Black Friday: A tale of two Amazons
While fires are deliberately set in the Amazon rainforest to clear the land for big business, burning nature’s raw material and releasing heat-trapping carbon into our atmosphere, Amazon.com burns the refined byproducts of nature’s buried past, pushing ever more heat-trapping carbon into the air.
Both the burning of the Amazon rainforest and Amazon.com are producing slow motion disasters that threaten the survival of life on earth.
On “Black Friday” we should reflect upon the high cost to life and the natural world because of the destruction and exploitation of the Amazon rainforest. We should also reflect on the harm Amazon.com’s carbon footprint inflicts on the world. All of this to satisfy our consumer economy run amok - an economy that places money and profits before life and the viability of the environment to sustain life at all.
Amazon.com makes it easy to buy seemingly anything anytime with one click of a button - and on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, at reduced prices that encourage people to buy more. But, we pay a high price for the convenience and lower cost of our Amazon.com shopping cart. Amazon.com did an assessment of its carbon footprint estimating it generated over 44.4 million metric tons of carbon (CO2) emissions during the 2018 fiscal year. That is more than UPS, FedEx, Apple, and Microsoft. It's more than the EPA's annual estimate for all petrochemical production in the United States combined. Throw in all U.S. glass, aluminum, phosphoric acid, and zinc production, and now we're nearing Amazon.com's total carbon footprint.[i]
And to the original Amazon in South America. Every tree felled represents more species lost and more carbon released into the atmosphere, accelerating climate breakdown. The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and is a massive carbon-sink and cloud factory which produces much of our fresh water and regulates the global climate. It is fast approaching an irreversible tipping point of transitioning to a drier savannah-like ecosystem.
In 2019 over 100,000 fires have burned across the Amazon Rainforest, many set to expand agribusiness and others natural, over “more than 80,000 square kilometers of rainforest and indigenous lands and threatening the integrity of this fragile ecosystem vital to Earth's climate.”[ii] Many indigenous leaders fighting the rainforest’s destruction have been murdered and the threat of on-going violence is real. According to scientific estimates, the rainforest now pulls one-third less carbon out of the atmosphere due to the destruction of the forest.
The burning of the Amazon rainforest and the monopoly of internet commerce by Amazon.com in the U.S. have striking similarities. In the Amazon rainforest, agribusiness, logging, mining, and oil interests are exploiting the land for consumer markets around the world, financed by international investment groups and banks, many with offices here in Boston. Local tribal communities and networks are struggling to sustain their way of life. Indigenous people are suffering, being killed and driven from their land, land where they lived their lives in harmony with the forest.
Here in the U.S., Amazon.com is overtaking smaller and independent online businesses, squelching start-ups, and threatening storefront small businesses; a digital Walmart, but even more insidious. Amazon.com’s people, the workforce that sustains it, are being ground down and injured by the pace and rigors of the warehouses. In both South America and the U.S., the ecological consequences are devastating to the climate and natural world that we all depend on.
For the people of the rainforest and the health of life of earth Amazon Watch is calling for laws and international agreements that guarantee that neither products sold from Amazonia, nor the financial markets underpinning them, lead to further destruction of the rainforest, displace indigenous communities, propel land grabs, abuses human rights and commit murder. And as a global community, we depend on the rainforest, its contribution to the diversity of all forms of life and its role in the global climate. We need to preserve and restore it not destroy it. And for the people of the Amazon rainforest at risk, the indigenous peoples and environmental defenders, we wealthy consumer nations of the world must provide direct, urgent support.[iii]
While Amazon.com has at last announced a commendable goal of reaching 80 percent renewable energy use by 2024, and 100 percent renewable energy use by 2030, and a total impact of net-zero carbon by 2040,[iv] too much damage has already been done. We need Amazon.com to accelerate its timetable to achieve net-zero emissions. Business-friendly publications point out that though Amazon has taken measures to reduce package waste and to encourage customers to bundle shipments, but Amazon.com can do more. In September, white-collar employees walked out of Amazon offices in Seattle demanding even bolder action to reduce emissions.[v]
The two Amazons tell a twisted interconnected tale of plunder and excess. We face an unprecedented emergency, a crisis imposed on the world by the coal, oil, and gas industries, amplified by a manufactured consumer economy and culture. We produce and buy so many things that we don’t really need, and in the process are destroying the very things we depend on for our health and survival: clean air, clean water, farmland, wild places, aquifers, oceans, pollinating insects, livable temperatures, and reliable weather to grow crops to name a few. This Black Friday, we stand in solidarity with the people of the Amazon Rainforest, with the people working at Amazon.com, and with the people of the world ready to confront our climate and ecological emergency. We stand ready.
[ii] [Amazon Watch, You Rushed to Defend the Amazon at a Critical Tipping Point, but the Fight Is Not Over, November 26, 2019]https://amazonwatch.org/news/2019/1126-you-rushed-to-defend-the-amazon-at-a-critical-tipping-point-but-the-fight-is-not-over)
[iv] Sustainable Brands. "Amazon Makes Surprise Climate Pledge
[v] Bloomberg. "Amazon's New Environmental Report Will Show How Bad Two-Day Shipping Is.
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