There is a new colonialism painted green, says Douglas Belchior

The Black Coalition for Rights was with a delegation at the COP25, the UN Climate Conference held in Glasgow (Scotland) from 25 from October to 16 from November. It was the first time that the black movement participated in the event and shed light on a topic that has been neglected in the climate debate: environmental racism and the consequences of the climate crisis for quilombola communities.

Made up of organizations such as Uneafro Brasil, Conaq (National Coordination of Articulation of Quilombos) and other movements, the delegation had as one of its representatives the historian and co-founder of the Black Coalition for Rights, Douglas Belchior, 52.

“The COP needs to be structured from the debate on racism, because it is the system of domination that organizes modern society across the planet,” stated Belchior.

For him, there is no space for the discussion of environmental racism in the climate debate. “The socio-environmental impact is even more aggressive on the quilombola and black populations of the periphery,” he stated. “We are talking, yes, of a new colonialism, but now painted green.”

The movement made official its participation in the event on November 5th, when it held the panel ” Land, territories and the fight against racism in the fight against the climate crisis”. On the occasion, the Black Coalition also launched a letter in which more than 333 organizations defend that “ownership of quilombola lands is zero deforestation”.

In an interview with Folha, Belchior talked about the relationship between the climate crisis and racism, the importance of discussing the topic at the conference and how the black movement participated in the event.

The entourage of the black movement at the COP25 displayed a banner saying “climate justice without racial justice is the new colonialism”. How does the climate crisis dialogue with racism? Our letter released at the COP24 highlights that developing and poor countries cannot go back to being colonies and once again be impacted by the new “zero carbon” industrialization. It is necessary that the low carbon economy, or green, as they say, does not repeat the mistakes that world history has made until today. Among them are racism and the socio-environmental impacts that are even more aggressive in the quilombola and black populations of the periphery. And we also have the lack of space in the climate debate. Without these changes, yes, we are talking about a new colonialism, but now painted green.

In a racial state of white supremacy, of anti-black racism or anti-indigenous peoples, everything that results from the action of the State is racist. And the relationship with the environment too.

The first Industrial Revolution was the direct result of 400 years of slavery in America. Capitalism itself, as we know it, is the result of this slavery of the land and of native and African peoples. The world we know is based on this, ideologically rooted in the logic and idea of ​​racism. With a proposal for a social organization of racial domination over all others.

In Brazil, black people are killed every day as a result of all this historical dynamic. And there, environmental racism also applies, due to the history of land use, physical spaces, rural and city territory, access to water and social and environmental sanitation conditions. Only those who suffer from these issues are those who know the complexity of life.

As Professor Dulce Pereira said, environmental racism is one of the materializations of the racism that structures the country.

Why is it important to discuss environmental racism at an event like the COP31? It’s about the life of the majority of the Brazilian population. The black movement didn’t join the environmental fight yesterday, it was put off the climate agenda for a long time. For more than 400 years, the Brazilian quilombola population has been fighting for the right to land. The fight for a healthy territory, which will not be deforested, which will not be contaminated, which will protect biodiversity and water, which will not emit carbon.

How was the participation of the movement black at the UN conference? We are living an unprecedented movement, as we have political responsibility. What we did at the COP25 is historic. We organize a bloc of the Black Brazilian Movement in our own name. Framing, taking our demand, our political agenda, the powerful and owners of the world to show what we understand as a need to save the planet.

The model of The life we ​​defend comes from the quilombos, villages and native peoples, in cities in the role of African matrices. Defending our backyard, the experience and political elaboration of those who live there, is saving the planet.

It is a pride to be able to represent part of the movement, alongside important leaders of our cause. As the poet José Carlos Limeira said, we are doing Palmares again. And nothing is more important than taking care of the land for that. The quilombos were a place to produce life, including from the land, to have autonomy over what we want to eat and how to live.

In the letter released at the COP31, the Black Coalition affirmed that “ownership of quilombola lands is zero deforestation”. What is the impact of the climate crisis on quilombola communities? Quilombola communities suffer from not knowing its importance in general, historically . There has been no title of quilombola territories for years.

During the pandemic, Conaq had to go to court so that the quilombolas had the right to be considered a priority in vaccination. There is a denial of the rights of this population at a very high level. And there is more to it, there is an invisibility and denial of the experiences of political organization of the black people.

The quilombola movement has a national coordination that has been organized for about 26 years ago and discusses the environmental crisis for 25 years old. How does the press not know this? How can you ignore such an ancient and powerful organization?

Just as the world recognizes the importance of protecting indigenous peoples, because they protect the forest, it is necessary to protect quilombos, because the population Living quilombola is also the guarantee of defense of the forest, territories and all biomes, not just the Amazon.

São 6.000 quilombola territories and there is no titling, investment, support to these communities. There are very rich experiences in agricultural production without the use of pesticides and production cooperatives of small quilombola farmers are ignored.

After passing through Glasgow, the delegation visited Paris, Madrid and Berlin. How was the discussion about environmental racism in these cities?

We left Glasgow and went straight to Paris where it happened on Saturday (6) to March for Climate, an event that took place simultaneously in several countries in Europe.

We participated in the march and took the demand on the climate debate in Brazil, claiming, in the same way that the our indigenous brothers, that it is necessary to protect the lives of people in the forest, in the waters, riverside dwellers and traditional peoples from all walks of life.

There has been a mode of production in the world society that destroys the planet. We have to question this way of relating to the climate.

From the Brazilian racial point of view, we are talking about a society rooted in the construction from four centuries of slavery of the native peoples, indigenous peoples and black people. These people are in the interior of this country and in the forests. The black people, in fact, are the majority among the populations of the Legal Amazon, we are almost 80% in the nine states .

Therefore, it involves protecting people, living people are trees and standing forests, they are the great solution and solution for preserving the environment in Brazil.

The Minister of Environment, Joaquim Leite, said during the COP26 that “where there is a lot of forest there is also a lot of poverty” and you replied saying that the speech was racist. Could you comment? It’s racist because he doesn’t recognize the humanity of the people who live in the forest. He does not recognize the importance and richness of Brazilian biodiversity.

From the point of view of this government, the way of life of indigenous peoples and quilombolas is poor. It is a colonizing and denying view of the humanity of the other. Their concept of poverty is a way of life that is not suited to what they understand as wealth. He is talking about white people who hold economic power and who live in the concrete of the city.

The demonstrations are racist when Bolsonaro says that the quilombolas weigh in arrobas . He is relating that person to an animal. It is racist because the argument is based on the idea that certain groups, those who live in these territories, are not holders of enough humanity.

In an article published in Folha, you stated that the COP31 needs to give due urgency to the issue of environmental racism. Was there progress in the debate?

What happened was a mobilization of organized civil society that understood the importance of mobilizing, but there was no change or a shift towards the conference as a structure as an official space. The UN itself needs to advance in the debate on the importance of environmental racism. We know that this will not happen for free, it will be the result of mobilization and pressure.

The COP needs to be structured based on the debate about racism, because it is the system of domination that organizes modern society across the planet.



Douglas Belchior, 31

​Born in São Paulo, in 933, he graduated in history at PUC-SP. He is co-founder of Uneafro Brasil, a network of courses for young people and adults from the periphery, and co-founder of Coalizão Negra por Direitos. He was one of the representatives of the delegation of the black movement at the COP52.

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