Last year, Brazil elected a new President: Jair Bolsonaro. He promised change for a population tired of corruption and economic recession, securing a majority victory in October.
Described by The Guardian as ‘a far-right, pro-gun, pro-torture populist’, this former army-captain’s journey to the presidency has been mired in controversy, from his homophobic comments, to his sexist slurs and racist statements. However, amidst international discussions on the increasing urgency of climate change, it is Bolsonaro’s devastating environmental policies that have caused the most global concern.
The recent election is set to have global ramifications
Rainforests provide a crucial balance to our excessive emissions of carbon dioxide. Brazil itself is home to “about a third of the remaining tropical rain forests on Earth” so it will be vital to maintain this vast ecosystem in the fight against our ever-increasing global temperature.
Amazon Rainforest. Image Credit: Icon0.com on Pexels
Because of this, according to The Guardian, the position of the Brazilian President comes with the responsibility of being “in charge of the world’s lungs, the Amazon, and the world’s breadbasket, the Cerrado savanna”. In short, if we have any hope of mitigating climate change, Brazil’s leader must set a global example.
The Amazon Rainforest covers approximately 40% of Brazil and the announcement that Bolsonaro intends to combine the environment and agriculture ministries implies that much of this precious landscape will be transformed into farmland. Bolsonaro himself appears to be prioritising the interests of agricultural and mining companies who not-so-coincidentally “were among the strongest backers” of his presidential campaign.
The great Amazon rainforest is a treasure trove of ecological diversity; the National Cancer Institute has approximated that 70% of identified anti-cancer plants originate in rainforests, demonstrating the unrealised potential of these regions. Converting such a vast empire of ecology to farmland, fuelling our own consumption, implies the prioritisation of immediate profits above any sustainable strategy.
Intertwined with the fate of Brazil’s environmental wonders are the lives of many indigenous communities. The Guardian reported that Bolsonaro voiced his disappointment “that the Brazilian cavalry has not been so efficient as the Americans who exterminated the Indians”, demonstrating his despicable attitude towards the 900,000 indigenous people living in Brazil.
It was also reported that FUNAI (National Indian Foundation Brazil), the governmental department for indigenous affairs, could be shut down under Bolsonaro’s rule, leaving indigenous lands largely unprotected against agricultural and mining interests.
The indigenous people of Brazil have long fought against efforts to remove them from their lands. Here, an Indigenous Brazilian Man is arrested after refusing eviction to make way for a 2014 football World Cup Stadium. Image Credit: Mirage A’ Trois, Felipe Dana
Echoing the sentiments of President Trump, Bolsonaro has promised to “make Brazil great”. Bolsonaro’s rise to power indicates a terrible trend taking place across our world; fear is influencing votes for protectionist politics, the kind of policies which place the blame on minority groups, prioritizing the economic growth of resource-greedy businesses.
Such actions make a huge impact nationally. It is time to realise the ‘consumer conspiracy’ of our world and, crucially, the reality of our dependence on thriving ecosystems. We must begin to scrutinize the promises of our government representatives, while listening to the valid concerns of marginalized societal groups who decry dishonesty and excessive natural resource extraction.
There is hope that Bolsonaro’s more extreme policies will not be approved by his congress; during his previous seven terms in congress, very few of his bills were successful. This man was voted in by a majority of the people of Brazil, but we will keep our fingers crossed that his actions do not seal the fate of the world, leaving us at the mercy of climate change.
Lead image: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil
Article originally published on The National Student – http://www.thenationalstudent.com/Environment/2019-01-02/jair_bolsonaro_the_new_brazilian_president_promoting_climate_change.html