Deen Osman '22
The fight for environmental preservation has permeated throughout the world, and nowhere is it more prominent than in Brazil and the Amazon Rainforest. Just in the last 50 years alone, more than 17% of the Amazon has been decimated due to deforestation and fires. The onslaught of perpetual annihilation in the Amazon has had drastic consequences; not only does this destruction eliminate vast amounts of biodiversity (the Amazon is home to 10% of all species in the world), but it also ruins the homes of the the many indigenous tribes living there. In 2018, 1.2 billion trees were destroyed, sparking conflicts and uprisings between the native peoples and Brazil’s government, which favors using the Amazon for economic gain rather than preserving the life within it. Almost 1,465 indigenous peoples have been killed due to land disputes in Brazil. How many times have we seen this story play out? The first African slaves, ripped apart from their homes and families, were stripped of their humanity. The arrival of Columbus in the Americas triggered a treacherous age of exploitation, disease, displacement, and death of the native peoples. Time and time again, history has proven that mankind’s greed for land or economic growth outweighs its basic care for those who it sees as “inferior,” and the situation in Brazil today is no different. Analyzing the Brazillian government’s leaders, policies, and corrupted history is instrumental to unveiling the source of extreme deforestation and, by extension, the path to save the Amazon. The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has made his stance on native land and their treatment very clear, saying “If I could, the natives would not have even one centimeter of land.” His policies are geared towards using the Amazon to kickstart Brazil’s economy, opening up areas for mining and new pastures for agribusiness, specifically cow pastures. Brazil’s beef industry, which accounts for almost 80% of deforestation, is run by a company called JBS, consistently guilty of corruption and bribery. Their owners have admitted to bribing almost 1,500 Brazilian politicians (in exchange for less jail time), and these scandals erupted in the removal of Michel Temer, Brazil’s President from 2016-2018. These bribes were used to sway government officials to allow illegal deforestation on protected land and meat that had not met health standards to hit markets, including in the U.S. Bolsonaro has even encouraged loggers and farmers to burn trees and fauna to benefit his economic interests, and was quoted as saying that “We do not owe the world anything when it comes to environmental protection.” What Bolsonaro fails to recognize is that his authority over such a precious wonder of the natural world should be coupled with responsibility, not a desire for economic gain. In 2022, Brazil will have its next presidential election, and it will be the most crucial in centuries. Tensions amidst indigneous/environmental activists and corrupt politicians have risen, and the election will decide the fate of Brazil and the Amazon. It will either be one that recognizes the necessity of environmental and native safety, or one that results in chaotic destruction
with irreversible impacts, cementing a dark and permanent chapter in history.