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The Darker Role of Capital – An Occupying Force

Touch the Soil News #883 (Feature photo – The Brazilian Cerrado, a target of foreign investment – CCA SA 3.0 Unported)

A few months ago, we did some research on the size and scope of global capital. In this context, capital is money not needed for living, but consolidated for investment. While the numbers are not regularly tabulated (though they should be) we found that the global investment market was valued at around $330 trillion dollars. Of importance is that on the other side of any investment is a debt of some sorts. Either a loan debt, a debt employees owe to stockholders, or a debt that investors believe the natural world and indigenous people owe them.

Recently, Representatives of human rights and environmental organizations from nine countries and numerous Brazilian states, including the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, undertook a fact-finding mission from September 2 to 15, 2017, to document, verify, and guarantee the visibility of the social, economic, environmental and human rights impacts caused by the “financialization” of land in the Cerrado region in central Brazil.

Investment capital sees indigenous occupation of potential farmland as a condition of underutilization. The appropriate solution to this underutilization is to create mono-culture farms to produce commodities for export – and financial returns to investors. In the process, indigenous people are pushed off the land, marginalized and often brutalized by corporate or local police.

The human rights group finished their report called: Brazil Human and Environmental Costs of Land Investments. Essentially they discovered two main themes:


  1. The human costs of large-scale land acquisition are devastating for traditional communities.

Matopiba is inhabited by peasants, indigenous peoples, descendants of runaway slaves and other forms of traditional populations. In recent years, violent evictions have left many traditional communities without access to the natural resources needed for their survival and daily sustenance. In addition, land use practices on highland farms directly affect lowland communities’ health and wellbeing.

2. The environmental costs of large-scale land acquisition are equally devastating.

Meanwhile, deforestation and the over-exploitation of land and water are leading to the destruction of biodiversity in the region. Farmland investment models drive the transformation of native Cerrado vegetation into agricultural land. This conversion contributes to increased threats to biodiversity, reduced drinking water supply for traditional communities on the Cerrado as well as Brazil’s large cities and, ultimately, more greenhouse gas emissions and erratic rainfall.

You can download the complete report at:

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