January 28, 2021

SMH

Santa Maria History

Q&A with writer Torkjell Leira

  • In his new e book, A Luta pela Floresta (The Battle for the Forest), social geographer Torkjell Leira takes stock of Norway’s 40 years of partnership with the Brazilian Amazon.
  • It is a paradoxical romance, he says, a single that has found the Nordic place devote just about a billion bucks in environmental conservation in the South American place — and about five periods that significantly in environmentally damaging enterprises.
  • Leira also rebuffs the accusation that criticism of the Bolsonaro government’s environmental policies is driven by neocolonialism, indicating this accusation only would seem to be leveled at international environmental teams and not international buyers in harmful industries.

In his homeland, Norwegian social geographer Torkjell Leira is known as a top specialist on Brazil. Immediately after coming to the place as an trade scholar some 30 several years ago, he also started directing his scientific studies and get the job done at Brazilian lands and peoples. His emphasis on the Amazon led him to perform with the Rainforest Basis for 6 years, in addition to coordinating jobs with communities for corporations and firms in the region. For decades, Leira has been carefully checking the relations between Brazil and Norway with regard to environmental and climate concerns, and has been an important forest advocate, even when he is in his hometown of Oslo.

It is from this point of view that his ebook, A Luta pela Floresta: Como a Noruega Ajuda a Proteger — e a Destruir — o Meio Ambiente no Brasil (The Struggle for the Forest: How Norway Aids to Defend — and Demolish — the Environment in Brazil) is getting introduced in Brazil by publisher Rua do Sabão’s Hiperbórea imprint. Almost like a thriller, the narrative commences from the pipelines of Norwegian semi-condition mining company Hydro, to which Leira experienced access following an environmental scandal connected to a toxic spill took on intercontinental proportions.

As it unfolds, the numerous connections concerning the two countries are described: from the times of Brazil’s so-identified as rubber cycles, when Norwegian shippers nearly monopolized the transportation of the commodity — and men and women — in the location, to today’s most personal relations involving agents of political and economic electrical power that make Brazil, and additional precisely the Amazonian lands, a territory of plentiful investment, not usually in sync with forest safety.

With the very same depth, Leira addresses the way rainforest preservation has been set up more than the a long time as a priority in Norwegians’ lifestyle and highlights the method that led to the generation, in 2008, of the Amazon Fund — the biggest collaboration amongst Brazil and Norway in the area of conservation, finished by the federal government of President Jair Bolsonaro in 2019.

In this unique job interview with Mongabay, Torkjell Leira displays on the insights he delivers in his book, appears into delicate aspects of today’s relations among the two nations around the world, and refutes the narrative that sees regulation of intercontinental initiatives to defend the forest as neocolonial steps.

Norwegian writer Torkjell Leira. Graphic courtesy of Siw Pessar.

Mongabay: In your ebook, you element Norway’s leading purpose and ambiguities in the Amazon. How does it feel to launch this do the job in Brazil when the current government’s discourse demonizes foreign initiatives in Amazon territory?

Torkjell Leira: I’m extremely anxious about that. Talking about today’s connection concerning Brazil and Norway with regard to the surroundings, I imagine it can not get worse. But, even as I realize how delicate the second is, which still consists of what is in all probability the worst assault on Indigenous peoples because the armed service dictatorship — in addition to all the drastic deterioration of environmental insurance policies below Bolsonaro — I simply cannot assistance pointing out the steps taken by Norway’s authorities and business that are destructive to the forest. However, I also describe Norwegians’ near romantic relationship with the induce of Amazonian conservation and the quite a few optimistic actions resulting from at the very least 40 a long time of collaboration in between the two nations in the area. I actually hope that the reserve is not applied to support unilateral criticism of Norway.

The 2018 environmental scandal involving huge Norwegian semi-state mining company Hydro in the community of Barcarena, in Pará state, is the guiding thread of your narrative, which is based mostly on powerful proof to protect other questionable facets of Norway’s investment in the forest. How did Norwegians obtain that data?

Folks were shocked. I myself was rather amazed when I understood, right after rigorous investigation, the magnitude of the resources allocated to the forces and actors that enable damage the forest and how disproportionate they had been if compared to what is given to conservation. Norway has invested some 8 billion kroner [$900 million at current exchange rates] in conservation around the past ten years by means of the Amazon Fund and other initiatives. But if we take the investments manufactured by our sovereign oil fund in Brazilian providers that degrade nature plus Norwegian companies’ direct investments and imports of Brazilian soybeans that feed our salmon, it is at least five situations higher. We are aspect of the alternative, but we are also component of the issue. I hope the information and facts in the e book can enable lower the trouble and enhance the alternative someway.

In 2019, Norwegian funds transfers to the Amazon Fund were frozen following disagreements with the Brazilian government. In May well 2020, it was the Norwegian sovereign fund’s transform to drop Brazilian providers Vale and Eletrobrás from its list of investments owing to adverse impacts on the setting and human rights. How do you see this key withdrawal of methods, and the narrative implying that it is a neocolonial method, an inappropriate exterior intervention in Brazil’s environmental policies?

About the resources withdrawn by the sovereign wealth fund, the issue is: how is it that businesses regarded to degrade the surroundings and damage neighborhood populations have been however obtaining that expense in the to start with position? These conditions have to clearer. It is no use just enjoying the good man in the tale. The Bolsonaro governing administration shut down the committees that managed the Amazon Fund, prompting the Norwegian authorities to terminate its aid and putting an close to a ten years of collaboration. No person thinks it’s good to acquire dollars away from Brazil. The only detail that is remaining requested is that they comply with the country’s environmental laws. It’s critical to realize that the discourse on neocolonialism focuses on overseas organizations doing work to protect the forest whilst providers with international money are however welcome to exploit it in a predatory way.

Offered this terrifying state of affairs, do you see any way to prevent the destruction of the Amazon from escalating?

Sure, guaranteed. Ten several years in the past, Brazil used to be a globe reference in the fight towards deforestation even though experiencing economic development — and the wild capitalist program was the same. Of training course, right now we have a various world-wide state of affairs, but the region is aware of accurately which techniques operate for the reason that it has now executed them, with excellent final results. Other favorable things are the more powerful global tension and — one thing new — the relevance now given to environmental concerns by overseas investors, including several Norwegian types. Actuality can be altered as prolonged as there is a govt that destinations conservation at the heart of its agenda and really functions to maintain the forest standing. I actually imagine it’s crucial that we know how to appreciate what has been carried out and acquired — rather than just regretting what is lacking, even nevertheless so a lot of initiatives are getting compromised. To conclusion with an expression in Portuguese, I would say: “Muita calma nessa hora” (choose it straightforward, now).

 
Banner image of the Alunorte drinking water treatment plant, element of the refinery intricate belonging to a subsidiary of Norwegian mining corporation Hydro in Barcarena, Pará condition, Brazil. Picture courtesy of Anders Vindegg/Hydro.

This interview was 1st done by Mongabay’s Brazil group and posted right here on our Brazil web-site on Nov. 30, 2020.