Since the right-wing extremist Jair Bolsonaro took over the presidency of Brazil at the end of 2018 a number of reactionary attacks have been announced, including on the environment.
New figures showing deforestation rates in the Amazon came out in May. A total of 739 square kilometres of forest has been ruined.
According to The Guardian, two football pitches worth of rainforest per minute were destroyed in Brazil in May. May had such an historically high devastation rate because that is when the dry season begins and most of the forest clearing and burning takes place.
Bolsonaro is a high-ranking climate denialist. He says that climate change is a “Marxist fiction”, and he has done everything in his power to weaken environmental protections in the country.
The Ministry of the Environment has been weakened, limitations on economic exploitation of the Amazon have been eased, the rights of indigenous people have been curtailed, and he has encouraged the expansion of agriculture and mining.
He does all this while scientists tell us that we are dangerously close to a climate catastrophe.
In addition, the big business agricultural lobby is demanding that the government further opens up protected areas, something Bolsonaro is looking into.
The Brazilian environmental minister Ricardo Salles has been convicted of environmental fraud and had never ever visited the Amazon before entering the government. He has fired experienced inspectors and wants to privatise the satellite monitoring of the Amazon region.
Bolsonaro’s eldest son, Flavio, who is also a senator, recently proposed a “forest reform” which would mean that the farmers do not need to have 50%-80% of their land covered by forest, which is mandatory now.
This would be yet another blow to an already battered Amazon, and would open an area larger than Iran for various environmentally destructive industries.
Previously, reports have come about how environmental activists and indigenous people who are fighting against disastrous projects are actively harassed, threatened, attacked and even murdered for their resistance.
These activists now fear that things will get even worse. Most of these attacks are made by the very companies that profit from the devastation of the forests.
Carlos Rittl, head of the NGO Climate Observatory, which is a coalition of various environmental law groups told The Guardian:
“The spike in deforestation is depressing, but hardly surprising: you have a government in Brazil who is dismantling nearly every environmental policy put in place since 1992 and who is harassing federal environmental agents, thus empowering environmental criminals…”
Rainforests are vital to the entire earth’s ecosystem. The devastation threatens their role as a heat regulator, as they transport heat from the equator to the various sub-tropical areas of the earth.
The destruction of the Amazon means that it tends to get cooler along the equator. They also provide for a great deal of rainfall as large amounts of water cycle through the forests.
With less rainforest there will be less rainfall, this affects both the winds and temperatures. It also affects the water flows, which in turn means worsening climate change all over the world.
The earth is under attack by capitalism and its political representatives like Bolsonaro and Trump. Not only the environment, but also human rights are being attacked in an unprecedented way.
For capitalism, research and science are but a folly that stands in the way of increased profits.
There is only one way out of the looming climate catastrophe – a socialist world where everything and everyone’s needs can be met and where society is democratically controlled from below.
This requires a grassroots fight for the environment, for people’s welfare, and for equal rights for all. We must fight to put this destructive capitalist system in the junkyard of history.
By Robert Bielecki