GretaThunberg: Interview to Abel Rodrigues

Abel Rodrigues was born in Brazil, in the Amazon. Lives in Portugal, in the city of Lisbon. He was one of the privileged to be able to get in touch with Greta Thunberg during his trip to Portugal last December 3rd.

Abel Rodrigues and Greta Thunberg. Images from Abel Rodrigues.

Check out his story and the interview by Francisco Lacerda:

“Specifically, what caught my attention early on was the preservation of the Amazon rainforest. I grew up in the second largest city in the Amazon, but had very direct contact with the regions furthest from the urban center. The riverside population of the Amazon has a very different lifestyle than the inhabitants of the capital, the rivers are like streets, and the forest like a big house. From an early age I was taken by my mother to know the countryside, where I learned a little about what it is like to live so close to nature. I understood that the Amazon needed to be protected when I saw the destruction of a place it frequented since childhood. In northeastern Pará, in Barcarena, I used to bathe at Caripi beach, and that was my favorite beach. The Norwegian Hydro Company has destroyed not only the entire beach, but also surrounding areas leaking acid-like waste throughout the region. I used to play in a setting that looked like it came out of a travel agency promotional poster, and all of a sudden it just felt like an apocalyptic movie set.

After finishing high school in Brazil, I started the Computer Science course at the Federal University of Pará. After a year and a half, I moved to the city of Aveiro to study Computer Engineering, continuing the area of ​​computing. After much reflection, I conclude that Law is my favorite thing, because I want to fight the injustices that exist in the world. I applied for a vacancy in the law course at the University of Lisbon, where I have been approved and study since September this year. My participation in climate change activism began in March of this year, when I met the Fridays For Future movement and SchoolStrike4Climate, which brought me to the Climate Strikes happening across North America and Europe. Participating in the Student Climate Strike (@greveclimaticaestudantil) in Portugal was my first “active” participation in the Collective Climate Emergency. I began this approach after realizing that world leaders do little or nothing to contain this emergency. Protests are important to pressure politicians to understand the seriousness of the planet’s situation. There is no Planet B. The fight against the destruction of the Amazon goes directly through the fight against the Climate Emergency.

If the rulers do not understand the gravity of the situation, we need to replace them. ”

How was it to receive Greta Thunberg in Lisbon?

It was amazing to know that an activist, whose voice some politicians are trying to silence, was so well received in Lisbon. There were hundreds of activists waiting for Greta! I had never seen or even spoken to her before. Before the speech we had just an exchange of greetings, but after the press conference ended, we had a brief conversation about the Amazon. One of the most remarkable things I heard from her was that we are not alone, and that we will continue to fight.

How did it all happen?

With the move from COP25 from Chile to Madrid, Greta announced on her social networks that she would arrive in Lisbon, where she would take a train to the Spanish capital. Until that moment the Amazon had not yet become one of the focal points of his speeches, so I wrote him a letter talking about the Amazon, denouncing the existence of ecocide and genocide. When I arrived at Santo Amaro Dock, I sought someone from the movement’s organizing team to deliver my letter, hoping they would deliver it to Greta. Some time later, one of the leaders of the movement – Matilde Alvim – invited me to enter the restricted part and personally deliver the letter. Some time later, Matilde invited me to give a brief speech about the contents of my letter. Immediately after Fernando Medina and Matilde’s speech, I was able to address what I had written for Greta.

What is happening in the Amazon? Is Ecocide still ongoing?

Ecocide continues and there seems to be no deadline to end. Data are increasingly worrying, according to the National Institute for Space Research of Brazil (Inpe), in November this year, Amazon deforestation grew 104%, compared with the same period last year. This is a clear reflection of the Brazilian Government’s unwillingness to combat the destruction of the Amazon. In addition to Ecocide, there is also Genocide going on: Indigenous leaders are being murdered by groups linked to illegal extractivism. It is not acceptable that the native population of the Amazon is dying for defending their home!

Brazil has a government that does not play fair, that gets in the way of statements, articulates lies and frames. Brazil has a head of state that fights young people over Twitter, while the world’s largest rainforest is being destroyed. Brazil has an Environment Minister who committed environmental crimes. “President” Bolsonaro accused a Hollywood actor of burning the Amazon. This is not normal. It’s not conceivable for a head of state to behave this way while people are dying! It is not acceptable for a head of state to play on unfounded accusations that delegate his own fault to others.

Can you find out more about your project with the United Nations?

The Alliance for the Amazon project is a project I am involved with, along with other pro-Amazon activists. The project involves the development of a letter to the UN Secretary-General containing a distress call, along with allegations of inaction from the local governments that make up the Amazon and a request for sustainable measures to protect local peoples. This project is being developed with Amazonian specialists (from historians to biologists) and is seeking to collect from two hundred to four hundred thousand signatures. The goal is to be able to deliver this letter in person at UN headquarters as a way of drawing attention to what is happening in the Amazon. The voices of the Amazon must be heard!

How are gay men being treated in Brazil?

Brazil is the country that kills most LGBTs in the world. However, the current government insistently takes a stance of rejecting reality, disrespecting differences, and imposing false and hypocritical morals. Brazil has made great strides in gaining LGBT rights and visibility over the past decade, but has faced a rising tide of conservatism that is trying to limit already-acquired rights and stifle their voices.

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Francisco Lacerda

Francisco Lacerda

Francisco Lacerda is a Queer culture critic and creative director of Pois. He writes for Pois since 2018.

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