Brazil: focus on Amigos da Terra Brasil
Protest against land occupation in BrazilFriends of the Earth Brazil was founded in 1964 as a women's association called Acción Democrática Femenina Gaucha (ADFG). The organization was dedicated to social and women's issues, but in the 1970s they embarked on ecological projects and by 1974 ADFG became an ecologist organization.
Based in Porto Alegre, most of the group's campaigns and projects take place in the city.
For several years the group has focused on resisting the construction of coal-powered and hydroelectric power projects, and against agrofuels. Nowadays the group's main focus is the historical local struggle against the Belo Monte dam and other mega-dams in the Amazon.
The group also work on energy sovereignty: the right of communities to choose their sustainable energy sources and to develop healthy consumption patterns that will lead to sustainable societies.
“For the past 10 years we have worked towards seeking energy alternatives. We want the people to decide what kind of energy they want to produce locally. We promote many energy diversification projects and projects that use local resources” says Lucia Ortiz.
Struggle against green capitalismDemonstrating against mega-infrastructure projectsBrazil will play host to a number of major global events in the coming years: the Rio+20 summit (2012), the World Cup (2014) and the Olympic Games (2016). Each event has large infrastructure projects attached to it.
Friends of the Earth Brazil is running several campaigns drawing people's attention to the damaging impact these mega-projects are having on the environment .
“We work on raising awareness with the people affected by these projects” says Fernando Costa.
“In this campaign we are working with the Rural Landless Workers Movement (MST), young people and residents of the affected communities. We try to create a space for dialogue for the people from the outskirts of the city who are the worst affected”.
Protests against the projects are also taking place in 12 other Brazilian cities in addition to Porto Alegre.
“We are part of a national network together with Jubilee South, Rede Brasil and the Brazilian Network of Social and Environmental Justice. We make up a network against these big events and protest against green capitalism and misleading advertising” says Lucia. “We will continue fighting until 2014, but the repression may also continue”.
In order to carry out these campaigns, Friends of the Earth Brazil is working on a number of initiatives including the political training of new activists, organising public events to raise awareness about lobbying and taking action to amend laws on land occupation and transparency.
“The actions depend on the need and the kind of violation to peoples' rights, as well as on the political time and capacity for mobilization,” says Lucia.
Their actions have been achieving their objectives too. The group's latest victory has been to prevent the selling of an area of great ecological value in Porto Alegre which would have seen the communities living there displaced.
“There was a strong mobilization of local people. This is how they managed to resist. We call this the peoples' goal. Now there is a project to see how to strengthen this community and invest locally in new necessary infrastructure” says Fernando.
A member of Friends of the Earth International
“It is important to take into account the federation's strategy, which strengthens our own struggles. At the same time the federation benefits from knowing about the local struggles of building alliances and it can better understand the consequences of international environmental policies at a local level. Thanks to this information we can show what is happening on a global scale.”
Lucia thinks that it means “to have an opportunity for joint political reflection and to move forward, thanks to what the groups have previously done.”
An example of this is the collaboration in southern Brazil in the fight against tree monocultures as part of FoEI's Biodiversity and Food Sovereignty Program.
About Fernando and Lucia
Lucia and Fernando at the office in Porto Alegre
Fernando Costa joined Amigos da Terra in 2006.
“Through my work I look for revolution. The federation is a critical space that nurtures our work, it gives us strength and it has a clear position against capitalism. Above knowledge and technology the most important things are awareness and social commitment with the communities and those who are deprived” he says.
Lucia Ortiz has been working in the federation since 1999. Her motivation is clear:
“We are going through a time of commodification of life and a trivialization of values. We need to keep up the fight. This is an important time for resistance to preserve the seeds for the future. It's more than a task. It's the only way.”
Bruna Engel and Andre Guerra, both new to the group, are equally passionate.
“Friends of the Earth is a very special movement” says Bruna.
“I am here because I believe in justice uniting social with environmental issues and Friends of the Earth shares this view”.
Andre concurs and makes the point that: “in order to actually live we need to look at things from an alternative perspective. We need to come up with a horizon of hope. To fight is to live and that is what I'm doing here.”