Over the past few days, 47 people have died, 4 are missing and 18,000 people have been forced to flee from their homes because of severe weather. In the state of Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil, landslides and floods have caused environmental and humanitarian damages. The power of the water in some areas has been so damaging that it caused pavement to explode, creating geysers.
These rains have been damaging particularly to the mining industry as it has caused flooding and threatened collapses. It has also been especially damaging to those living in poverty. There has been a housing deficit in the area which cause many to build homes on dangerous slopes which were wiped out by landslides. The Governor of Minas Gerais states that in the future they hope to prevent this from happening by enacting housing policy that will build homes in safe neighborhoods.
The deaths from the rain, floods and landslides is tragic and the reasoning for them is scary. José Carlos Carvalho, a former environment minister said that these severe rains are a clear sign of climate change stating “The first signs of climate change are extreme events,” he said. “There is a transformation of our climate pattern.” This is some of the first evidence of a change in climate patterns which means that these rains and their effects such as flooding and landslides could get worse over time putting more people and places in danger.
I was not aware of the powerful storms and their effects until I started doing research for this project and I think that is very telling of the media attention that this issue and many other issues in Latin America. A former environmental minister said that these rains and the deaths that have occurred because of them are direct consequences of climate change. The fact that this story has been under reported is scary for those reasons. People should be aware of the changes in weather due to climate change and the disasters it can cause.
At first, I wasn’t quite sure how to connect this event to class but the article stated that mines and miners are especially at risk because the landslides could collapse the mines putting people’s lives and livelihoods in danger. Mining began in Brazil in the colonial era, in fact the state Minas Gerais where this tragedy is happening literally means “General mines”. The Portuguese began mining in Brazil in the 1700s, collecting almost 180 tons of gold during that century alone. There are still a lot of mines in the region which shows a colonial legacy through industry.
The introduction of mining by the Portuguese did not just create an economic legacy in Brazil but also an environmental impact. Mines create many environmental issues but the ones that relate to this issue are landscape degradation and erosion. These make the landscape less secure which makes landslides and flooding even more severe because the land is not as stable as it should be.
Andereoni, Manuela and Letíca Casado. “Powerful Storm Kills 47 in Brazil.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 Jan. 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/27/world/americas/brazil-flood.html.
A video by a Brazilian News Source that shows examples of the flooding and geysers:
A history of the Brazil mining industry