‘#PrayforAmazonia.’ ‘SavetheAmazon.’ ‘The world cried for Notre Dame, where’s the outcry for the Amazon rainforest?’
This is what has been filling Instagram stories, Facebook newsfeeds and Twitter threads for the past few weeks, as more and more westerners begin to wonder – why didn’t we know about this sooner? Meanwhile, the rest of the world realises almost immediately: if it is not happening in a western country, then it is not a priority for major news outlets.
The Amazon has been burning for over a month at least, yet it took weeks for it to appear in the headlines of our news – and this was only after a series of sharing on social media. However, when one looks closely at how the media works and how news is distributed across the world, it begins to make more sense.
Many of the world’s biggest news corporations – the BBC, CBS, Sky – are all based in the west and are owned by westerners. That’s not to say countries on the other side have their own major news channels that they look to first. However, as far as I am aware, you can always find a Sky or BBC World News Channel in these countries; but even just to watch Al Jazeera over here, you would have to pay extra for cable or satellite.
What does this mean? It means that one narrative is consistently being perpetuated and fed to us and the rest of the world first. You may think, ‘Ok, that’s bad for the other countries. But we live in the west. Isn’t it normal we hear stories happening over here first?’ Maybe at one time, yes; but when our actions have a ripple effect across the globe, it’s time for us to hear what consequences our actions really have.
The companies revealed to be behind the burning of the Amazon involve a number of brands found in the UK, including Aldi, Sainsbury’s and Asda. All three brands use the soy trader Cargill. Cargill has been responsible for the deliberate deforestation of the Amazon to make way for soy farming for a number of years. Soy farming for products that can be found in our very own local supermarkets – and we’re not just talking about products made from soy. This involves meat that comes from animals that eat soy feed.
The worst part is yet to come. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has only just ordered the countries military to go in and control the fires. Until recently, there was, in fact, a decrease in the deforestation of the Amazon. However, Bolsonaro’s rule has brought a spike in deforestation in order to make way for more companies to use the land and grow the Brazilian economy.
Bolsonaro has only come under the microscope recently for the role he has played in damaging the world’s largest rainforest. His ignorance on the matter, unfortunately, is only one of many heinous ideologies he has perpetuated since being elected. His threats to kill all indigenous people to make way for land, shouting at a female journalist that he would never rape her because she was too ugly, and an unforgiving attitude towards drug addicts makes Boris Johnson’s ‘do or die’ approach to politics and Donald Trump’s war against the establishment look like the first small few hurdles on a cross country racecourse. His media given title, ‘Trump of the Tropics,’ does not even begin to describe what this man is capable of.
The example of what is happening in Brazil is only one of many stories that have taken far too long to come to our attention. From the Kashmir conflict and water shortages in India to the killings in Sri Lanka, time and time again we have seen the same pushing aside and eventual silencing of different narratives. So what do we do? Read beyond the Guardian and watch beyond Channel 4 news. Find news channels and media outlets from different countries to read it from their perspective. Finally, whenever an event happens like the Amazon burning or shooting in Sri Lanka, talk about it; and keep talking about it. We, in the west, only make up a fraction of the global population, but because of history, a discrepancy of world power means much of it is in our hands: let’s use it to listen to our brothers and sisters in the east and global south.
Image: Greenpeace via southafricatoday