When Democrats are at odds with Amazon, they usually mean the internet retailer and not the rainforest. But as massive wildfires threaten the most biodiverse wilderness in the world, Democrats have shied away from climate debate.
In this case, shying away from the debate is particularly literal — the DNC’s resolutions committee voted Thursday 17-8 against hosting one of the party’s primary debates solely discussing climate change. The issue may be brought up again on Saturday, but for the time being there is no planned debate solely addressing the most challenging issue of our time.
Biden advisor @SymoneDSanders argues strongly against #ClimateDebate, says it "would fundamentally change the game" of what the campaigns had been told and be "dangerous territory in the middle of a Democratic primary process"
— Casey Tolan (@caseytolan) August 22, 2019
Party elites fear a debate focused on climate issues will sow discord among the base and weaken the eventual nominee, according to reporting by the HuffPost. In particular, top Biden adviser Symone Sanders has pressured the DNC to not hold a debate focused on climate change as it would be “dangerous territory” that might “fundamentally change the game” in the early days of the primary process.
Meanwhile, the Amazon is on fire.
Those wildfires likely aren’t accidental. They appear to be the result of an intentional attempt to burn the rainforest to open up land for cattle ranching.
“”The unprecedented fires ravaging the Amazon are an international tragedy and a dangerous contribution to climate chaos,” reads a statement from environmental watchdog Amazon Watch. “This devastation is directly related to President Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental rhetoric, which erroneously frames forest protections and human rights as impediments to Brazil’s economic growth.”
Amazon Watch refers to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the Donald Trump of South America, has worked tirelessly to weaken laws that prevent deforestation of the Amazon to dire effect on the rainforest and has feuded with scientists attempting to defend the lungs of the Earth from his advances. In light of these likely intentional fires, Bolsonaro has not changed his tune, rather spreading conspiracy theories about the fires being set by his political adversaries.
People are deliberately starting fires in the #AmazonRainforest to illegally deforest indigenous land for cattle ranching
“These assholes came in and burned down [our reservation]… I want all of the media here to see this” pic.twitter.com/uGFp7RItHK
— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@sunrisemvmt) August 21, 2019
In particular, Bolsonaro blames nongovernmental organizations dedicated to protecting the rainforest of setting the fires themselves to politically harm him — without any supporting evidence for his claim. He’s also said that Brazil cannot fight the fires, instead leaving them to burn away.
While Bolsonaro blames his enemies a now viral video shows an indigenous Pataxó woman saying she wanted the media to see “these assholes” burning the forest.
As the fires blaze, the smoke has been seen from space and darkened the skies of Sao Paulo 1,700 miles away. This catastrophic blaze is nearing a tipping point that might damage the forest irreparably for decades or centuries to come. The damage will likely accelerate the pace of global warming given the important role the Amazon plays in the health of the world.
Despite this, and despite the energy of youth voters and young members of Congress on environmental issues, particularly within the Democratic Party, party elites have dismissed hosting a debate specifically addressing the looming end of the world.
(Featured image: VillageHero/Wikimedia Commons)
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.