The month before Brazil’s October 30 presidential election was the most brutal of Jair Bolsonaro’s term as president. Landowners rushed to illegally clear forest while they could rely on the impunity that had been a characteristic of the Bolsonaro era. From my home in Altamira, I could see flames on the other side of the Xingu River from a blaze large enough to generate its own lightning. Most other days in September and October, my asthmatic lungs tightened and the horizon was shrouded in haze as a consequence of the rushed burn-off.
For anyone who cares about the climate and nature conservation, the election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his speech after his narrow victory were the first breaths of fresh air in Brazil in more than four years.
That period — the extreme-right Bolsonaro’s term of office — had been characterized by forest fires, land clearance, invasions of Indigenous territory, the gutting of protection agencies, and rhetoric from government ministers that condoned illegal extraction and condemned NGOs that attempted to halt the destruction. Nothing was allowed to get in the way of business — not the environment, not human rights, seemingly not even the law.
What a contrast then, when Lula — as the veteran of the center-left Workers Party is known — used his first speech after the results were confirmed to announce that Brazil will protect the Amazon and other biomes, and resume its leading role in the fight against the climate crisis. [Continue reading…]