It’s been three years since Bolsonaro, the far-right president of Brazil took office. His anti-environmental agenda has never been a secret. During his campaign, he promised he wouldn’t recognize any Indigenous Lands during his term, and always made clear his intention to open up the Amazon for more destruction. From a shocking increase in deforestation to the approval of over a thousand new pesticides, here are some of the impacts of Bolsonaro’s government on the environment.
Amazon Forest Destruction and Other Disasters
There has been a 52.9% increase of deforestation in Amazon rainforest over the past three year, compared to the previous three years. The images of the fires shocked the world and caused a commotion. But it’s not only the Amazon that has been suffering. Other biomes, such as the Pantanal and the Cerrado, are being pushed to their limits to make way to soy plantations or cattle ranches. Due to severe drought and fires started by farmers to expand their businesses, the Pantanal, an important wetland habitat for jaguars and other endangered species, saw its area shrink by a third in 2020.
Deforestation across Brazil isn’t just a threat to the country. Brazil’s fires have led to a 10% increase in its greenhouse gas emissions. According to an Carbon Brief AnalysisBrazil is the 5th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. This is largely due to its land-use and forestry. Forests are vital for the fight against the climate crisis. These vital ecosystems are at risk of disappearing, which will lead to more carbon in the atmosphere and less resources for capturing it.
The demise of environmental agencies
To enable all this destruction, Bolsonaro’s administration has been weakening government bodies responsible for monitoring the environment and enforcing laws to protect the forest. IBAMA, the key agency that is responsible for the country’s environmental policies, saw 30% of its budget cut from 2019 to 2020. The budget for the Chico Mendes Institute for the Conservation of Biodiversity, (ICMBio), was also reduced by 32.7 per cent. In 2021, the Environment Department’s overall budget was at its lowest level since 2010.
The lack of resources, along with the removal of employees from their jobs – there was a 10% reduction in environment-related staff during Bolsonaro’s administration – has allowed forest destroyers to expand their businesses. Without resources, the environmental agencies don’t have the bandwidth to track environmental crimes and act on them.
Violence on the field
More destruction of the environment means more violence in the field. Loggers, miners, and land-grabbers are constantly invading protected Indigenous lands and engaging in conflicts with them – often lethal. According to the Global Witness reportIn 2021, Brazil was the most dangerous country for environmental activists, with 20 recorded killings. 1,576 land conflicts were recorded in 2020, an increase of over 900 since 1985. Protecting their lands and rights is the greatest threat to Indigenous Peoples. More than 41% of conflicts reported were related to Indigenous communities.
Such violence is also enabled by Bolsonaro’s government. The president described non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as “Cancer” for the country and proclaimed that their voice, the voice of civil society, has no meaning for him. In 2019, he accused NGOs, of setting the Amazon on fire.
Threats to biodiversity and the health of the populace
Around 1,500 new pesticides – a new record – have been approved since Bolsonaro took office. Many of the pesticides allowed and used in Brazil have active ingredients that are not listed here. Not allowed in the EUThey are harmful to the environment and human health. For example, atrazine, a herbicide that has been banned in Europe for over 15 years because of its harmful effects on groundwater and can still be found in over 70 commercial products in Brazil.
Time to make a change
Bolsonaro’s term is coming to an end in 2022, but he will be up for reelection. The president hasn’t only been a threat to the environment and to Indigenous Peoples’ rights. His handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was disastrous, with Brazil ranked among the most affected countries in terms of deaths and cases. Bolsonaro, on the other hand, has promoted false treatments like hydroxychloroquine and claimed that he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. The country’s economy has collapsed during his term, leaving millions of people homeless and hungry, while inequality continues to increase.
Brazil has what it takes to be a global leader in environmental protection, with an economy that is sustainable and doesn’t benefit just a few. Bolsonaro cannot continue to be the leader of Brazil. The world has seen what he’s capable of, and the planet cannot afford four more years of an anti-science, anti-environment, anti-human rights leader.