The election of far right candidate Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil has caused shockwaves around the world -- and for good reason. The president-elect is not only a misogynistic, homophobic, racist who idolizes dictators, he is also rabidly anti-environment, and is about to launch a savage war on the Amazon rainforest at a time when we need it the most.
Bolsonaro has compared indigenous reserves in the rainforest to “chickenpox” , and declared that under his leadership, “there won’t be a square centimeter demarcated as an indigenous reserve."
As promised in his campaign, Bolsonaro will also merge Brazil’s environment and agriculture ministries together in what appears to be an attempt to drastically speed up the conversion of rainforest into farmland.
In a country where environmental activists are killed at un unprecedented rate and the logging and mining industry are desperate to get their hands on valuable land to exploit, this will be nothing short of disastrous. With no government protection, the rainforest could well be pillaged -- a catastrophic disaster given we rely on it to pull vast quantities of CO2 out of the atmosphere. Reported National Geographic:
Reports are circulating that Bolsonaro’s victory has already bolstered a sense of impunity among criminal groups that traffic in timber, exotic species, and other riches pilfered from indigenous land. “Many brothers tell us there are invasions, people entering the territories with no regard for the rules and no fear of the authorities,” Beto Marubo told National Geographic in a WhatsApp message from Brasília.
The two federal agencies at the forefront of protecting the Amazon are the indigenous affairs agency, known by its acronym FUNAI, and the Ministry of Environment’s enforcement arm, widely known as IBAMA. The fate of both organizations remains uncertain. What seems certain is that their budgets, already severely slashed under the outgoing government, will suffer further—perhaps crippling—reductions under Bolsonaro.
The rise of right wing reactionaries around the world is extremely troubling, and Bolsonaro is one of the worst offenders. He joins the likes of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in an emerging axis of global power that is attacking progressive political movements, environmentalism, and the foundations of democracy. Trump is reportedly overjoyed by the prospect of an ideological ally in Latin America, and now in charge of the fourth largest democracy in the world, Bolsonaro wields a large amount of power he is threatening to use to create an even larger amount of destruction.
It is impossible to stress just how vital Brazil's rainforest is to the future ecological health of the planet, and the nation has now elected a leader dedicated to destroying it. There are many reasons why Bolsonaro was elected to lead the deeply troubled Latin American country. With spiraling crime and a prolonged economic slump, Brazil has been ripe for a fascistic takeover for many years now. While other countries in Latin America have veered leftward in recent times, the resurgence of right wing militarism in Brazil threatens to undo the region's commitment to environmentalism and economic justice.
The international community must do everything in its power to hold Bolsonaro to account and prevent him from laying waste to the Amazon rainforest -- a much harder task now that Donald Trump is president of the United States.
Bolsonaro must however, deal with hugely increased global awareness about our environmental crisis. The world must let him know that it is watching him, and that there will be consequences for any crimes committed against the lungs of our planet.