Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Bolsonaro's defeat is a triumph for climate change advocates

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Wednesday, 9 November 2022

The electoral defeat of Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro is a triumph for everyone who is concerned about the peril of climate change. Bolsonaro's well-deserved defeat could help save the Amazon rainforest, which has been ravaged under his criminal rule, and the process of reversing the looming climate change catastrophe can begin

Righting the Wrong

President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's victory over Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil represents a historic chance to begin undoing some of the great harm that was inflicted on Brazil's Amazon rainforest over the last four years. Since taking office in January 2019, Bolsonaro has ravaged the earth for short-sighted gains, turning back environmental regulations that any thinking human being would wish to preserve in the face of such unprecedented global degradation. Bolsonaro systematically dismantled environmental protections 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 accountability. The unfolding crisis of the Amazon is a catastrophe for climate change, biodiversity, Indigenous people of the region, and the untold wonders that human science has yet to understand.


A 2020 study published in the journal Nature has shown that if the systematic destruction of the Brazilian Amazon continues unabated, much of it could become an arid savannah, or even "dry scrubland," within decades given the rate of deforestation, largely due to deliberate and illegal fires that are meant to permanently convert forest into pastureland. With the devastation of the rainforests has also come the devastation of those Indigenous people whose homelands and livelihood are being destroyed by deforestation.

Just imagine, between August 2020 and July 2021 over 5,000 square miles of rainforest were lost in the Brazilian Amazon – that is an area larger than the land area of Connecticut. In fact, under Bolsonaro the rate of destruction reached a ten-year high, as his administration turned a blind eye to illegal logging, the deforestation of Indigenous land, and, as Amnesty International notes, the "violence against those living on and seeking to defend their territories."

Under Bolsonaro's reckless and corrupt rule, his government deliberately "weakened environmental law enforcement agencies, undermining their ability to effectively sanction environmental crime or detect exports of illegal timber," as Human Rights Watch describes. Fines for illegal logging in the Brazilian Amazon were suspended by presidential decree at the beginning of October 2019. Illegal seizures of land on Reserves and Indigenous territories in Brazil's Amazon became routine, as Bolsonaro slashed the budget of agencies that protected the jungle from unauthorized clearing. Criminal organizations, aptly called "rainforest mafias," allow cattle ranchers to operate with impunity, and according to the US State Department possess the "logistical capacity to coordinate large-scale extraction, processing, and sale of timber, while deploying armed men to protect their interests."

It is hard to fathom the sheer scale of destruction that was wreaked by Bolsonaro upon the Amazon. Such rampant deforestation is tragic on many levels - it is destroying habitats and countless species being pushed to the brink of extinction when we are already in the midst of a mass extinction of this planet's animals, insects, and plants. It is hastening the onslaught of climate change when we are already facing the dire effects of a warming planet. And it is obliterating the lands of Indigenous people who have already suffered and been persecuted and murdered for decades.

To be sure, the extent of devastation of the rainforest under Bolsonaro was so enormous that we can barely begin to comprehend the loss to humanity, to science, and to our knowledge of undiscovered plants and animals that hold the answers to questions of which we have not even dreamt. This is a shameful loss to the entire world and to generations hence.

The Bolsonaro government failed miserably to act as a responsible custodian of the Amazon and Pantanal (the world's largest tropical wetland located mostly within Brazil, which along with the Amazon has some of the world's most biologically diverse ecosystems) - instead it helped in every way it can to hasten this unimaginable devastation. Dr Michelle Kalamandeen, a tropical ecologist on the Amazon rainforest, observed that "When a forest is lost, it is gone forever. Recovery may occur but never 100% recovery."


We must bring this travesty to a halt. By this wanton and dismally short-sighted decimation of the rainforests we are depriving humanity of knowledge which could alter medicine, improve our lives and transform the world, from the way we build our cities to the ways we make our homes.

Plant and animal species inspire new technologies, new forms of architecture, new kinds of design and materiality. Yet probably less than 1 percent of rainforest trees and plants have been studied by science - though not less than 25 percent of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients. By allowing rampant deforestation to continue, we are doing ourselves and future generations untold and unconscionable harm.

Let us remember that the Amazon does not simply belong to the countries in which 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 heritage beyond price which we are duty-bound to pass on to future generations, regardless of the profits that we may yield from its systematic rape.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

7 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Alon Ben-Meir

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 7 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy