The Amazon and the 2022 Election: Connectivity

The 4th meeting of the Concertation this year took place on July 6th, and happened in a hybrid fashion, transmitted directly from Alter do Chão (Pará). It was also fully integrated into the schedule of the Fórum Amazônia Sustentável (Sustainable Amazon Forum) event. With "Connectivity" as its theme, the meeting put forward a call to action focused on all connectivity-based endeavours.
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Bringing their own contributions to the theme during the meeting were the general coordinator of the MapBiomas initiative and the founder of the project that hopes to bring internet access to indigenous people of the forest, Tasso Azevedo; José Carlos Galiza, executive coordinator of the Brazilian National Coordination of Articulation of Rural Black Quilombola Communities (Conaq); Luiz Penha, technical advisor for the Coordenação das Organizações Indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab); Dione Torquato, general secretary of the Brazilian National Council of Extractivist Populations (CNS); Carla Ruaro, pianist, researcher and producer, founder of musical and audiovisual performance “Raízes, um piano na Amazônia“ (Roots, a piano in the Amazon); and Luiz Pardal, multi-instrumentalist musician, musical director, composer and teacher at the Escola de Música da Universidade Federal do Pará (UFPA).

Lívia Pagotto, knowledge manager of Instituto Arapyaú, kicked off the event, reminding all of the main pillars of network’s action, which today gathers over 500 leaders from a wide range of areas.

Coming in right after her, Renata Piazzon, head of the Climate Change Programme of Instituto Arapyaú and executive secretary of the Concertation, seized the opportunity and the space to announce some news pertaining to the initiative. Among them, she highlighted the launch of the website’s new section, entitled “Map of Platforms”, available through search and selection tools in the “Knowledge” page. This mapping brings together 14 different platforms, hosting data on 12 different themes on the legal Amazon, effectively functioning as a subsidy for the elaboration and implementation of projects and public policies. The idea is that the large network of players acting within the region (government, academia, third sector, private sector) makes use of these tools, boosting their ability to plan and answer to current challenges presented by the area, as well as future ones that might emerge.

Renata also highlighted the latest projects delivered by the Concertation’s Work Groups. Among them were the development of a facility to speed up the process of land property regularisation in the area; the partnership with the Brazilian embassy in Berlin (Germany) in order to facilitate fundraising and highlight businesses within the bio-economic field; the approval of the “Itinerários Amazônicos” (Amazonian Itineraries) project to be executed alongside the Social and Environmental Fund of BNDES; the launch of the Art Gallery and the Map of Arts and Artists of the Amazons, and the development of the Draft Bill (PL) and Proposed Constitutional Amendment (PEC) focused on terminating registrations made in the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR) for those in public forest areas not intended for use.

Project for Connectivity within the Amazon

“We want to implement fast internet, and more than that, we want it to reach all communities quickly".

Tasso Azevedo

In order to kickstart the debate and start hearing from the participants, the numbers supplied by the Legal Amazon in Data platform were presented, all of them indicating a large gap in terms of internet access within the region in relation to the rest of the country. The first person to offer their contribution was Tasso Azevedo, presenting the initiative that intends to bring internet access to traditional communities. 

The forest engineer presented more details of the participative process of formulating the project, which relied greatly on the presence, contributions and guidance of the forest communities (indigenous villages, quilombola and extractive communities).

With the purpose of reaching the totality of these communities within a three-year deadline, the project envisions implementing at least one connectivity point in each one of these sites.

“At the quilombo, we have to climb all the way to the top of the açaí trees, just in order to access the internet".

José Carlos Galiza

Following Tasso Azevedo’s presentation, the coordinator of Conaq, José Carlos Galiza, drew attention to the reality of the quilombola communities. According to him, the project has brought a lot of hope, considering that these communities are living through the “apex of environmental racism”, facing land disputes related to the expansion of agribusiness, and difficulties when attempting to access resources and public services, as well as difficulties enabling the permanence of young members of these communities in universities and technical colleges. “Without the internet”, says Galiza, “we struggle to ask for assistance, to look for help”. “This project is of vital importance for our survival”.

“The most important part is that we are building this together. This is a project started and led by a group of people - it doesn't belong to one individual or another".

Luiz Penha

Representing Coiab, Luiz Penha highlighted that the goal of indigenous communities in this project is to guarantee the right to accessibility. With technology, the monitoring and surveillance of territories becomes possible, as well as establishing connections between villages, accessing quality information, telemedicine and education services. “For us, it will mean great progress”, he said.

"Socio-environmental activism, that which is not an adventure, is a tireless battle, and it is within every one of us".

Dione Torquato

For Dione Torquato (CNS), one needs to consider “The Amazon we want, and the challenges we face”. Among these challenges, he highlighted the protection and maintenance of the forest area currently standing, ensuring the way of life of traditional populations, the promotion of the sustainable ways of utilising natural resources, as well as guaranteeing access and digital inclusion.

Dione reminded all that connectivity can be useful in assisting the monitoring of deforestation and wildfires, as well as enabling the collaborative monitoring of socio-biodiversity and helping in gathering information regarding the effects of climate change. In addition, connectivity will facilitate socio-productive organization, management and territorial governance.

According to him, connectivity must be seen, first and foremost, as a right of indigenous and traditional peoples, as well as being considered a key tool for political activism and struggle.

Following his statements, were pianist Carla Ruaro and composer and music professor Luiz Pardal, who took part in the event virtually.

“I bring the piano to the forest, and then I bring the forest to the piano".

Carla Ruaro
Carla played two beautiful piano pieces and told the participants about the “Raízes: Um piano na Amazônia” (Roots: A Piano in the Amazon) project, which consists of a boat expedition taking the piano to riverside communities in the Amazon, introducing them to an instrument they might have never seen before, as well as to the music of composers hailing from the region. In her eyes, the project allows for the piano to be taken to the forest, and after that, for the forest to be “taken” to the piano’s familiar environments – to performance halls and international audiences, whose idea of the Amazon might often be limited, perceiving it as a giant expanse of green, and not as somewhere people live in.

“The north is still very much a mystery to the rest of Brazil in terms of music, arts, nature and much more".

Luiz Pardal

During his turn, Luiz Pardal spoke of the impact art has had in his own life, as well as in the lives of the Amazon people, especially children, due to its significant transformative power. He highlighted the cultural diversity that exists within the Amazon, as “there is no way to separate our art from our ‘amazonian’ way of living”. The amazonian collective imagination is very connected to the art and particularities of the region. “The Amazon is a country, Pará is a country, Ilha de Marajó is a country, each piece of the Amazon is diverse and unknown to the rest of Brazil”, he finished.

Luiz highlighted the importance of the connectivity project for the Amazon, not just as a way of making people’s lives’ easier, but also as a way of showcasing the vast amount of culture present within the region to the world.

“When a community is deprived from using the internet, they are deprived of their right to citizenship".

Bruna Lima
Lastly, Bruna Lima, from the Chico Mendes Committee and Amazonian Studies Institute added her contribution to the debate, highlighting the importance of connectivity for the preservation of a democratic society. For Bruna, “the forests that are standing are the inhabited forests” and “the internet is a key tool to exercise democracy”.
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