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Oil Drilling Proposal Near Brazilian Coral Reef Sparks Concern

Petrobras, a state-owned Brazilian petrochemical company, has proposed drilling exploratory oil wells near the mouth of the Amazon River and major coral reef systems. Despite their initial rejection by the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), Petrobras has appealed the decision, raising concerns that the project’s potential approval would open the floodgates for future offshore drilling, permanently damaging the surrounding environment.

Want to take action to stop this drilling? Check out our action items below!
A close-up picture of some coral and marine life within the Great Amazon Coral Reef System.
The Great Amazon Coral Reef System (above) would be at risk if Petrobras's drilling proposal is approved. (Greenpeace)

The area where Petrobras wants to drill is called the FZA-M_59 block, just miles from the Great Amazon Coral Reef System. This reef is home to diverse aquatic life, such as fish communities, corals, and sponges. An oil spill in this intricate ecosystem could have devastating consequences for the biodiversity within the reef.


The possibility of a drilling project highlights a contradiction in Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s stance on environmental conservation. Even though he has publicly pledged to fight for climate action and against deforestation, he said in an interview with TIME that he would not consider putting an end to exploring new oil deposits, showing that he is not as concerned with preserving aquatic ecosystems.

“But, in the case of Brazil, this [ending exploration for new oil sources] is not for real,” he said. “In the case of the world, it’s not for real… as long as you don’t have alternative energy, you will continue to use the energy that you have.”


If this project is approved, it would unleash yet more greenhouse gas emissions, adding to climate change even as the international community attempts to reduce carbon emissions and move toward relying on renewable energy sources. Granting permission for projects such as these is a clear step backward. But its fate has yet to be decided. In light of these ongoing issues, it is crucial to prioritize environmental protection and renewable energy alternatives. Advocating for greener policies holds companies accountable for their environmental impact and supports sustainable practices.


How can you help?

You've already started the path toward action with the most critical step: learning. Now, you can use your knowledge to affect change and save Brazil's reefs.


Advocating

When environmental organizations and individuals come together to advocate for more robust climate policies and environmental conservation legislation, they put pressure on policymakers. Setting the precedent that renewable energy initiatives and sustainable energy policies are the future of energy reduces the dependency on fossil fuels. Individuals can use their civil rights and vote for politicians supporting climate change issues. Additionally, raising awareness about the environmental impacts of offshore drilling and oil consumption can also contribute to reducing global demand for oil, including in Brazil.


Some petitions you can sign:


Some ways you can raise awareness:

  1. Writing for Kids Fight Climate Change: If you are interested in making climate change news more accessible, you should consider joining us! Check out this link: Join the Team | Kids Fight Climate Change: Youth Climate Education

  2. Volunteering at advocacy groups. VolunteerMatch is a great resource to find volunteer opportunities, virtual and in-person. Check out this link: VolunteerMatch

  3. If neither of those options applies to you, there are still ways to raise awareness! Simply by sharing articles such as this one, you are doing your part to spread important climate information. That is activism.


Donating:

  1. Coral Reef Alliance. Coral is a nonprofit environmental organization that protects and restores coral reefs worldwide.

  2. Donate | Amazon Watch. Amazonwatch is a nonprofit organization committed to advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples in the region, many of whom are the strongest advocates for their land. By supporting them, they have the power to impact government decisions on environmental issues.


Further reading

Please also feel free to read the articles listed in the citation section.



Citations

Biller, David. “Oil Project near Amazon River Mouth Blocked by Brazil’s Environment Agency.” Phys.org, May 18, 2023. https://phys.org/news/2023-05-oil-amazon-river-mouth-blocked.html. Rodrigues, Meghie. “Oil from the Amazon? Proposal to Drill at River’s Mouth Worries Researchers.” Nature 619, no. 7971 (July 27, 2023): 680–81. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-023-02187-3. Nugent, Ciara. “Lula Talks to TIME About Ukraine, Bolsonaro, and Brazil’s Fragile Democracy.” TIME Magazine, May 4, 2022. https://time.com/6173232/lula-da-silva-transcript/. Nugent, Ciara. “Lula’s Victory in the Brazil Elections Is a Win for the Planet.” TIME Magazine, October 31, 2022. https://time.com/6226932/lula-win-amazon-climate-change-brazil/.


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