The Role of Fashion Shoes and Trump's Trade War Soybean Fallout in Burning the Amazon

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One of the larges corporate responses to the fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest has come from VF Corp. whose brands include Timberland, Vans and The North Face. The company issued a statement saying that it will discontinue using Brazilian leather until it has “the confidence and assurance that the materials used in our products do not contribute to environmental harm in the country.”

The Amazon, which spans eight countries and covers 40% of South America, is often referred to as "the planet's lungs" . Estimates show that nearly 20% of oxygen produced by the Earth's land comes from the Amazon rainforest. In addition, the Amazon puts an enormous amount of water into the atmosphere, regulating global temperatures as a result.

Environmentalists blame the policies of Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro for the 77% increase in fires in 2019, compared to one year ago. Even worse, half of the fires have been detected in the last month. A highly-controversial supporter of US president Donald Trump, Bolsonaro has encouraged farmers to burn the land in order to meet the growing demand for beef worldwide.

Overall, the demand for beef is increasing as the demand for leather shoes is decreasing, according to the LA Times, June 2018. Once a status symbol, leather shoes are often a symbol of anti-environmentalism, especially to young customers. Hides and other byproducts account for about 44% of the slaughtered animal’s weight but less than 10% of its value, according to government data.

As both corporate management and humans become more committed to sustainability issues and customers take ownership of being complicit with large corporations in environmental destruction, Vogue Business asks the provocative question: Is footware funding the burning of the Amazon?

Amazon rainforest from space, with red dots representing a fire or "thermal anomaly" NASA WORLDVIEW

Amazon rainforest from space, with red dots representing a fire or "thermal anomaly" NASA WORLDVIEW

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In recent years, companies such as LVMH, Kering and Nike have committed to sourcing only deforestation-free leather. (LVMH said it would provide €10 million in aid to fight the Amazon fires.) Traceabilty is a problem, writes Vogue Business, quoting Nathalie Walker at National Wildlife Federation.

“Many still think that because they buy ‘Italian leather’, that means it is not from Brazil, but that is untrue,” says Walker, director of tropical forests and agriculture at NWF. In fact, the Italian leather industry sources heavily from Brazilian suppliers like Frigorífico Redentor, a company that Amazon Watch describes as a “notorious illegal deforester in Brazil” and pegs as partly responsible for the recent surge to clear land. Grupo Bihl, Frigorífico Redentor’s parent company, did not respond to emails requesting comment.

Gucci parent Kering says that it now traces 80 percent of its skins to the slaughterhouse, with the goal of 100 percent traceable by 2025.

Not mentioned in the Vogue Business article is an answer to the key question AOC just asked and answered? Is the Amazon burning so that Brazil can meet the demand for soybeans, now that China has stopped buying soybeans from American farmers due to the trade war between the two nations.

There’s a surprising amount of writing on this topic in the past week. They include:

Fires in Amazon rainforest are being fuelled by US-China trade war, experts say SCMP

How Trump’s trade wars are fueling Amazon fires The Guardian

Trump’s Trade War Could Be Fueling Amazon Fires Bloomberg

Brazil's Indigenous Women Defending Amazon March in Capital for 'Territory: Our Body, Our Spirit'

Apib Comunicação March – Aug 2019. Territory: Our body, Our Spirit. Apib Comunicação via Flickr

Apib Comunicação March – Aug 2019. Territory: Our body, Our Spirit. Apib Comunicação via Flickr

Rayanne Cristine Maximo Franca, 25 years old, is part of the Indigenous Youth Network from Brazil. She recently participated, as part of Brazil’s official delegation, in the 61st session of the CSW (Commission on Status of Women) that discussed “The empowerment of indigenous women” as an emerging issue. She also participated and the 16th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and talked to UN Women about the pressing issues that concern indigenous young women in Brazil.

As part of a UN Women project, Voice of Indigenous women, generously funded by the Indigenous Peoples Programme of the Embassy of Norway, Ms. Franca has organized and gathered the perspectives of young indigenous women in Brazil to be included in the first national agenda for indigenous women. Her story is related to Sustainable Development Goal 5, that aims for the empowerment of all women and girls, their equal rights, leadership and participation; as well as SDG 3, which aims to ensure health and wellbeing, including universal access to sexual and reproductive health.

AOC learned more information about this influential young Brazilian Amazon activist on Global Landscapes Forum, after reading her new interview in Dazed Digital online. Conducted as thick black clouds of toxic smoke blanketed the city of São Paulo on August 19, 2019,

Simply stated, the Amazon is on ablaze, fueled by forest fires in “Bolivia and Paraguay, reaching parts of Southern Brazil, Northern Argentina and Uruguay. It’s been proven that all outbreaks of fire in the Amazon are caused by human activity, mainly due to deforestation for the sake of corporate agriculture.”

Rayanne Cristine Maximo Franca spoke with Sarah Hurtes about the painful realities of events in the ecosystem called the “lungs” of Planet Earth.

Apib Comunicação March – Aug 2019. Territory: Our body, Our Spirit. Apib Comunicação via Flickr

Apib Comunicação March – Aug 2019. Territory: Our body, Our Spirit. Apib Comunicação via Flickr

In Trump-obsessed America, news of tens of thousands of Brazilian women protesting in Brazil’s capital Brasilia barely made news. Denouncing the Trumpian, right-wing “genocidal”policies of new president Jair Bolsonaro, the women marched under the banner of “Territory: Our Body, Our Spirit. Brazil’s indigenous women are human rights defenders and guardians the world’s land and forests. They’ve made it clear that women are the most impacted by agribusiness, climate change, sexism, and racism.

Prejudice and racism are the main problems we face, due to Brazilian society as a whole largely denying our very own existence. There is a huge struggle in recognising the existence of indigenous people in Brazil, women even more.

Despite all the colonisation processes, there are indigenous populations who fight to preserve their multifaceted identities. Over the last few years, a strengthening of those identities with the purpose of cultural rescue and validation is frowned upon by many in our country who pride themselves on disliking those different from them. Besides, for young indigenous women, access to information and participation in public policy remains a challenge. Rayanne Cristine Maximo Franca

The Dazed Digital interview is a must-read, so make time for it.  More images of the August 2019 Territory: Our body, Our Spirit. Apib Comunicação via Flickr.

Apib Comunicação March – Aug 2019. Territory: Our body, Our Spirit. Apib Comunicação via Flickr

Apib Comunicação March – Aug 2019. Territory: Our body, Our Spirit. Apib Comunicação via Flickr

'Years of Living Dangerously', Gisele's National Geographic Series On Climate Change in Amazon

GISELE IN THE AMAZON RAINFOREST, TALKING CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT ON TREES FOR NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.

GISELE IN THE AMAZON RAINFOREST, TALKING CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT ON TREES FOR NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.

'Years of Living Dangerously', Gisele's National Geographic Series On Climate Change in Amazon

Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen is among the most successful talents of all time. Gisele continues to dominate the Forbes Highest-earning Models List in 2016, with an estimated earnings of $30.5 million last year.  

Not everyone knows that Bündchen has been a dedicated environmentalist for many years. Next week the opening ceremonies star of the Rio Olympics takes cameras with her on an expedition into her home country. Starring in an episode of the award-winning National Geographic Channel series 'Years of Living Dangerously', Gisele next week directs an expedition deep into the Brazilian rain forest for a closeup view of deforestation and its effects on climate change. She explains: