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Bolsonaro Welcomes Big Business to Brazil, Alarming Environmentalists and Indigenous Groups

Politics
Special address by Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil. World Economic Forum / YouTube

In his first major international speech, Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro told the politicians and business leaders gathered in Davos this week that he's opening up his country and its natural resources to foreign investment, all while—somehow—preserving the nation's environment and biodiversity.

"It is now our mission to make progress in harmonizing environmental preservation and biodiversity on the one hand, with much-needed economic development, while bearing in mind that these are interdependent, inseparable pillars of our society," he said Tuesday at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting.


"Those who criticize us have actually a great deal to learn with us. We wish to govern by example," he added.

While campaigning for president, the far-right Congressman promised to loosen protections for the Amazon rainforest and open it up to development, causing many indigenous communities and environmentalists to worry about the forest's future.

The world's largest rainforest hosts the richest biodiversity of any ecosystem and is an important carbon sink, making it vital for preventing worse climate change. Bolsonaro initially pledged to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement before recanting.

"We are the one country that most preserves the environment," he also claimed. "No other country in the world has as many forests as we do."

That's not exactly true. As EcoWatch previously mentioned, although deforestation in the Amazon decreased by 70 percent from around 2005 to 2011 due to rainforest protection movements, from 2011 to 2017, as the country entered a more chaotic political period, the decrease in deforestation stopped, but it did not reverse.

Additionally, according to Climate Home News, "in 2018, under the previous administration, deforestation reached a ten-year high. During the election period, with a Bolsonaro victory anticipated, forest loss jumped by 50 percent, year-on-year."

What's more, just hours after taking office, he issued an executive order that transferred responsibility for recognizing indigenous lands to the ministry of agriculture, which has ties to the agribusiness lobby and other industries.

During his short speech, Bolsonaro told the Davos audience to "get to know our Amazonian region, our coastlines, our beaches and our cities and our wetlands," but also called for even more exploitation of the country's precious resources.

"Brazil is home to the world's greatest biodiversity and we have abundant mineral resources," he said. "We want to engage with partners who master technology so that this marriage translates into progress and development for all. Our actions, make no mistake whatsoever, will certainly attract you to seize great business opportunities, not only for the good for Brazil but also for the good of the whole world at large."

Bolsonaro promised to "reduce the tax burden, simplify tax rules and make life easier for those who want to produce, do business, invest and create jobs."

José Gregorio Mirabal, general coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin, urged Davos attendees to reject the Brazilian leader's remarks.

"[Do] not to be distracted by president Bolsonaro's efforts to calm investors interested in investing in Brazil," Mirabal said, as quoted by Climate Home News.

"You cannot imagine what will happen if the government of Brazil implements its intention to roll back the rights of indigenous peoples to their forests, in favor of implementing projects for mining, transportation, communication and energy on indigenous territories," Mirabal continued. "The outcome of implementing president Bolsonaro's development plans will visit upon the entire Amazon a genocide and an environmental disaster on a scale that the world has not seen before."

Watch Bolsonaro's speech here:

Special Address by Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil www.youtube.com

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Aerial view of Ruropolis, Para state, northen Brazil, on Sept. 6, 2019. Tthe world's biggest rainforest is under threat from wildfires and rampant deforestation. JOHANNES MYBURGH / AFP via Getty Images

By Kate Martyr

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest last month jumped to the highest level since records began in 2015, according to government data.

A total of 563 square kilometers (217.38 square miles) of the world's largest rainforest was destroyed in November, 103% more than in the same month last year, according to Brazil's space research agency.

From January to November this year an area almost the size of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico was destroyed — an 83% overall increase in destruction when compared with the same period last year.

The figures were released on Friday by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and collected through the DETER database, which uses satellite images to monitor forest fires, forest destruction and other developments affecting the rainforest.

What's Behind the Rise?

Overall, deforestation in 2019 has jumped 30% compared to last year — 9,762 square kilometers (approximately 3769 square miles) have been destroyed, despite deforestation usually slowing during November and December.

Environmental groups, researchers and activists blamed the policies of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro for the increase.

They say that Bolosonaro's calls for the Amazon to be developed and his weakening support for Ibama, the government's environmental agency, have led to loggers and ranchers feeling safer and braver in destroying the expansive rainforest.

His government hit back at these claims, pointing out that previous governments also cut budgets to environment agencies such as Ibama.

The report comes as Brazil came to loggerheads with the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) over climate goals during the UN climate conference in Madrid.

AOSIS blasted Brazil, among other nations, for "a lack of ambition that also undermines ours."

Last month, a group of Brazilian lawyers called for Bolsonaro to be investigated by the International Criminal Court over his environmental policies.

Reposted with permission from DW.

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