Things That Matter

Leonardo DiCaprio Stands Up To Fight Amazon Fires, Pledges $5M To Support Indigenous Groups

Leonardo DiCaprio is well known for his environmental activism. He’s spoken at numerous conferences, co-produced a documentary, and promoted a plant-based diet, all to help our global environment and our battle against climate change. 

So when news broke that the Amazon rainforest is experiencing unprecedented forest fires, of course Leo was one of the first major public figures to step forward and actually try and do something to help. 

The Titanic actor pledged $5 million to help fight the growing environmental crisis happening in Brazil and Bolivia right now.

Earth Alliance will give the money to local groups and indigenous communities as they work to protect the Amazon.

The National Institute for Space Research in Brazil says there have been more than 72,000 fires in the Amazon rainforest this year. That’s up from 40,000 at the same point last year.

A statement on the Earth Alliance website says: “The destruction of the Amazon rainforest is rapidly releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, destroying an ecosystem that absorbs millions of tonnes of carbon emissions every year and is one of the planet’s best defences against the climate crisis.”

“The lungs of the Earth are in flames. The Brazilian Amazon — home to 1 million Indigenous people and 3 million species — has been burning for more than two weeks straight,” DiCaprio wrote in an Instagram post announcing the donation

Several on-the-ground organizations will benefit from the infusion of cash. 

The organizations receiving the cash are Instituto Associacao Floresta Protegida (Kayapo), Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), Instituto Kabu (Kayapo), Instituto Raoni (Kayapo) and Instituto Socioambiental (ISA).

Earth Alliance was founded by Leo and two other philanthropists in July – aiming to protect wildlife, push for climate justice and secure indigenous rights.

The Amazon Forest Fund is the group’s initiative to raise money for the protection of this specific area.

In an Instagram post on Saturday, the actor said he is “deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis in the Amazon, which highlights the delicate balance of climate, biodiversity, and the wellbeing of indigenous peoples”.

He wants the public to get involved and support the crisis too, linking to ways people can make donations.

Meanwhile, international leaders at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, are reportedly reaching an agreement on international help towards the crisis.

French President Emmanuel Macron said G7 countries would release $22 million to help combat the fires.

The funding pledge was announced as the leaders of the G7 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US – continue to meet in Biarritz, France.

However, President Jair Bolsonaro said Mr Macron’s plan of an “alliance” to “save” the Amazon treated Brazil “as if we were a colony or no man’s land”.

Mr Macron said the funds would be made available “immediately” – primarily to pay for more fire-fighting planes – and that France would also “offer concrete support with military in the region within the next few hours”.

However, Mr Bolsonaro – who has been engaged in a public argument with Mr Macron in recent weeks – accused the French leader of launching “unreasonable and gratuitous attacks against the Amazon region”, and “hiding his intentions behind the idea of an ‘alliance’ of G7 countries”.

He wrote on Twitter that Brazil’s sovereignty should be respected – and said he had discussed with Colombia’s president the need for “a joint plan” from the countries that actually made up the Amazon region.

And the fires come as the Brazilian ministry for the environment has had funding severely reduced.

“The funding for Brazil’s environment agency has gone down by 95% this year, it essentially gutted a large part of the actions that have been put in by the agricultural ministry,” University of Oxford ecosystem science professor Yadvinder Malhi told the BBC’s Today program, as BBC News reported.

“So the real thing is to look at the political direction of governance in the Amazon that’s changing under the new Brazilian government.

Many on Twitter applauded the move of Leo, who was actually putting his money where his mouth is. 

Ellen, along with many others on Twitter, were happy to see the actor put up such a large sum of money to combat the crisis. 

With that much money up, it would hopefully inspire others to take action and provide much needed aid to the fight. 

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Brazil Just Passed a Bill That Will Allow Rich Corporations to ‘Skip the Line’ for COVID-19 Vaccines

Things That Matter

Brazil Just Passed a Bill That Will Allow Rich Corporations to ‘Skip the Line’ for COVID-19 Vaccines

Photo via Getty Images

Currently, Brazil is one of the world’s epicenters of the coronavirus. In March 2021, Brazil saw 66,573 COVID-19-related deaths. That means 1 in every 3 COVID-related deaths worldwide are occuring in Brazil.

And it doesn’t appear that the numbers will be slowing down anytime soon. While the United States is making strides in their COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Brazil is lagging far behind. And things are about to get a lot more complicated.

