Brazil is home to more than half of the world’s plant and animal species, but its ecological paradises are facing growing threats from big business and criminal outfits who have found a champion in far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, experts say. Brazil’s rich biodiversity is under attack from multiple fronts, including landowners who cut down multi-storied trees to make way for soya bean crops, clandestine miners who pollute rivers used by indigenous people, and timber traffickers who decimate valuable species. Bolsonaro, a climate-change skeptic who was swept to power in last October’s elections by the support of powerful farming and mining lobby groups, is on their side. His anti-environment rhetoric has included a pledge to end “Shiite ecologist activism,” using the word “Shiite” as a synonym for radicalism rather than denoting a branch of Islam. “It sends a message to farmers and especially organized crime mafias who invade the land to occupy it,” said Emilio La Rovere, head of the environmental studies laboratory at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. The rate of deforestation in the Amazon, which slowed dramatically from 2004 to 2012, resurged in January, the month Bolsonaro took power, according to conservation group Imazon. It rose 54… Read full this story
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