Before I joined Greenpeace, I lived in the Amazon rainforest for several months. I still remember waking up every morning and listening to the amazing sound of birds and insects. It felt as if the trees were singing along in a chorus of nature. And every morning the chorus sang a new song.
It was in moments like these that I began to understand that it is not nature that needs people, but people who need nature to survive. It is only when people harm nature that our ecosystems needs a voice to speak and humans to fight for them.
That is why I stood today in a little town in Austria called Graz with about 50 other Greenpeace activists and two representatives of the Munduruku Indigenous Peoples.
You might ask what the Austrian city of Graz has to do with the Amazon. Austrian company Andritz, whose annual general meeting is taking place right now, is headquartered in Graz. Andritz is a global supplier of plants, equipment and services for – among other things – hydropower stations. It is one of the few companies in the world that can supply mega-dams with turbines and generators.
But there is a big problem with mega-dams in sensitive ecosystems like the Amazon: they threaten humans and the natural environment. The Brazilian government is planning to build around 40 hydropower stations in the Tapajós basin in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon. The first and biggest one is called São Luiz do Tapajós. If built, it would destroy the homes of many diverse species and threaten the livelihoods of the Munduruku Indigenous Peoples. Andritz has already indicated an interest in this project.
This doesn’t come as a surprise. In the past Andritz has been part of projects like Belo Monte in the Amazon and Ilisu in Turkey. Both mega-dams have had far-reaching consequences for these regions – destroying biodiversity and the homes of thousands of people. And these are only two horrifying examples Andritz has been part of. If Andritz decides to join this new planned mega-dam, then the Austrian company will be partly responsible for a project that is a threat to this unique and crucial part of our planet.
Andritz has been acting irresponsibly, disregarding people and planet, for far too long. This is why we stood up in Graz today – to tell Andritz to step away from the São Luiz do Tapajós project. Enough is enough.
Right now, the Amazon rainforest needs voices to speak up for it and keep companies like Andritz away. We are strongest when we come together. This is why Greenpeace has joined forces with the Munduruku Indigenous Peoples and why two Munduruku are here today in Graz as well.
Together, we can remind companies that it is us that need nature and not the other way around. So when I return to the Amazon rainforest, I hope I’ll be able to wake up in the morning and hear the chorus of nature instead of the sounds of destruction.
Lukas Meus is the Amazon spokesperson for Greenpeace Austria and Central and Eastern Europe.
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