Jair Bolsonaro doesn’t want any help with controlling the fires the Amazon — he’s got it covered, supposedly.
The Brazilian president has been unwilling to accept a $22 million offer put forth this week by the G7 nations to assist in putting out some of the fires that have ravaged the Amazonian rainforest (this, despite the fact that he claimed to not have the resources to put the fires out). The only way he will change his mind, apparently, is if French President Emmanuel Macron is willing to issue a public apology and “take back” all of the things that he said about President Bolsonaro. After news of the fires reverberated across mainstream media outlets last week, Macron dished out pointed critique of Bolsonaro’s leadership in the disaster and has questioned the Brazilian president’s commitment to protecting the environment.
Bolsonaro has spun the aid as an attempt by wealthier nations to impose upon Brazil’s sovereignty, accusing the G7 nations of having a “colonial mentality” “We cannot accept that a President, Macron, issues inappropriate and gratuitous attacks against the Amazon,” he tweeted this week. “Nor that he disguises his intentions behind an ‘alliance’ of the G-7 countries to ‘save’ the Amazon, as if it were a colony or no man’s land.” It’s worth nothing that his gripe is so offensively ironic, coming from a leader who has unapologetically likened the indigenous tribes in the rainforest as animals in zoos. We. Can’t. Even.
One of Bolsonaro’s cabinet members snidely suggested that the $22 million be used for “reforesting Europe” — which, to go on a tangent, is a wonderful idea! A study from July concluded that forest restoration is one of the cheapest, most effective paths forward in pulling carbon from the atmosphere. “I thought restoration would be in the top 10,” the lead researcher told the Guardian, “but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.” Part of that effort involves protecting existing forests that are at risk of becoming degraded, which includes the Amazon rainforest and brings us back to the task at hand.
While the $22 million of aid could be put to great use, the reality is that it falls far short of what is needed to protect the Amazon forest. The wealthiest countries in the world will need to put far more resources than this toward climate action if we’re all going to come out of this alive.
The chief program officer of the Rainforest Alliance, Nigel Sizer, explained to NPR that the funds were essentially a symbolic offer and pointed out that the individual contributions that the citizens of the globe have made actually surpass the amount pledged by the G7 nations. He also refuted the notion that Brazil doesn’t have the resources to address this climate emergency. “The fact is that Brazil has the resources and the expertise to address this challenge. Since the Bolsonaro government came into power at the beginning of this year, they have systematically defunded their environmental protection agencies.”