening going to war with Brazil, as opposed to just trying to get them to stop this madness.

Jim Lawrie

23rd August 2019 at 9:41 pm

J H delegitimising a country’s government is one of the preludes to war.
“For the greater good of mankind” was how Lenin and Trotsky justified their expansionary adventurism. Germany was the target.
Remember the support for regime change in Iraq? What is was based on?

Measuring the percentage oxygen in the air is schoolboy stuff, and there has been no discernible change since we figured out how to do it.

The 20% reduction in the Amazon in the last 50 years should have resulted in a 20% reduction in its oxygen contribution to the atmosphere, which is put at 20%.
20% of 20% is 4%.

A 4% reduction in the 20.9% of the atmosphere that is oxygen should have resulted in the oxygen content reducing to 20.1%. That is the equivalent of elevating the entire UK by 1,000 feet. Enough to kill off loads of insects and fragile humans. But it has not happened. We still breathe 20.9% oxygen.

John Little

23rd August 2019 at 2:46 pm

You seem to be approaching this issue purely from a political/sovereignty point of view. Which in this instance is too short term and narrow. I hold no brief for the Western Environmental lobby. I agree with your position on most points vis a vis green climate alarmism. However on the issue of the importance of the Brazilian rainforest to the overall health of the planet’s atmosphere, the science seems pretty solid and concerns about the loss of the rainforest and it’s effect on the planet go back way beyond the currently fashionable mores of the environmental lobby. The rain forest has been massively reduced in size over the preceding decades, so it’s no good saying that the number of fires this year is lower than average if those fires are eating into an ever shrinking forest. I think you’ve picked the wrong side of the argument on this one. There are other cases that are more far relevant to your argument, elsewhere around the globe.


23rd August 2019 at 8:01 pm

John, his entire strategy is “what’s the contrarian take”. That’s why we get so much of this nonsense

Jim Lawrie

24th August 2019 at 1:54 am

The percentage oxygen in the air has not changed.

Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 9:34 am

Burn Babydoll, burn.


Jim Lawrie

23rd August 2019 at 2:01 pm

Investment in modern forestry technology would make far better use of the trees than burning them.

alan smithee

23rd August 2019 at 1:38 pm

I thought the Amazon was one of the ‘lungs of the planet’…burning down trees is short termism anyway

Jerry Owen

23rd August 2019 at 7:31 pm

The northern hemisphere is / are the lungs of the planet.

Hana Jinks

24th August 2019 at 2:22 am

Babydoll. If you provide me with the information that I’m looking for, then it could lead to a reduced time in the dungeon.

Babydoll. Is Peeved Gobbett’s Goebells?

Hana Jinks

24th August 2019 at 7:20 am

Jerry “Babydoll” Oven-Kraut.

I now hereby pronounce you Miss Lancashire. And after that, who knows?


Hana Jinks

24th August 2019 at 7:30 am

Proclaim, you nazi.

I spread my rot out, all ovsr this TOWN!!!!


Hana Jinks

24th August 2019 at 8:15 am

Shevtears a hole up..EVEN WIDER!!!!!


Hana Jinks

25th August 2019 at 9:46 am

This a message to Thomas and Steve. I can do this at any time, and if l was ever going to do it in any way to either of you….then doncha think l wooda done it by now?

harry briggs

23rd August 2019 at 12:22 pm

Brazillian sovereignty vs the survival of the human race = no contest. fires or not, the rainforest is disappearing and it has to be stopped very soon, by any means available.

Jim Lawrie

23rd August 2019 at 3:37 pm

We could nuke them, but is that necessary?

Jerry Owen

27th August 2019 at 12:57 pm

Drama Queen !

Michael Lynch

23rd August 2019 at 12:16 pm

Don’t worry, just send in Reg with his eco-friendly jet to plant some trees!

The real truth behind global warming is being ignored. A doubling of the human population over the last forty years and the huge rise in carbon consumption as a result. Look at China – they produced more steel in two years than the entire British output over 150 years. They didn’t just start a few years ago either, this has been an incremental rise over the last few decades. Just how much coal did they have to burn to achieve this output? Look also at the global economy of today, millions of containers being transported around the world by diesel hungry ships and trucks.

Our Politicians lack the will to solve this problem as they are too busy playing identity politics instead of acknowledging facts. God help us all.

Jim Lawrie

24th August 2019 at 12:31 pm

My understanding is that they burned several buckets of the stuff.

Perhaps you could ask Great about sailing the salad across the sea.

Jim Lawrie

24th August 2019 at 3:27 pm

* Great = Greta

Jerry Owen

25th August 2019 at 9:47 am

M Lynch
We don’t need God, humans are an unbelievably resourceful species with great husbandry of other species and mother earth.
Not so long ago coal was carved for jewellery .. now it is used for keeping us warm.
Human ingenuity knows no bounds.

Peter Jenkins

25th August 2019 at 3:24 pm

Human destruction has no bounds as well as ingenuity – who wins?

Ian Wilson

23rd August 2019 at 12:10 pm

That’s an interesting counter view to the recent hysteria, and is a point well made. Rainforest protection has been something shoved down my throat since i was at school 35 years ago. Food for thought.

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