By Vinicius Sobreira / Brasil de Fato
Yesterday morning, on November 7, environmental activists participated in the Sinspire space in the Praça do Arsenal, a neighborhood of Recife, at the International Meeting about Climate and Youth, with the challenge of thinking about how to more involve young people in the discussion of the climate change debate in the planet. The organizers believe that the involvement of young Brazilians in the subject is timid, whereas worldwide the agenda is considered as “the most important global issue” for 48% of the young research participants from the World Economic Forum.
The meeting in Recife involved young Brazilian, Chilean, German, and English leaders. Participants included the German Rebecca Freitag, the young-delegate of the UN regarding sustainability; the Consul General of Germany in Recife; the Paraguayan Joyce Mendez; and Alice Amorim from Brazil. One of the participants was Nayara Almeida, a Brazilian activist of “Fridays for Future,” which is an international campaign led by the Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, to draw attention to climate change.
On the table that brought together three national leaders about the “Brazilian Perspectives on Youth and Climate Activism,” Igor Vieira, a native of Pernambuco, from the non-governmental organization Engajamundo, highlighted the possibilities of a stronger role for young Brazilians in the environmental agenda. “Today, young people are students and professionals from different areas, with a significant plurality of knowledge. And we are organized within society in several locations and groups with agendas for social development. But we need to grasp this climate agenda as our own responsibility, because young people have the daring to change things,” he said.
Igor Vieira considers that young people are aware of the impacts of development that does not take into account the population and nature. “Looking at Recife is easy to see. The development of the city has always been to facilitate the life of richer people. This form of development leaves many people without access to appropriate housing and turns its back on our rivers,” he complains. For him, despite the agenda being global, the role of these young people should be to have an effect on local, municipal, and state governments, where there are significant numbers of young people and the agendas are much easier to visualize specifically.
The internationalist, Cassia Oliveira Moraes, from the organization Youth Climate Leaders, reflected that part of the population does not consider itself part of the environmental problems. “It is strange how for this format of society, what is essential is not a priority. It is as if we have a house and we buy a TV before buying food,” she said. “We need to look back, to understand our essence, evaluate what is most important and change something in our lives, and in our choices,” she suggested.
The student Suzana Santos, an activist from the CaraPreta collective, provoked those present about Brazilian youth, who are mainly black and live on the outskirts. How can you prioritize medium and long term agendas about the climate, when there are no basic and immediate issues that are guaranteed and related to our own survival? The assessment was agreed by the table, with the endorsement of the mediator, Karina Peña, who confirmed it was common for her to be the only black person present when there were debates about the climate.
The indigenous geographer, Mirin Ju Yan Guarani, emphasized that the climate issue is not the center of the debate, “but a phenomenon that covers all the debates.” For him, the problem is an economic and socio-cultural model and these are also the factors that impede a greater involvement of the population in the mobilizations. “The difficulty of the Brazilian people to mobilize in the demonstrations and the strikes is because the people of countries that suffered colonization are hostages of the labor market. If I do not work today, I will be fired. I will not get another job and there will be no food for my family. We will not be able to pay for where we live. We are hostages,” he stressed.
Yan also defended the different organized operational models of the hegemonic sectors to provide resistance before the adverse scenario. “The formation of the State obeys a logic of domination. Our rights, which are even included in the Constitution, have been transformed into products. In order to have a house, I have to pay; to have food, I have to buy; everything is a commodity. The State is not interested in supplying our needs.”
“Therefore, we have to charge, but we need to take care of ourselves as a community, while we are the people we are,” he argues. “This government that we have, their environment policy is openly pro-agribusiness. How can we expect them to do something for us? It has to be the same people,” he added, calling on those present to provide a larger unity of actions and solidarity among themselves.
The Federal Deputy from Pernambuco, Túlio Gadêlha (PDT), was also present at the event. He classified the environmental policy of the Bolsonaro government as an “absurd setback.” He also spoke of a large forest fire that since Monday (November 4) had reached the caatinga [dry forest areas] in the backlands of Pernambuco. He also emphasized the boycott of the Federal Government in relation to the northeast of Brazil.
Túlio argued that the lack of priority of the environmental issues could produce serious economic impacts on the country. “We are an exporting country of commodities (raw materials), which fundamentally depend on nature,” he pointed out. For him, the organizations need to be more flexible in order to understand the different operational intentions. “To be silent is no longer an option. However, we need to understand how each person wants to participate There are people who want to discuss the subjects in order to understand better; there are others who do not have this patience, but want to take specific actions as soon as possible,” he said.
The deputy from the PDT also reflected on how Brazil had reached the current situation, electing Jair Bolsonaro, whom he considers “racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and misogynous.” He added, “What has happened with the Brazilian population? Do over half of our people have these same characteristics? Maybe there is something wrong in the communication, in the way of presenting our issues. The sectors that have this knowledge frequently use it arrogantly when they deal with people.”
The Sustainable Future Dialogues is a series of debates promoted by the German Embassy in Brazil and by the Institute for Climate and Society (iCS), without any support from the Federal Government. The event in Recife also received support from the Brazil-Germany Cultural Center (CBA). The meeting was part of the program of the Brazilian Climate Change Conference (CBMC), which began on Wednesday (November 6), in Recife. The opening ceremony was attended by indigenous leaders, such as Valéria Paye (Coiab) and environmental organizations.
Government officials from the northeast of Brazil also attended the opening, such as the mayor of Recife, Geraldo Julio (PSB), as well as the governors from Pernambuco, Paulo Câmara (PSB); from Paraiba, João Azevedo (PSB); from Rio Grande do Norte, Fátima Bezerra (PT); from Piaui, Wellington Dias (PT); from Ceará, Camilo Santana (PT); and from Sergipe, Belivaldo Chagas (PSD); as well as the vice-governors of Bahia, João Leão (PP); and of Maranhão, Carlos Brandão Junior (PR).
Editor: Marcos Barbosa