Bolsonaro And the Environment, A Toxic Relationship?

Brazil will have a new election day on October 30. The environmental management of current president Jair Bolsonaro is one of his Achilles heels. In this article, we will make a compilation and analysis of his climate and environmental management

Jair Bolsonaro

Photo: TW-jairbolsonaro

LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: Bolsonaro y medio ambiente ¿una relación tóxica?

Today climate and environmental policies are a fundamental part of any electoral contest. With scientific advances, the international agenda, the work and pressure of activists and the knowledge of citizens, it is increasingly difficult to be a climate change denier.

Jair Bolsonaro knows this and has begun to implement sustainability in his speeches. In fact, in his recent speech at the United Nations General Assembly, the president stated that in the Brazilian Amazon more than 80% of the forests have not been touched. He also argued that Brazil has two thirds of the territory covered with native vegetation. Also, on repeated occasions, he has pointed out that when the opposite is said, it is a smear campaign by the media and NGOs. Bolsonaro has even assured that the world suffers from an “environmental psychosis”.

The truth is that the relationship with the environment that this far-right candidate defends is based on economic development. That is, to exploit natural resources with the economy and job creation as a priority. Thus, it seeks economic productivity and investment of private capital to make Brazil an agricultural power, even at the cost of the damage to the Amazon and the violation of the rights of indigenous communities.


The figures and investigations that denounce it

Various studies and investigations show a different Brazil than the one Bolsonaro has mentioned in his recent speeches. Under his government, the Amazon has suffered the worst deforestation since 2006. The year 2022 has been catastrophic. The PlenaMata Forest Monitor, which carries out satellite monitoring and investigations by multiple organizations, indicates that about 461,312,570 trees have been deforested, an average of 1,221 trees per minute, during 2022. With the arrival of Bolsonaro in 2019, the figure almost doubled: from 4,953 square kilometers in 2018 to 9,177 in 2019.

“The rate of deforestation in indigenous territories is increasing considerably, with an increase of 74% between 2018 and 2019,” said the organization Global Witness, after the first year of the Bolsonaro government. Indigenous communities have been constantly threatened and attacked by State policies.

The Atlas of Environmental Justice, which documents social conflicts around environmental issues, indicates that 174 cases of environmental conflicts have been reported in Brazil, in which around 150 are active. According to the WWF, because of Jair Bolsonaro’s policies, by 2021 Brazil was suffering the “worst water crisis in 90 years due to the combined effect of meteorological factors with the increasing deforestation of the Amazon.”

Impunity and lack of justice have also been denounced in multiple investigations. Amnesty International launched a report in 2021 entitled “1,000 days without rights. The violations of the Bolsonaro government”, in which it denounces multiple attacks on human rights. Among them, he denounces the omissions of the Bolsonaro government in the face of the 2019 and 2020 fires that destroyed large areas of the Amazon; his speeches and anti-indigenous agenda; and the constant attacks on journalists.

Human Rights Watch has also indicated that “the Bolsonaro government has weakened the application of environmental laws and, in practice, has given the green light to criminal networks that promote illegal deforestation in the Amazon and intimidated and attack defenders of the forest. The number of homicides caused by police officers reached a record level, disproportionately affecting black Brazilians.”

We recommend you read: Infographic: Amazon deforestation reaches 1.6 million trees per day in 2022

Bolsonaro vs. environmentalists

From his well-known exchanges of insults with Leonardo DiCaprio to his classification of the NGO Green Peace as “garbage”, Bolsonaro has maintained a constant hostile attitude towards those who defend the environment and call for more forceful climate action.

The news of the assassination   defender of indigenous rights Bruno Araujo Pereira and of the English journalist   Dom Phillips in June 2022 went around the world. However, it is not the only case of murders of environmental leaders. Brazil is among the most dangerous countries for environmental defenders.

According to information from the Global Witness organization, which documents the murders of environmental leaders, 342 defenders have been murdered in Brazil since 2012 (26 in 2021, 20 in 2020 and 24 in 2019). The situation during 2022 is not better This organization points out that “Since Bolsonaro came to power, he has encouraged illegal logging and mining, has annulled the protection of indigenous land rights, has attacked conservation groups and has dismantled and cut budgets and resources of forest and indigenous protection agencies. This has led criminal gangs to invade indigenous and conservation areas with impunity.”

The South American giant is a mega-diverse country, of vital importance in the fight against climate change. For this reason, the election of its next president is essential for the continent and the entire world, in the face of the climate emergency. It is not about a baseless hatred towards the figure of Bolsonaro, as he has tried to point out, the figures and the voices calling for justice prove it.

However, it is not all bad news. Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court ruled in July that the government should resume allocating resources to the Climate Fund, which had been paralyzed by the government. On the other hand, Brazil has enormous potential to become a leader in sustainable energy and already accounts for 10% of global employment in renewable energy. A greater commitment is required to guide this South American giant towards sustainability and protection of the world’s lungs . More than 60 organizations, academics and communities have prepared a document called “Brazil 2045” aimed at the new government and the actions of the first 100 days.

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