Brazillian President Jair Bolsonaro has put the World Heritage site up for sale
David Meneghel, Contributor
Illustration by Robyn Beyleveldt
Immediately after taking office as Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro transferred the power of certifying Indigenous territories as protected lands to the ministry of agriculture (tenderly nicknamed the “agrobusiness” ministry). It is common knowledge in Brazil that such protected lands are one of the biggest reasons as to why the Amazon hasn’t yet become a desert and also why it still holds some of its ability to regulate climate.
As a Canadian citizen you may be wondering, “Okay, so, how does this impact me?” In BC, the last declaration of a state of emergency due to wildfires before the 2017 and 2018 seasons was in 2003. Not doing anything to prevent further uncontrolled destruction of the Amazon may have an impact in accelerating these issues throughout the upcoming years. Although Brazil feels far away, these problems are closer than we think.
Back to South America – with the agriculture ministry holding rights to such land demarcation, removal of Indigenous people from their land for “economic growth purposes,” the use of brute force by police will no longer be questioned, especially with the promised extinction of the human rights ministry. In fact, the human rights ministry will now be run by a evangelical pastor, Damares Alves, who will oversee the rights of women, families and Indigenous peoples. This decision has been met with much criticism and concern because the Amazon rainforest is predominantly Indigenous land.
The good side, if there is one, is that if this new president is really going to kick Indigenous people out of their land and sell off parts of a national and world heritage site, at least that may allow external entities to either buy land and protect it, or to push Brazilian government into creating more effective exploration standards (call it less destructive) and stricter regulations directed to control excessive deforestation of the Amazon.
2018 was Brazil’s highest year for deforestation and with such “good” and “well thought out” policies being put into action by this new government, expect 2019 to take things to the next level. The weather may change harshly and not for the best if the “world’s lung” fades into oblivion and destruction.