Jair Bolsonaro’s assault on the Amazon rainforest

First posted January 2, 2019

NB: Two things arise from these and related developments for us to think about:

1./ The nation-state as an institution is detrimental for the health of the environment. Environment and ecological issues are global, but nationalism makes us think that natural resources like clean air, water and forests are somehow the property of ‘nations’. We have forgotten that the national state is a recent phenomenon.

2./ In the last chapter of The Rebel, Albert Camus reminded us that ‘real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present’. This was the clue he gave us for understanding ideologies – thought systems that motivate us to focus on an ever-retreating Glorious Future, while we destroy the Present. (It is also related to the obsession with reducing presence to transience, as in ‘being is becoming). 

But we must be careful not to be deceived by the misuse of this warning. Ideologies like that of Trump and Bolsonaro can also, in the name of respecting the present and the immediate interests of their voters, play havoc with the very possibility of a sustainable future. The ideological trick is to pretend that not only cultures and peoples, but even space and time are ‘national’; that we can have global warming in one country, and no-risk climate in another. The health of the Amazon delta or the Tibetan plateau or the Arctic ice, or the Himalayan river systems is not merely the business of the countries that exercise  sovereignty over these places, their health concerns all the species that depend upon them. Nuclear contamination and the ozone hole are not national phenomena.

To give all to the present becomes meaningless unless the idea of the present embraces all of us who live in it, not just those who voted for these mindless demagogues. We cannot nationalise time: DS

Jair Bolsonaro launches assault on Amazon rainforest protections

Hours after taking office, Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has launched an assault on environmental and Amazon protections with an executive order transferring the regulation and creation of new indigenous reserves to the agriculture ministry – which is controlled by the powerful agribusiness lobby. The move sparked outcry from indigenous leaders, who said it threatened their reserves, which make up about 13% of Brazilian territory, and marked a symbolic concession to farming interests at a time when deforestation is rising again.

“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 . “Indigenous people are defenders and protectors of the environment.” Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous leader who stood as vice-presidential candidate for the Socialism and Freedom party (PSOL) tweeted her opposition. “The dismantling has already begun,” she posted on Tuesday.  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.

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The decision was included in an executive order which also gave Bolsonaro’s government secretary potentially far-reaching powers over non-governmental organizations working in Brazil. The temporary decree, which expires unless it is ratified by congress within 120 days, mandates that the office of the government secretary, Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz, “supervise, coordinate, monitor and accompany the activities and actions of international organizations and non-governmental organizations in the national territory”.

Bolsonaro, who has often criticised Brazilian and international NGOs who he accuses of “sticking their noses into Brazil”, defended the measure in a tweet on Wednesday. “More than 15% of national territory is demarcated as indigenous land and quilombos. Less than a million people live in these places, isolated from true Brazil, exploited and manipulated by NGOs. Together we will integrate these citizens,” he posted. Separately, the incoming health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, suggested on Wednesday that there would be spending cuts on healthcare for indigenous people. “We have figures for the general public that are much below what is spent on healthcare for the indigenous,” he said, without providing details.

During last year’s election campaign, Bolsonaro promised to end demarcation of new indigenous lands, reduce the power of environmental agencies and free up mining and commercial farming on indigenous reserves. His measure also gave the agriculture ministry power over new quilombos: rural settlements inhabited by descendants of former slaves… read more:


see also

End of nations: Is there an alternative to countries?

Endnotes: Capitalism and surplus people