Brazil Is About To Elect Its Own Trump And He Might Wreck The Amazon
Anti-gay, pro-dictator, racist -- and maybe a disaster for the world's most important rainforest.
Jair Bolsonaro is likely to be elected as Brazil's new president in a run-off poll next week. He's the strongman, far-right, former military man who scooped nearly half the vote in a crowded field in the initial poll, and will head into the run-off election as favourite.
He was also stabbed at a campaign rally in September, and lost 40 percent of his blood.
He's being referred to as the Brazilian Donald Trump for his far-right views on issues such as homosexuality and gender equality. He says women should be paid less, that the poor should be sterilised, that he would rather his son be killed in a car accident than be gay, and called African migrants "the scum of humanity".
But perhaps of most concern for the world at large, are his views and policies on one of the world's most important natural resources.
The Amazon rainforest.
Bolsonaro's combination of protectionist policies, Trump-esque nationalist 'outsider' politics and support from Brazil's powerful 'ruralista' farm lobby has many fearing what might happen to the Amazon.
About 60 percent of the seven million square kilometre rainforest basin is within Brazil's borders, and as the country continues to log trees and turn lush forest into farmland, environmentalists worry about what effect further deforestation will have on the world.
The Amazon is often referred to as "the lungs of the world", a massive living organism that sucks up carbon dioxide and releases vital oxygen.
It makes up 60 percent of the planet's entire rainforest area
It is home to one of the largest and most diverse populations of animal and plant life anywhere in the world.
"The impact of Amazon deforestation continues to gradually undo the fragile ecological processes that have been refined over millions of years," according to the World Wildlife Foundation.
"Without tropical rainforests the greenhouse effect would likely be even more pronounced, and climate change may possibly get even worse in the future."
Further deforestation is feared to accelerate climate change, pollution and adverse weather.
The 'ruralistas', a powerful group of agribusiness and landowners, want to clear more of the forest for farmland, livestock grazing and crops.
There are fears that Bolsonaro will let them.
As outlined by Ed Atkins, of the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol, in an article in The Conversation, the presidential aspirant has supported a series of policies that would strip back environmental protections and bolster the rights of landowners.
He wants to withdraw Brazil from the Paris climate agreement, which one of his sons called a "fraud". He wants to abolish Brazil’s environmental agency, as well as the country's body that fines those who illegally log forests. He has spoken about discarding other national environmental safeguards.
"If I get to the presidency not a single square centimetre will be demarcated as indigenous land," he vowed in a 2017 speech.
A group of Brazilian scientists, in a report released in July, said "In exchange for political support, the Brazilian government is signaling landholders to increase deforestation."
"The abandonment of deforestation control policies and the political support for predatory agricultural practices make it impossible to meet targets consistent with Brazil’s contribution to a 2 °C world," the report continued.
While Bolsonaro's similarities to Trump include his penchant for the politically incorrect and outrageous, it is his regressive policies on the environment -- indeed, perhaps the world's most important environment -- which may spell the most danger.