An Elected Despot
In case you missed it, Brazilian elections went down this week. Regrettably, the extreme-right candidate, Jair Bolsonaro won the Presidency (The Guardian). Notorious for his disdain of social issues, Bolsonaro prides himself in being a “tough guy” with a sympathy for dictatorships. It’s wretched news for progressives, believers in equality & social justice, environmentalists, and the country’s Indigenous.
Indeed, Bolsonaro has declared the Amazon open for business, and expressed time and again his hostility for the Indigenous and those who would avert the destruction and deforestation of the rainforests (CBC). As a result, this is also really bad news for those of us who are dependent on the planet’s life support systems (aka oxygen).
Right in the Feels
This is truly awful. I want to normally share positive stories of encouragement on this site, but we also have to face the present reality. As much as we need to be moving in the direction of renewables and limiting fossil fuels and deforestation, the political trend seems to be at odds with the scientific consensus (see Running Low On Time). It hurts, but we must press on! Brazil will survive this. The Brazilian Amazon absolutely needs to survive this.
Consider the Response
I’ve decided to put together some information here on what you can do about it. Certainly, the more you learn about Bolsonaro, his behaviour and practices, the more angry and frustrated you may become that this terrible person was elected.
Unfortunately, it happened. As it has already happened in other parts of the world. There are times when these awful humans take charge, and we need to respond. I would encourage you to channel that energy and frustration towards trying to do good for the people and environment of Brazil. There are steps you can take, even as a non-citizen, and I will provide with some links below.
Last Week Tonight Takes a Look at Jair Bolsonaro
Trouble For the Amazon
Just so it’s clear what kind of person Bolsonaro is, I put up this episode of Jon Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. Oliver provides you a pretty good rundown, but you can also find a lot more online if you start looking. Bolsonaro is a career politician, having been in government for over 30 years, so there is plenty of evidence delineating his offensive behaviour and foul language (Democracy Now).
Bolsonaro has also extended that same animosity and distain that he demonstrates towards women, homosexuals and black people, towards the environment and the Indigenous. He has already expressed his intent for both withdrawing Brazil from the Paris Climate Accord (Scientific American), as well as removing environmental protections for the Amazon.
Bad for Brazil
Since his electoral victory, Bolsonaro has already decided to merge the office of the environment with that of agriculture. Yet another sign that the environment is under direct threat from the mining and agricultural industries. Big developers, many of them foreign (Canada and the US for instance), have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to carve up one of the last natural refuges on the earth.
To try and help curb the destruction of the rainforest, you can support organizations that are actively working to protect the Indigenous, and by consequence the environment (and vice versa). Amazon Watch is one such excellent organization that has been working hard to protect Indigenous Rights and the Brazilian Rainforest.
Another really cool organization is Survival International. They support and protect tribal rights around the world, including the Brazilian Awá. There is also the Rainforest Trust, an organization dedicated to purchasing and preserving rainforests around the world. They currently have a number of projects defending the Amazon.
There are also plenty of small grassroots organizations that help individual communities, but connecting with the above mentioned ones will get your foot in the door and already have an impact. Your contribution helps! By all means, join their pledge or make a donation if you can. If funds are tight, you can also help by sharing their message so that more people become aware of what’s at stake. Which leads me to my next point.
Spread the Word
Sharing what’s going down is genuinely helpful. While you may have already known what was happening in Brazil, even before you came across this blog post, there are a lot of people out there who don’t. Share your knowledge!
Calling to attention wrongdoings and injustices is key. It’s part of the first steps in doing something about it. Unfortunately, there is so much abuse and injustice still taking place in the world, that there already exists a game-plan for tackling it. Even with regards having a wannabe despot take power in a modern democracy. This too, happens with disappointing frequency.
There are actions you can take! For instance, after Trump was elected President in the US, author-economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich but together a “Resistance Agenda.” It centered around social activism & communication. Writing and sharing are key components of this. A similar approach can be applied towards Bolsonaro and his destructive intentions.
Reach Out To Your Reps
Part of the “Resistance Agenda” involves reaching out to your elected representatives. For those of us who are not Brazilian citizens we can still contact our government reps to express our concern for the Amazon and its people. If the new Brazilian government wants to do business with the international community, it needs to know that it has to respect the existing rights of the Indigenous or face consequences.
I know this might seem like a tough thing to do at first. Contacting your government rep maybe doesn’t sound like something you’d do on a day-to-day. You do however probably already communicate with people (in person, phone, or email), so why not your rep?!
Give it a try! They’re people too, and their job is to serve your interests and the interests of your community. Even if your community happens to be in Canada for instance, your Rep can still bring it up in government. Your elected representatives have a responsibility to express the concerns of their constituents, even if it pertains to the threat to the Amazon. It’s literally what your legislators are paid to do.
Watch What You Eat
Lastly, watch what you consume. Try to cut down on your carbon footprint. This means cutting back on fossil fuels (and fossil fuel products, aka plastics) as well as your paper consumption. Try and eat less meat.
Especially meat from Brazil! So much of the rainforest is being cleared to satisfy international consumer demand for meat (beef), that it’s worth trying to curb significantly.
This also implies selecting from from brands and manufactures that work with the environment rather than simply pillage it. Hold companies accountable if they are guilty of deforesting, and opt for alternative brands.
The Rainforest Alliance is one such certification (maybe you’ve already seen the little tree frog logo), that indicates whether the product is made with sustainable practices.
A Message of Hope
The Brazilian people will ultimately overcome this trying period (see MLK). I’m confident that the good will eventually win out, but it does still feel incredible that such a man was elected in the first place, given his behaviour and convictions. Brazilians are some of the most open, liberal, and progressive people I’ve known or met. They often stand out for being especially warm and friendly! Which adds to the shock of Bolsonaro’s victory. How can they have picked such a leader?
I have no doubt that the analysts have answers. That the Brazilians I’ve met over my lifetime also happened to have been educated and well-traveled, while those still living in Brazil have been going through tough times, further exacerbated by the threat of violence and political corruption. That in times of despair people look to a strong leader who promises to clean house.
However, history has proven to us time and again, that men like Bolsonaro are not the answer. It can feel pretty discouraging. Fortunately, history has also taught us that such men are eventually overcome and left behind on the path to progress. I urge you to remain hopeful and do what you can to work for a better world!