Thirteen years after Al Gore’s environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth alerted the mass public about the looming climate crisis, the reality of the disaster predicted in the film has made itself plainly manifest.
Glaciers are melting worldwide, global temperatures are setting new records, and the Amazon rainforest is disappearing rapidly in the biggest fires in the recorded history of the region.
Despite the clear evidence before our eyes, climate change denial still reigns in the Republican Party as the de rigueur stance on environmental issues, a position championed by Donald Trump as the party’s anti-science cheerleader and the exemplifier of its heinous philosophy of profit and greed over planetary survival.
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Now, a new article from The Intercept details how Republican lobbyists helped the simpatico right-wing government of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro corral American companies to assist in turning the Amazon from an environmental treasure to a treasured profit center ripe for exploitation.
As the world’s largest rainforest and the repository of an incalculable amount of precious biodiversity, the Amazon has already lost 1/5th of its tree cover over the past 50 years due to the clearing of land to serve the interests of cattle ranching, mining, and export-focused agribusiness.
While environmentalists have been making every effort to raise awareness about the importance of preserving an area often called “the Earth’s lungs” for the large amount of oxygen generated by its vegetation, the election of Bolsonaro — who styles himself as the Brazilian counterpart to Donald Trump and who revels in being called “Captain Chainsaw” for his relentless promotion of logging and agribusiness in the Amazon — has spelled an end to a period when the rate of deforestation had slowed down as Brazilian and international environmentalists raised the consciousness of the importance of the rainforest to the continued existence of life on earth.
After Bolsonaro cut funding for Brazil’s main environmental agency by 24 percent and blamed international NGOs rather than his own anti-environmental policies for the 83% increase in fires in the region, The Intercept revealed that the governor of the state of Amazonas — which contains about a third of Brazil’s Amazonian rainforest — had begun working with the Interamerica Group, a Washington, D.C.–based lobbying firm founded by Jerry Pierce Jr., to promote the Amazon region for its development potential.
According to The Intercept, The Interamerica Group has already filed an informational packet assembled for U.S. companies on behalf of the Brazilian governor, promoting the Amazon region for its opportunities in mining, agribusiness, and the “Gas and Chemical Industry.” Among the “Challenges” the document lists for these potential businesses is the mission to “Ensure Forest Conservation.”
While that challenge would be easily met by refusing to contribute to the loss of rainforest by simply not establishing business operations in the threatened areas, the Republican operatives behind the Interamerica Group treat the Brazilian environment with the same contempt they show to federal land in the United States where Trump and his cronies have opened up formerly protected areas to energy companies for exploration and exploitation.
Pierce, the man behind The Interamerica Group, is a former HUD official who worked in the George H.W. Bush administration and who pled guilty to making illegal “conduit contributions” on behalf of others to the George W. Bush campaign.
Now a major Trump supporter, Pierce wrote the following on his blog on the company’s website in 2017:
Under a President Trump,” Brazil could become “a world leader in industries such as agribusiness, mining, banking, and aviation.”
More recently he celebrated the ascension of the ultra-conservative Bolsonaro to the Brazilan presidency by declaring that “Donald Trump paved the way for a Bolsonaro victory.”
In the universe of the global right-wing nationalists, Trump and Bolsonaro are two peas in a pod, denying the climate emergency while seeking to profit as much as possible as the planet burns its way towards uninhabitability. If Bolsonaro were not so much like Trump, the American president would surely have berated the Brazilian leader for his failure to rake his rainforests while blaming him for the Amazonian infernos.
The only way to prevent GOP opportunists from exploiting the current lax environmental stewardship that Brazil’s current government exhibits is regime change in both countries, but in the meantime boycotting any company that contributes to deforestation by establishing a presence in the Amazon will have to suffice.
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Original reporting by Lee Fang at The Intercept.