Today I came across this photo essay on NPR about the deforestation of the Amazon. It’s worth clicking through if you’re able to.
We tend to think of issues like deforestation as having clear bad guys, like the logging company in Fern Gully. And yeah, some people behave much better than others. But what’s striking about this story is the way ordinary people are sucked into destructive behavior:
Maria Leonilda Mattara is a subsistence farmer in Rondonia….
She is trying to eke out a living with her daughter and two granddaughters, clearing the land with the hope of turning it into pasture and raising cattle. That’s where the money is. Unfortunately, though, she says, the soil isn’t very good here, where rain forest once stood.
That’s why Mattara burns trees. She says the ash will make the land fertile again.
“You either burn or you starve,” she says.
It’s a potent reminder that, as much as we’d love to have clear enemies that look nothing like us, destructive systems like capitalism are ingrained in all of us. It’s not even that we should feel guilty for being complicit–we just need to acknowledge the pervasiveness of the these systems before we can realistically dismantle them. Want to know what ideas like guaranteed basic income have to do with climate change? Well, just look around you.