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The Bleak Fate of the Amazon

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental approach can be summed up in one word: exploitation. This will be devastating not just for Brazil – where tens of millions of citizens depend on the Amazon for food, transportation, and livelihoods – but also for the rest of the world.

SÃO PAULO – Last month, a deeply divided Brazil voted to elect its next president. Faced with a choice between Fernando Haddad of the leftist Workers’ Party and the right-wing extremist Jair Bolsonaro, Brazilians chose the extremist – an outcome that will have far-reaching consequences for the environment, among other things. 

With solid backing from the wealthiest 5% of Brazilians and rural landowners, Bolsonaro secured broader popular support by playing on people’s prejudices and fears. In his campaign, he targeted vulnerable groups and pledged to reduce or eliminate protections for minorities, women, and the poor. Meanwhile, he intends to loosen Brazil’s restrictive gun laws, claiming that allowing average citizens to arm themselves will stem rising crime.

As for the environment, Bolsonaro’s plans can be summed up in one word: exploitation. For starters, he wants to reduce or eliminate environmental protections in the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest. And he intends to reduce substantially the protection of indigenous lands belonging to the descendants of the Amazon’s original inhabitants. He will ease environmental restrictions on the use of pesticides and on licensing for infrastructure development.

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