More than 50 years ago, when I was in seventh grade, a teacher introduced my geography class to a new concept: “the environment.” No mention of climate change or global warming. Just “the environment.” And his example was an area that was fascinating for the boys assembled before him: The Amazon, with its vast expanse of trees and rivers, its piranha fish and uncontacted tribes. He also explained that the huge forest was of great importance because it sucked carbon dioxide from the air and replaced it with oxygen.
Memories of this class were revived about a year ago when a study by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) revealed that the Brazilian portion of the Amazon — by far the largest — now emits more carbon into the atmosphere than it absorbs. This is largely due to the large-scale deforestation of the area by small- and large-scale farmers, much of it by burning.
And now the recollections have been rekindled by the current presidential race in Brazil between the incumbent, right-winger Jair Bolsonaro, and a former leftist president, Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, a contest that has now gone to a runoff later this month after neither candidate topped 50% of the votes on Sunday. For the Brazilian Amazon, it could be a life-or-death decision…
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