The Blue Macaw Syndrome

Last week we saw an official report by BirdLife International stating the extinction of the blue macaw in its original habitat. Although the bird is still alive in captivity, this was an announced tragedy.

When I was a kid in Brazil, the blue macaw was already endangered, and everyone knew about it. It was in Brazilian comic books, TV shows, news, over and over. That was 25+ years ago.

Back then the Amazon rainforest was the main worry, but overall nobody cared. Political scandals always had the upper hand when it came to the news in Brazil, and there was no shortage of those. spixsmacaw.jpg

Amidst the noise, in the shadows, corporate interest took advantage of the chaos. Anyone who worried about the environment was simply labelled “ecochato”, or “eco-lame” and put aside. More “vocal” individuals were silenced, sometimes by being publicly discredited, more often by plain and simple assassination.

Things got so out of hand that the Amazon rainforest became a global hot topic,  and international pressure demanded its protection. Outside of its territory, however, much deforestation happened since then, widespread, uncontrolled. It merely trickled down to the neighbouring Cerrado and Pantanal.

The extinction of the macaw (and three other bird species according to the report) in Brazil says a lot about the importance of the environment for Brazilian politics and the state of public misinformation there. Currently, 40% of the Brazilian Congress has ties with the agribusiness industry responsible for deforestation. Much of the Brazilian economy revolves around the agribusiness, so why would anyone lift a finger for the environment?

There are efforts on their way to re-introduce the macaw in specific spots of its original habitat. It’s a great thing on its own, but it doesn’t solve any of the habitat loss, nor does it include the other extinct species. It’s merely trying to keep a poster child for biodiversity in place, and who knows for how long considering the current state of affairs regarding climate change.

The way I see it, it’s sweeping a global problem under the rug. We have to blow the whistle on deforestation and bring attention to the macaw extinction as a symptom of a much larger disease called greed.

Shand Santos is the founder of Baru Baron