Ecology vs. Economy in right-wing Brazil; Greta’s call for climate correction

The new Brazilian president’s plans for the Amazon come on the heels of decades of deforestation following the construction of roads and hydropower facilities during the 1960s and 1970s.

By electing Jair Bolsonaro as the new President, Brazil, the largest country in South America, has decided to go the way of the Philippines, the U.S., and Hungary, putting an extreme far-right leader to govern a democratic nation. His election slogan stoked populist sentiments but, is ultimately, typical to right-wing demagogues – inherently selfish, profit-driven and detrimental to the rich ecological estate of the country.

Three pillars in Bolsonaro’s slogan won him the Brazilian presidency — of ‘The Bible, Bullet and Beef’. The first two – ‘The Bible’ (referring to Bolsonaro’s allying with the evangelical and conservative Catholic forces propagating harsh social ideals such as against abortion or gender equality) and ‘Bullet’ (referring to promising the use of military force to enforce state justice) are common promises made by right-wing populist groups all around the world to win themselves to power. Rousing conservative religious sentiments won power in India (Hindutva) and Japan (Nippon Kaigi); meanwhile, the promise to enforce authoritarian state justice through the armed forces and ‘end corruption’ was active in the case of Philippines.

The third pillar of Bolsonaro’s slogan – ‘Beef’ is, uniquely, a peculiar sentiment that he managed to aggravate among his voters in Brazil. It includes various commercial sectors such as the agricultural, livestock, mining, energy and logging industries. These businesses have chaffed at environmental and labour regulations that prevent easy access to the 1.6-billion-acre Amazon rainforest and other protected areas. Bolsonaro spoke of these regulations as restrictions on the sovereignty of Brazil placed by the United Nations. But his proposals will not give sovereignty back to Brazilians. They will placate commercial interests based in Canada, Switzerland, the U.S. and Australia. The unique ecosystem of Brazil now stands at risk, facing the clash of ecology vs. economy in the wake of ‘pro-business’ policies promised by the incumbent President, causing serious alarm among climate activists world-wide.

Bolsonaro in Davos

Addressing the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, Bolsonaro vowed to implement economic growth alongside environmental protection. “The environment must go hand-in-hand with development efforts: One should not of course emphasize one more than the other,” he said in his keynote address.

“We plan to work in harmony with the world, and in sync with the whole world, in terms of decarbonizing the economy, reducing CO2 emissions, and of course preserving the environment.”

Critics fear his policies to boost growth could mean a relaxation of environmental protections.

During the campaign, Bolsonaro vowed to pull Brazil from the Paris accord — only to backtrack after winning and promising to stay. Scientists say Brazil won’t be able to meet its emission targets if he rolls back environmental regulations and opens up more of the oxygen-rich Amazon to mining and farming.

Hours after he took office, Bolsonaro transferred the regulation and creation of indigenous reserves to the agriculture ministry, a decision that was seen as a victory for agribusiness.

“There will be an increase in deforestation and violence against indigenous people,” said Dinaman Tuxá, the executive coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous People of Brazil (Apib). “Indigenous people are defenders and protectors of the environment.”

“Previously, demarcation of indigenous reserves was controlled by the indigenous agency Funai, which has been moved from the justice ministry to a new ministry of women, family and human rights controlled by an evangelical pastor,” according to The Guardian.

Greta Thunberg’s clarion call for climate action

“Our house is on fire. I am here to say, our house is on fire.”

Greta Thunberg, 16, believes in speaking the truth. To power.

The global elite was assembled for the World Economic Forum in Davos from 22-25 January 2019. At a forum where the likes of Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump are routinely selected as the keynote speakers, she threw down the gauntlet to the powerful, telling them that our planet is facing an existential crisis.

“Either we choose to go on as a civilisation or we don’t. That is as black or white as it gets. There are no grey areas when it comes to survival,” she said on the final day.

She alluded to opulence which permeates the rhetoric of the Davos leaders. “Here in Davos – just like everywhere else – everyone is talking about money. It seems money and growth are our only main concerns,” she said.

And gave her mind about what must change. “And since the climate crisis has never once been treated as a crisis, people are simply not aware of the full consequences on our everyday life. People are not aware that there is such a thing as a carbon budget, and just how incredibly small that remaining carbon budget is. That needs to change today,” she said.

Contrasting “a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people” with lives of the attendees, she said, “At places like Davos, people like to tell success stories. But their financial success has come with an unthinkable price tag. And on climate change, we have to acknowledge we have failed. All political movements in their present form have done so, and the media has failed to create broad public awareness.”

Emphasis on public action was the keystone of her speech. “No other current challenge can match the importance of establishing a wide, public awareness and understanding of our rapidly disappearing carbon budget, that should and must become our new global currency and the very heart of our future and present economics.

“We are at a time in history where everyone with any insight of the climate crisis that threatens our civilisation – and the entire biosphere – must speak out in clear language, no matter how uncomfortable and unprofitable that may be.

“We must change almost everything in our current societies. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility.”

The elites mustn’t forget that their survival,too, is linked with earth’s survival. Thus, she concluded , “I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

According to a The Guardian report, “The Paris climate agreement set a target of no more than 2°C global warming above pre-industrial temperatures, but also an aspirational target of no more than 1.5°C. That’s because many participating countries – especially island nations particularly vulnerable to sea level rise – felt that even 2°C global warming is too dangerous. But there hadn’t been a lot of research into the climate impacts at 1.5°C vs. 2°C, and so the UN asked the IPCC to publish a special report summarizing what it would take to achieve the 1.5°C limit and what the consequences would be of missing it.

“Depending on how we define ‘pre-industrial temperatures’ and how fast we keep consuming fossil fuels, we’ll likely burn through the rest of the 1.5°C carbon budget within the next 3 to 10 years. To stay below 1.5°C, the IPCC therefore concludes the world must embark on a World War II-level effort to transition away from fossil fuels, and also start removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at large scales – anywhere from 400bn to 1.6tn tons of it.”

 

 

Tune in to our podcast for a detailed discussion.

 

 

Sources: The Hindu, BBC, The Guardian
Compiled by: Joydeep Bose, Leah Thomas, Joydeep Sarkar

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