Return of environmental denialism must be fought – 05/27/2023 – Reinaldo José Lopes

Return of environmental denialism must be fought – 05/27/2023 – Reinaldo José Lopes

In a sense, writing about science and the environment during the Bolsonaro government was the easiest thing in the world. In the face of abysmal ignorance and shameless predatory rage, there was no great difficulty in pointing out that 2 plus 2 equals 4. Unfortunately, last week’s news suggests that there is no lack of people around the new federal government willing to say that, you see, at times 2 plus 2 could be 5, why not? All in the name of “development” and “national sovereignty”, of course.

Don’t get me wrong: there is still an abyss of difference between Bolsonarism and the Lula government. But anyone who knows the scale of the disaster that was the installation of the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant knows how dangerous the appeals to “realpolitik” in the case of oil exploration at the mouth of the Amazon, or the possibility that the Ministry of the Environment and that of Indigenous Peoples have their attributions emptied.

The difficulty in refuting the developmental “take a good look” discourse, which has never ceased to be quite popular even on the left of the political spectrum, is that it seems reasonable and moderate, especially if the interlocutor does not have a clear notion of the size of the civilizational hole that we already dug. And, of course, it doesn’t help at all that the Brazilian Congress is full of people who represent the interests of an economy based on the raw extraction of natural resources — whether from the subsoil, whether animal or vegetable protein.

All of this undoubtedly shortens the Lula government’s room for maneuver. But it cannot become a license for last year’s electoral victory –against scientific and environmental denialism– to give way to a new and more palatable version of the same denialism. Some facts are inescapable, no matter how much political expediency kicks and tantrums.

It is simply a lie, for example, to claim that Brazil has not yet had its chance to “pollute to develop”, and that this chance is being denied by developed countries that profited from the devastation of their environments. Whoever starts this little conversation, in this year of Our Lord 2023, is very ill-informed, or dishonest, or perhaps both.

When we consider both the burning of fossil fuels and what specialists call “changes in land use” –deforestation, agricultural and livestock expansion, etc.–, Brazil ranks fourth among the nations that most emit greenhouse gases, the drivers of the climate emergency from the mid-19th century to the present day. The country is behind only the US, China and Russia.

This means (and there is no way to quibble about it without becoming a liar) that Brazil has an important share in the climate disasters that are already happening, and in the worst that will come even in the best of cases. Strictly speaking, there would be no justification for drilling one more oil well on the ground or in Brazilian territorial waters.

The same goes for deforestation and the demarcation of indigenous lands. Those who complain with some variant of the phrases “It’s too much land for too few Indians/That’s going to stifle agricultural production” do so by relying on the interlocutor’s lack of sense of scale, because space, around here, is still left over, even if it doesn’t collapse not even a single yellow ipe. Let our 140 million hectares –or more than two Frances– say just degraded areas, that is, almost not used for agricultural activities.

Even if, at this moment, it is politically unfeasible to guide the country’s development plans based on these facts, the least that is expected, in terms of historical responsibility and basic decency, is not to deny them.

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