Following the Bolsonaro regime’s fascist assault on the Amazon, Macron and his loyal mimic Varadkar had to look like they were being tough on the Brazilian strongman. The mechanism they chose to use to show their new-found environmental conscience was to threaten to withhold the Mercosur trade deal unless it included provisions to safeguard what’s left of the rainforest.
This is an empty gesture, as it does nothing to strike at the root cause of the environmental malaise.
The first issue is that capitalism requires constant growth from finite resources. Capitalism is plagued by the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, requiring ever more corrosive exploitation of both natural resources and labour. As capitalism falls further into crisis, this is necessarily accompanied by a complementary intensification of environmental destruction—see America’s return to the forefront of oil extraction through fracking, Germany’s battles over coal mining, and now the Amazon’s slash-and-burn.
Imperialism is a key function in this system. The European Union exists to make trade deals: that is its explicit function. Within the common market, capital is allowed free rein, but outside, the collective might of the European developed economies are trained on the less developed, to intensify their super-exploitation and ensure that the Western holders of capital battle the relative loss of profitability in their home markets with the goldmines (sometimes literally) in the Global South.
So, then, we have a system that is intensifying its exploitation of the natural world, and one that requires this intensification to continue to function. The Brazilian farmers who are immiserated by this system, and the Brazilian right-wing goons who profit from their position as the facilitators of this pillaging, are required by circumstance to continue in ever more destructive exploitation in order to survive.
And we are to believe that a legislative or trade-based solution can be found? That the economic pot of gold that is the massive EU beef market would see farmers simply refuse to clear more virgin forest?
Such an idea is absurd, on the face of it. Adding some kind of environmental sop to the Mercosur deal will do nothing to battle the climate crisis. What is needed is an entire upturning of the global order—and an end to the EU.