G7 can’t turn a blind eye to ecocide in the Amazon

(The Guardian, 25 Aug 2019) Leaders must ask themselves if Jair Bolsonaro’s destructive attitude to the forest and its peoples should be considered a crime.

When G7 leaders sit in judgment on Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro this weekend, the question they should ask themselves is whether the rape of the natural world should finally be treated as a crime. The language of sexual violence will be familiar to the former army captain, who publicly admires the sadistic torturers of the dictatorship era and once said to a congresswoman, “I would never rape you because you are not worth it.” Last month, after Pope Francis and European leaders expressed concern about the Amazon, Bolsonaro lashed back by claiming: “Brazil is a virgin that every foreign pervert desires.”

As a nationalist, the president sees the Amazon in terms of ownership and sovereignty. As a chauvinist, he sees the region as a possession to be exploited and opened up, rather than cherished and nurtured.

Since taking power eight months ago, Bolsonaro has, layer by layer, stripped the rainforest of protections. First, he weakened the environment ministry and put it in the hands of a minister convicted of environmental fraud. Second, he undermined the agency responsible for monitoring the forest, Ibama. Third, he alienated Norway and Germany, the main donors to forest-protection causes. Fourth, he tried to hide what was happening by sacking the head of the space agency responsible for satellite data on destruction. Fifth, he accused environmental charities of starting fires and working for foreign interests. And sixth, he verbally attacked Amazon dwellers – the indigenous and Quilombola communities who depend on a healthy forest.

With these defences down, the president has encouraged outsiders from the mining, logging and farming industries to take advantage of economic opportunities. The results have been brutal. Last month, deforestation surged by 278%. This month is almost certain to be a record for August under the current monitoring system. The wounds are impossible to cover up. The Amazon’s fires are now burning on front pages, news broadcasts and social networks across the world.

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The Guardian, 25 Aug 2019: G7 can’t turn a blind eye to ecocide in the Amazon