There May Be Another Big Winner in Brazil

Environmentalists see da Silva's victory as huge for the Amazon rainforest
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 1, 2022 11:23 AM CDT
Another Big Winner in Brazil May Be the Amazon
An area of forest on fire near a logging area in Humaita, Amazonas state, Brazil, on Sept. 17, 2022. Brazil President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has promised to reverse a surge in deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.   (AP Photo/Edmar Barros, File)

Supporters of Luis Inacio Lula da Silva are still celebrating his win over Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. Supporters of the Amazon rainforest are doing the same. New Scientist points out that environmentalist Erika Berengeur of the University of Oxford was in tears as she spoke about the ouster of Bolsonaro as president. "During the past four years, the Amazon has been threatened, attacked, and destroyed as the government openly promoted environmental crimes,” she says. “It was like having to silence a scream inside you every day as you watched the object of your life, your career and passion destroyed."

The New Scientist and other outlets toss out the stats on the Amazon's recent decline: Brazil lost about 12,000 square miles of jungle from 2019, when Bolsonaro assumed power, to 2021, per the New York Times. The Washington Post puts the number of trees cut down on Bolsonaro's watch at 2 billion. The outgoing president unapologetically encouraged deforestation of the jungle, and the rate surged to a 15-year high as he removed environmental protections, according to New Scientist. About 17% of the rainforest is now gone, per a 2021 assessment, and if the figure reaches 20% to 25%, the rate of its decline may accelerate to the point of no return, per Vox.

Lula, as da Silva is known, made the Amazon a central part of his campaign. “We will prove once again that it’s possible to generate wealth without destroying the environment," he said in a victory speech Sunday night. What cheers environmentalists is that Lula has the track record to suggest his words matter. When he and predecessor Dilma Rouseff were in power, deforestation actually plunged by more than 70% in Brazil between 2004 and 2016. Bolsonaro reversed the trend dramatically when he assumed office. (Meanwhile, as of Tuesday morning, Bolsonaro still had not conceded the race.)

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