On Tuesday, Brazil passed a bill that would allow corporations to buy up as many vaccines as they can get their hands on, and privately distribute them to their employees first.

Elected officials in Brazil are arguing that the country has become so desperate to vaccinate its citizens, that it doesn’t matter who gets the vaccines first at this point.

The country, once renowned for having one of the most robust and efficient public vaccine-distribution programs in the world, has failed to make strides towards getting their citizens vaccinated.

“We are at war,” said the leader of the chamber, Arthur Lira. “And in war, anything goes to save lives.” We don’t know about you, but usually when it comes to war, we’ve heard that soldiers prioritize the health and safety of young, the weak, and the elderly before their own? We digress…

Brazil’s plan to privatize the vaccine rollout has brought up moral and ethical questions.

From the beginning, the World Health Organization has asked countries to first prioritize essential health workers and then high-risk populations when distributing the vaccine.

Anything other than that would promote a pay-to-play schemes in which the rich could protect their lives before poor people could. And poor people are more likely to die from COVID-19 in the first place.

As Alison Buttenheim, behavioral scientist and expert on the equitable allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine said, vaccine distribution should not “exacerbate disparities and inequities in health care,” but instead address them. Brazil’s vaccine rollout plan would fail to do any of the above.

If countries begin to allow the rich to prioritize their own interests during the vaccine rollout, the consequences could be disastrous.

In a time when the world is stoked by fear and uncertainty, the worst thing that can happen is for rich companies to exacerbate inequalities by effectively choosing who lives or dies.

As the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization said at the beginning of the global vaccine rollout: “any distribution of vaccines should advance human well-being and honor global equity, national equity, reciprocity, and legitimacy.”

Poor Brazilians should not be left to fend for themselves against COVID-19 simply because they are poor.

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Brazil is Fining Apple $2 Million For Selling the iPhone 12 Without A Charger, And We’re Not Mad About It

Things That Matter

Brazil is Fining Apple $2 Million For Selling the iPhone 12 Without A Charger, And We’re Not Mad About It

Photo via Getty Images

It seems like every new product rollout, Apple gets stingier and stingier with what they include with each purchase. And while Brazil has recently been in the headlines for controversial news, this time, they have the public opinion on their side. Standing up for consumers, Brazil is fining Apple for alleged “false advertising”.

On Friday, a consumer watchdog agency announced that Brazil is fining Apple for $2 million. The reason? Not including a charger with the iPhone 12.

According to Procon, the São Paulo-based consumer protection agency, Apple’s decision not to include a charger with the iPhone 12 amounts to “false advertising”. Procon also accused Apple of selling “defective products”, creating unfair contracts for consumers, and failing to repair products that are still under warranty.

Per Brazilian media, Procon contacted Apple last year to ask them why they were now excluding chargers and earbuds. However, the company “never offered a convincing explanation” to the Brazilian agency.

“Apple needs to understand that in Brazil there are solid laws and institutions for consumer protection,” said Procon executive Fernando Capez, explaining why Brazil is fining Apple. “It needs to respect these laws and these institutions.” 

In October of 2020, Apple announced that it would no longer include chargers or earbuds in their iPhone boxes. The company cited “environmental concerns”.

But savvy consumers couldn’t help but be skeptical of Apple’s explanation. Some people thought that Apple’s “environmental decision” was simply a pretense. In reality, they thought it might be a gimmick to take more money from customers under the pretense of environmentalism.

For one, we fail to see how including chargers and earbuds in an iPhone package would help the environment. Wouldn’t individual boxes for each product simply contribute to more waste? We digress….

In general, consumers across the globe can’t help but…agree with Procon.

Anyone who is an Apple devotee (read: prisoner) knows that you can end up feeling trapped as a customer. You become roped into an endless cycle of buying products that seem to be diminishing in quality every year. Not only that, but every year, the iPhone becomes more expensive while customers get less bang for their buck.

But at some point, you feel like you have to buy Apple products. Because of how Apple designs their products, all of the technology you own (laptops, tablets, chargers, etc.) only works with Apple products.

Starting to buy a different brand would be akin to throwing away hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars you’ve already invested in Apple tech. To be an Apple customer is to be stuck in a vicious cycle.

Hopefully, other governments will follow suit. After all, big tech has been taking advantage of consumers for too long.

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