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The Brazilian people have been taking their demands to the streets since 2013, but those who should represent them have been pretending not to hear. And this dialogue is becoming even more difficult, since the government wants to end important channels of communication with society. This month alone, the president has issued decrees that extinguish between 700 and one thousand collegiates, councils, commissions and committees connected to the federal administration. These entities, linked to ministries and departments, are plural in essence, since they bring together ordinary citizens and representatives of the Executive itself.
Among the casualties are the national commissions for Indigenous Policy, Eradication of Slave Labor, Combat of Human Trafficking and Eradication of Child Labor. When they cannot be legally extinguished, these organs are being weakened, especially those subordinated to the Ministry of Environment – such as the National Environment Council and the National Commission for the Sustainable Development of Traditional Peoples and Communities.
Sometimes politics are driven by hidden forces – or maybe not so much, as it is known that large corporations are the ones that are financing the Agricultural Parliamentary Front, guarantor of this government and the previous ones. That is why we cannot falter: isn’t defending the rights of the most vulnerable one of the main functions of democracy?
It is true that this has not happened only in Brazil: just worried about boosting the American economy at all costs, President Trump continues to mock international research – and even scientific agencies of the US government itself – like the ones indicating that climatic chaos can erase a million species of plants and animals from the map and even make the planet uninhabitable. The same reason has moved the Brazilian government. But the reasons that led to the extinction of these councils do not hold: Bolsonaro said, for example, that the cuts will generate “gigantic savings,” without presenting any concrete figures. However, the representatives of the civil entities that participate do not even receive salary: their work is voluntary.
Really gigantic is the social and environmental importance of these commissions, as evidenced by a study by the Forest and Agricultural Management and Certification Institute (Imaflora) and the Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning (Cebrap). And even economically speaking, the research of Imaflora and Cebrap shows that their role is not negligible. A concrete example: the opening for public access of Ibama’s database of the DOF (Forest Origin Document) system in 2018 stimulated society, through these colleges, to combat illegal deforestation. This was extremely positive for the manufacturing sector, as its image before international buyers of native wood, such as the United States and the European Union, has improved significantly – and it has reflected on its sales.
Another exemplary case is that of the Energy Efficiency Indicators Management Committee (CGIEE). It was up to the entity to carry out studies and suggest the minimum energy efficiency indexes that should be adopted by the Brazilian industry and the domestic appliances market. Experts and logic say that there is no better way to save energy than using appliances that consume less. In the residential sector only – that is, directly in your pocket – the economy generated by CGIEE’s work reaches R$34 billion. The environmental gain is also eye-catching: with only a ban on the sale of incandescent bulbs, suggested by the committee, the country spent 22.4TWh less on electricity. To generate this amount of energy, it would be necessary to build two nuclear power plants the size of Angra III.
It is still possible to reverse this situation: ministries and departments have until the 28th to convince the government that these councils should not be extinguished. And that’s where we come in. The chorus of discontents continues in the streets: scientists from around the world reaffirm the importance of the wisdom of traditional peoples in coping with the environmental crisis; Chief Raoni went to Europe to seek help for the peoples of the Xingu, receiving honors of head of State; the young Swedish Greta Thunberg has dragged students from all over the world to the streets with the #FridaysForFuture movement, demanding more commitment from the rulers in combating climate change; and here in Brazil, last week, millions of citizens took part in demonstrations against cuts in education and scientific research. Let’s seize the moment and get on this train, it’s already moving!
More words in the wind? We bet they are not: common sense will prevail and they will listen.