The Amazon rainforest is one of the largest carbon sinks in the world and home to a tremendous diversity of animals, plants and fungi. The preservation of the Amazon should be considered one of the highest priorities of our generation, if we are to ward off the worst effects of climate change. A man has just played a huge role in moving this preservation forward by leaps and bounds, and…I have mixed feelings about it, or at least HOW he did it.
Reports earlier this year made it clear that the combination of rising temperatures and declining rainfall resulting from climate change, along with fires in the Amazon and decades-long deforestation practices (mainly to create space for cows to graze and grow cow food – mainly GMO soybeans and corn) had a noticeable and long-lasting effect. The multiple stressors on the ecosystem have combined to put the Amazon on the path to a critical tipping point in which the ecosystem may very well look more like an African savannah than a dripping tropical rainforest. This would reduce the amount of carbon sequestration by a hard-to-understand amount, just when the world needs carbon sinks more than ever.
Fires have become more common in the Amazon, hard to imagine for a place that receives as much rain as the Amazon. But the problem with rainforests is that the soils tend to be thin. Nutrients and biomass are mainly found in the vegetation itself, not in the soil. The soils of deciduous forests, for example, in the eastern United States or central Europe, are much thicker and livelier – and therefore more resilient. Once you’ve cleared the trees of a rainforest, the thin soil can dry out quite quickly, a process that can lead to desertification. This, in a nutshell, is what has been happening in the Amazon for decades. Clearcuts around the edges begin the process. Cattle grazing and creating a GMO monoculture growing food for cows further dries out and thins the remaining soil, and the resulting ecosystem is much less resistant to fires, which then spread much further and further. quickly than ever before. The land changes from rainforest to semi-permanent grassland. As the nutrients are gone and the soil thins, it can no longer support cattle grazing, so more land is cleared – land that will be useful for this purpose for a few years before it is gone. also lose their vital capacities. And the process repeated itself until the nausea.
The rise of Jair Bolsonaro (nicknamed “the Trump of the South”) to the presidency of Brazil has worried environmentalists around the world, and for good reason. Bolsonaro’s policy towards the Amazon seemed to be “do what you want”. Accusations of intentional arson and land clearing were prevalent during Bolsonaro’s tenure, but oversight and investigation of potential arson was effectively non-existent. It may have been an indirect endorsement, but clearly a winking type of endorsement, backed up by a lack of application. Livestock and livestock feed have replaced the rainforest at a rate probably unprecedented in world history.
It’s a familiar problem – short-term jobs versus the environment. It’s becoming an all too easy political tool for politicians looking to score points on economic growth, an issue that matters to more voters than climate change. We have seen this time and time again – for example Dick Cheney’s ‘Clean Water’ Act of 2006 which allowed oil and gas drillers to keep secret the chemicals they use to lubricate their drilling equipment and extract the oil and gas. This helps prevent community protests around toxic chemicals (see documentary Gasland read more), and thus stimulates short-term job growth in unsustainable industries. Short-term economic gain = political points and huge financial gifts to those who fund your campaign. The same was true in Brazil under Bolsonaro, and short-term, unsustainable jobs (pardon the pun) trumped global economic and environmental health in the minds of many Brazilian voters.
Bolsonaro just lost his re-election bid and will be replaced by Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, a man who has vowed to watch the Amazon carefully and help preserve it and its carbon draw. Lula da Silva’s campaign received a significant boost from André Janones, a little-known figure in Brazil, who argued that the Brazilian political left should take off the gloves and fight fire with fire.
According Reuters, Janones admitted to using tactics such as “ad hominem attacks, exaggerations and even physical confrontations with opponents”. In an interview, Janones said that to win, left-wing Brazilian parties had to “steal a page from Bolsonaro’s playbook”.
“…we have to save democracy,” Janones said. “Look at the scenario we live in.”
Bolsonaro is no stranger to this sort of tactic. He used it to win last time around, and throughout this campaign this time around, his ads frequently instilled fear and aimed to sow division in Brazil by beating the usual drum of ‘crime will explode’. , the economy will collapse, the churches will be closed”. , and everything you have won will be taken away from you” if a leftist comes to power, according to Fabio Malini, professor of new media at the Federal University of Espirito Santo.
By the way, and to be fair to Bolsonaro, this was not his playbook – it was the result of decades of think tanks funded by oil and gas tycoons that produced winning formulas for political fights. Steve Bannon has become the best-known emissary for these practices, as he coached Bolsonaro to use the same tactics that brought far-right leaders to power in Italy, the United States, Brazil, Britain and in many other places. Many of these tactics involve inducing anger and fear through the use of deception and the deliberate dissemination of false information. I’m not sure I need to say more about this – there’s a treasure trove of examples of this, reaching every target demographic and every corner of the internet. Here has Clean Technica, we mostly monitor these types of things when they affect the climate (we cover deliberate misinformation, the use of red herrings, bad reporting and outright lies that create fear, uncertainty and doubt about climate change and solutions). But… Obama as a Muslim, Obama not being born in America, Hillary running a pedophile pizzeria (a fake story, but a real pizzeria that was then literally attacked by a QAnon believer with a real AR-15 and hundreds rounds of real ammo)… the list goes on and on.
Bolsonaro has even been widely accused of using government money to deliberately spread this type of misinformation. Opponents have described Bolsonaro’s “Hate Cabinet” akin to government-controlled media becoming pure propaganda for the incumbent.
Janones used these same tactics to attack and undermine Bolsonaro. He just went ahead and accused Bolsonaro of being a paedophile, citing a podcast interview Bolsonaro did in which he visited the home of underage Venezuelan girls and seemed to recognize that they were prostitutes. Given how far the QAnon conspiracy theory has caught on with the American electorate (especially among the uneducated), it’s clear that the insinuation of pedophilia is one that taints any reputation, even if it’s totally unfounded. The fact that there is a piece of evidence that could potentially bolster the claim that Bolsonaro is a pedophile seems to be working. Janones also used old footage of Bolsonaro speaking in Masonic lodges to insinuate that Bolsonaro had made a secret deal with “godless” Masons, and spread this information to evangelical Christian communities in Brazil.
According to Brazilian political journalist Octavio Guedes, Janones’ efforts were “fundamental” to defeating Bolsonaro.
Even writing this story, I feel like I need to take a shower. Politics is clearly a blood sport, as much as I wish it weren’t.
Will the American political left follow Janones’ example? Will Janones start traveling the world training leftist politicians to hit below the belt in order to win at all costs, Steve Bannon style? It should be noted that Michelle Obama said, in 2016, citing candidate Donald’s lies and dirty tactics, that the Democrats would not take the bait and stoop to the low levels that Donald Trump was using (taking the high road) to try to support Hillary Clinton. candidacy in the final days of the 2016 race. At the time, the race seemed to be Hillary’s race to lose, and polls showed she should have won, so maybe the Democrats didn’t felt the desperation to start punching below the belt or taking the gloves off.
With the fate of the Amazon (and with it, global stability) at stake, Janones took off the gloves and hit hard below the belt, and analysts say it worked.
I celebrate the preservation of the Amazon, but I don’t feel good about this race to the bottom. I wrote about a non-political way to save the Amazon a while ago – it’s my favorite global worldview. But mine is decidedly and unfortunately less effective. This turn of events with Janones, while helping to achieve a similar goal, makes me feel like I’m watching a heavyweight fight, where for several rounds now it looked like the referee had turned a blind eye to the punches Americans hidden in a boxer’s gloves, and where now, the other fighter finally got the point and added a little blade to his own.
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