Bolsonaro’s desire to monetize the Amazon will spell climate disaster

The Amazon rainforest not only fuels our planet, but is also home to many people. What happens when it disappears?  

Jair Bolsonaro, former army captain, right-wing politician, and non-believer in climate change, took office as president of Brazil on January 1. Since his election campaign, he’s wanted to turn the Amazon into a money-making machine, something which would cause severe problems for global climate change initiatives and threaten to displace Indigenous peoples in the region.

Bolsonaro’s government was quick to denounce the Brazilian Institute of Environmental and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), an organization in charge of protecting the Amazon rainforest from agriculture and mining development. Newly appointed Environment Minister, lawyer Ricardo Salles, criticized IBAMA’s decision to allocate $8 million to rental vehicles, which are in charge of patrolling rough terrains such as forests, as well as helping fight fires. Not understanding the significance of the budget spent on these vehicles, Bolsonaro tweeted that the Brazilian government “[has] had a system created mainly to financially violate Brazilians without the slightest care.”

Suely Araujo, former head of IBAMA, responded to Bolsonaro’s statement by saying his claims were “baseless allegations.” Araujo later resigned from her position, likely due to the threatening tone of Bolsonaro’s comments.

In his first day in office, Bolsonaro quickly signed an executive order for Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture to create new Indigenous reserves so that agribusinesses and forestry services can move into Indigenous lands in the Amazon. Beyond forcibly removing Indigenous peoples from their lands, this move would destroy land that acts as a crucial buffer against the impacts of climate change.

From his statements, it’s clear Bolsonaro is disinterested in protecting the Amazon and Indigenous peoples. Both he and the newly appointed Environment Minister, lawyer Ricardo Salles, agree that for Brazil, economic benefits are the priority. This could mean leaving the Paris Climate Accord if the agreement places limits on Brazil’s use of land. Bolsonaro has strong support from the agriculture lobby, which creates serious concerns for environmentalists. In addition, these lobbyists steal land and unjustly displace Indigenous peoples into overcrowded reserves by the side of highways.

Bolsonaro needs to change his decisions. Although he might have well-intended economic resolutions for Brazil, he cannot pursue these economic interests in the Amazon. The Amazon is home to a vast number of Indigenous peoples who have lived there for hundreds of thousands of years. And not only is it home to them; the Amazon also acts as the lungs of our planet, and without it, the greenhouse effect will become more exaggerated, exacerbating climate change.

By allowing agribusiness into the rainforest, Bolsonaro will throw the planet into an inescapable climate meltdown, in which the primary ones affected are not just the ecosystems within the Amazon, but also Indigenous peoples, who will liekly be forcefully displaced due to state economic interests.  

Like the Cree prophecy states, we will realize we cannot eat money once the Earth is destroyed. This is a lesson that should be engraved in all of our heads.

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