Jair Bolsonaro Wants to Tear Down the Amazon – What That Means Locally and Globally

Image Courtesy of James Martins Via Wikimedia Commons


On October 28, Brazil elected former Congress member Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency.  Often compared to President Donald Trump in terms of his openly misogynist, ableist, and racist remarks, Bolsonaro rose to power on a platform that was militaristic, nationalist, pro-business, and “anti-crime.”  Bolsonaro’s regime, which will begin on January 1, is expected to have disastrous implications for marginalized communities throughout Brazil, as well as the world at large.

Bolsonaro plans to decimate the Amazon rainforest for profit.  He plans to pull Brazil out of the Paris Climate Agreement in order to bolster Brazil’s fossil fuel and manufacturing industries with fewer regulations. He openly spoke out against the protection of the portion of the Amazon rainforest that resides within Brazilian borders, running his campaign on the promise of “combining the country’s agriculture and environment ministries.” This action has the potential to systematically strip away environmental regulations placed on the agriculture industry, thereby allowing the Amazon forest to be obliterated in favor of aggressive agribusiness and mining ventures. He plans to privatize large sections of the forest, taking away any government protection granted to those areas, and thereby giving way to deforestation and industrial ventures that could be disastrous to the Amazon.

The Amazon Rainforest is one of the world’s largest carbon sinks.  Accounting for a quarter of global carbon dioxide absorbed by land every year, it is one of the most important natural forces for combatting the effects of climate change. The problem posed by the disappearing Amazon is further exacerbated by burning the forest as a means of land-clearing for agriculture, as this causes even more carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere, but with no means to be re-absorbed, thereby contributing the the large amounts of climate change-causing greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere. Additionally, the Amazon is one of the world’s last bastions for biodiversity, which is extremely important as, according to a report to Yale Environment, the current “decline in biodiversity… is endangering food security, clean water, energy supplies, economies and livelihoods for billions of people worldwide.” This decline in biodiversity is largely due to logging and agriculture in the previously untouched areas of the rainforest, which poses serious threats to its complex ecosystem.  Given the recent report predicting the impending, irreversible climate disaster set to occur by 2040, the Amazon should be protected as one of our most valuable resources, not torn down for corporate profit.  

Bolsonaro’s plans for the Amazon have devastating implications on a local level, as well. These plans pose serious threats to the ways of life of the approximately 900,000 remaining Indigenous people residing in Brazil.  At this time, the Brazilian government recognizes 690 territories as belonging to Indigenous tribes, and almost 99% of this reserved land is in the Amazon. Some of the world’s last remaining uncontacted Indigenous tribes still live in the Amazon, an estimated 50 to 100 groups, perhaps 5,000 people. As written by National Geographic, these people represent the “preservation of the last vestiges of a way of life that has all but disappeared from the planet, one that has survived apart from our industrial economy.” Many of these Indigenous groups rely on the natural resources of the Amazon for their survival, hunting small game in the forest, gathering native plants for food and building materials, and using the pristine rivers as their drinking source.  If Bolsonaro’s plans for the Amazon are brought to fruition, these cultures and ways of life will disappear completely, systematically choked out by Brazil’s settler-colonial government.

The Amazon is of great cultural and environmental significance to the world at large. If it is to disappear, so will a huge amount of biodiversity, an extremely important source of carbon absorption, and one of the most culturally rich areas in the world. Jair Bolsonaro is serious about his plans for this region, and the world must be serious about stopping him. The future depends on it.

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