COP27: Bolsonaros’ defeat is a triumph for climate change advocates


The Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. June 2022. Credit: CIAT/Neil Palmer
  • Opinion by Alon Ben Meir (New York)
  • Inter Press Service

Correct the wrong

President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s victory over Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil represents a historic opportunity to begin undoing some of the major damage done to Brazil’s Amazon rainforest over the past four years .

Since taking office in January 2019, Bolsonaro has ravaged the earth for short-sighted gains, and has rolled back the environmental regulations that any thinking person would want to preserve in the face of such unprecedented global degradation.

Bolsonaro systematically dismantled the protection of the environment so that those who could not care less about the environment would be free to clear the land and turn it into pastures without any responsibility. The unfolding crisis of the Amazon is a catastrophe for climate change, biodiversity, indigenous peoples in the region and the unprecedented wonders human science has yet to understand.

A 2020 study published in the journal Nature found that if the systematic destruction of the Brazilian Amazon continues unabated, much of it could become arid savanna or even “dry undergrowth” within decades, given the rate of deforestation. , largely as a result of deliberate and illegal fires intended to permanently convert forest to pasture.

With the destruction of the rainforests has also come the destruction of those indigenous peoples whose homelands and livelihoods are being destroyed by deforestation.

Imagine, between August 2020 and July 2021, more than 5,000 square miles of rainforest were lost in the Brazilian Amazon — that’s an area larger than Connecticut’s land area. In fact, under Bolsonaro, the rate of destruction reached its highest point in a decade as his government turned a blind eye to illegal logging, the deforestation of indigenous lands and, as Amnesty International notes, “violence against those who defend their territory.”

Under Bolsonaro’s reckless and corrupt rule, his administration has deliberately “weakened environmental law enforcement agencies, undermining their ability to effectively sanction environmental crime or detect illegal timber exports,” as Human Rights Watch describes. Fines for illegal logging in the Brazilian Amazon were suspended by presidential decree in early October 2019.

Illegal seizures of land on reserves and indigenous lands in Brazil’s Amazon region became routine as Bolsonaro slashed the budget of agencies protecting the jungle from unauthorized clearing.

Criminal organizations, aptly called “rainforest mafia,” allow ranchers to operate with impunity, and according to the US State Department, they have “the logistical capacity to coordinate large-scale extraction, processing and sale of timber, while deploying gunmen to advance their interests.” .”

It is difficult to comprehend the sheer scale of destruction that Bolsonaro has wrought on the Amazon. Such rampant deforestation is tragic on many levels – it destroys habitats and countless species are pushed to the brink of extinction as we are already in the midst of a mass extinction of this planet’s animals, insects and plants.

It accelerates the onslaught of climate change as we already face the dire consequences of a warming planet. And it destroys the lands of indigenous peoples who have suffered and persecuted and murdered for decades.

Certainly, the magnitude of the rainforest devastation under Bolsonaro was so staggering that we can hardly comprehend the loss to humanity, science and our knowledge of undiscovered plants and animals that hold the answers to questions we haven’t even dreamed of. This is an embarrassing loss for the whole world and for generations to come.

Bolsonaro’s government failed miserably to act as a responsible custodian of the Amazon and Pantanal (the world’s largest tropical wetland, located primarily in Brazil, which along with the Amazon has some of the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems) — in instead it helped in every way can hasten this unimaginable devastation.

dr. Michelle Kalamandeen, a tropical ecologist in the Amazon rainforest, noted, “When a forest is lost, it is gone forever. Recovery can occur, but never 100% recovery.”

We must put a stop to this travesty. Through this wanton and horribly short-sighted destruction of the rainforests, we are robbing humanity of knowledge that could change medicine, improve our lives and change the world, from the way we build our cities to the ways we build our homes. to make.

Plant and animal species inspire new technologies, new forms of architecture, new forms of design and materiality. But probably less than 1 percent of rainforest trees and plants have been studied by science — although no less than 25 percent of Western medicines come from rainforest ingredients. By continuing unbridled deforestation, we are doing untold and unscrupulous harm to ourselves and future generations.

Let’s not forget that the Amazon does not only belong to the countries where it happens to be found – it is not the exclusive resource of those companies that are able to exploit it, appropriate its resources and destroy it with impunity.

The Amazon is part of our collective patrimony, a priceless heritage that we are obliged to pass on to future generations, regardless of the profit we can make from its systematic rape.

And let’s not be mistaken, or mince words: the Amazon is being raped hour after hour, month after month, year after year, and the world watches in silence as this violation is repeated daily. Time is running out for us to act meaningfully to stop this mindless decimation of one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.

With the election of Lula as President of Brazil, we now have a historic opportunity to support and encourage him to start working immediately on a plan to reverse Bolsonaro’s disastrous policies in three main areas: the environment, public safety and scientific discoveries.

First, President Lula must start banning deforestation, illegal logging and land grabs. To that end, he must do everything he can to pass a new law that will be incorporated into the Brazilian Constitution that will end the systematic destruction of the rainforest. The law should include mandatory prison terms and heavy fines to prevent ranchers and illegal loggers from ever going unpunished again.

Second, he must develop a comprehensive plan to protect the human rights of indigenous communities from the criminal networks that use violence, intimidation and terror to silence the local population. He would have to make such a plan the center of his domestic policy while improving safety and providing the necessary funding for environmental agencies to carry out their duties diligently.

Third, President Lula should invite the global scientific community to further study the wonders of the Amazon and, in collaboration with them, initiate numerous scientific projects that would benefit the whole world, while preserving the glory of the Amazon as one of its central pillars. in the fight against climate change.

Finally, President Biden, who understands the dangers of climate change very well, should provide political and financial support to President Lula to help him reverse some of the damage his predecessor has done to the Amazon.

President Lula must view his assumption of power and the responsibility that rests on his shoulders as nothing short of a sacred mission that will help save the planet from the man-made looming catastrophes of climate change.

dr. Alon Ben Meir is a retired professor of international relations at New York University’s (NYU) Center for Global Affairs. He has taught courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies for over 20 years.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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