General elections to elect both President and Vice President were held in Brazil on October 2nd. A runoff election was held to determine the true winner on October 30th, since no presidential candidate reached 50% of the vote. The results? Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (referred to as one name: Lula) defeated the current president Jair Messias Bolsonaro with 50.9% of the vote.
To understand the importance of this in the realm of environmentalism, look at the Amazon Rainforest and the recent history of its deforestation. In 2005, it was predicted that the Amazon Rainforest would be reduced by 40% by 2025. Under Lula’s first presidency, deforestation soon slowed down drastically and the estimates were far more positive. However, as soon as Bolsonaro got into office the rates of deforestation began to rise again at an alarming rate.
So why is the Amazon Rainforest so important for the environment? To begin, there are over 70 billion tons of carbon dioxide stored there. Could you imagine if this was all released into the atmosphere? Each day, the rainforest alone releases over 20 billion tons of water into the atmosphere. Moreover, a plethora of indigenous tribes reside in the rainforest and deforestation is stripping their home away.
The two candidates have made their different stances on the rainforest issue very clear, both in their respective terms and in this race. Lula has promised to aim for absolutely no deforestation over his next term. On the other hand, Bolsonaro has made it very clear that the protection of the rainforest is not a priority for him.
Explained by John Otis of NPR, “Lula promised to aim for zero deforestation over the next four years. And one of the ways that he wants to do that is to beef up law enforcement and government agencies that protect the environment. And this is key because these agencies were just totally gutted under Bolsonaro, the outgoing president. Bolsonaro also allowed for a kind of free-for-all of mining, ranching and farming in the jungle. And all of this led to this huge spike in deforestation.”
So needless to say, environmentalists are thrilled by this election. However, it may very well still be an uphill battle from here. Lula’s unofficial slogan in this election was “Make Brazil 2002 Again”, referring to the first year Lula was president; but it’s not 2002 right now. It’s 2022, and Brazil has changed dramatically since Lula left office.
Thiago Amparo, a Brazilian law professor, talks to CNN about the troubles Lula may have with Brazil’s congress. “Seats that were from the traditional right are now occupied by the far right, who are not open to negotiation and not easy to deal with.”
It’s very possible that Lula will not be able to accomplish everything he has promised when it comes to the Amazon Rainforest. Although one thing is for sure, the Amazon will be treated like royalty in comparison to how it was treated under Bolsonaro.