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Brazil President Bolsonaro is waging war on the environment

Chris Chen

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Jair Bolsonaro

Since taking office in January, President Jair Bolsonaro has received widespread condemnation for his staunch, anti-environmental views. His regressive policies have caused a public outcry from indigenous groups and green activists. The former army captain, known for his inflammatory rhetoric, has been a long-standing skeptic of global warming.

Approval of harmful pesticides has caused irreversible damage

Recent reports indicate that Bolsonaro’s administration has greenlighted a record 290 pesticides this year. That brings the total up to over 2,300. Agencies classify around 43 percent of these pesticides as ‘highly or extremely toxic,” and regions ban a large portion of them.

These pesticides are often used only for prevention and not when they are actually needed. This poses a serious health hazard for rural workers. Additionally, experts are worried about the risk of chemicals seeping into farmland and water. These chemicals could eventually reach consumers around the country. 

There are other repercussions as well. New lab research uncovers that through December 2018 and March 2019, a staggering 500 million bees spanning four Brazilian states were killed due to pesticides like neonicotinoids and fipronil. 

If a global overhaul of intensive agriculture does not take place, 40% of insect species, including bees, could go extinct within decades. Bees fill a crucial ecological niche and pollinate as much as 75% of the world’s crops

A grave threat to Amazonia

Brazil is home to much of the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest, which has recently seen a drastic increase in deforestation. 

There have been nearly 75,000 wildfires recorded in 2019 so far, with some blazing so intensely that smoke has traveled thousands of kilometers to São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. 

True-color images show that wildfire smoke is visible from space. Photo: NOAA
True-color images show that wildfire smoke is visible from space. Photo: NOAA

True-color images show that wildfire smoke is visible from space. Photo: NOAA

The rainforest’s natural moisture and humidity prevent natural fires from occurring, which means most of the fires are caused by humans. Aside from the logging industry, farmers clear space for pastures and cropland with uncontrolled slash-and-burn methods.

Earlier this year, Bolsonaro launched a campaign to explore the economic potential of the Amazon. He relaxed environmental regulations and encouraged agribusiness and the mining sector to clear land for development. The administration has passed laws that significantly hampered the legal and institutional framework for environmental licensing and protection. 

Deforestation is happening at an alarming rate

This has led to an unprecedented surge in deforestation rates. According to Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research (INPE), an area the size of one-and-a-half soccer fields is destroyed every minute.

In early August, INPE satellite images also revealed an 88% increase in deforestation in June compared to the previous month. Bolsonaro falsely charged the findings as ‘lies’ and fired the agency’s director, Ricardo Galvão, who had defended the accuracy of the data.

“We cannot accept sensationalism or the disclosure of inaccurate numbers that cause great damage to Brazil’s image,” Bolsonaro said.

Not to mention, the introduction of commercial agribusiness is devastating populations living in parts of the rainforest. Bolsonaro’s plan to assimilate over 800,000 indigenous people and open reservations up for development has been met with resistance. In June, the Supreme Court blocked an attempt to transfer the responsibility of indigenous territories to the country’s agriculture ministry, citing it unconstitutional to encroach on ancestral lands. 

The Amazon is home to 10% of the world’s species and absorbs millions of tons of carbon emissions annually. It is one of the world’s most important natural resources making it critical for future scientific discoveries and advancements. 

A strained foreign policy

During his presidential campaign, then-candidate Bolsonaro viewed the 2015 Paris Accords as a major threat to Brazilian sovereignty. Following the footsteps of President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro promised to pull Brazil out of the deal. Shortly after, though, he backpedaled on that promise. Nonetheless, at its current rate, Brazil won’t meet climate targets set forth by the agreement, even without complete withdrawal.

Then, in late 2018, foreign minister Ernesto Araújo rescinded the offer for Brazil to host the 2019 UN climate talks. This, along with other policies, has created friction between Brazil and other countries.

Tensions rose dramatically between Brazil and several European nations after Brazil announced it would transfer funds intended to protect the Amazon to soybean and cattle farmers. In retaliation, Germany and Norway froze millions of dollars of planned foreign aid.

The dispute threatens the hard-fought EU-Mercosur trade treaty that was ratified in June after nearly two decades of talks. The three other South American countries in the treaty are Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

With Brazil and the United States largely out of the equation, the pressure is mounting around countries like China and India to lead the global climate effort.

The future is on the line

In the past few months, President Bolsonaro and his inner circle of ministers have maintained unethical ties to big business, rejected evidence from the scientific community and ignored demands for the preservation of indigenous lands. It seems likely that the administration will continue with its plans unless international interventions occur.

To slow the acceleration of global temperatures and rising sea levels, bringing pro-climate policies back to Brazil is a vital piece of the puzzle. It’s not too late to turn back.

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Let’s Say Trump Starts A War With Iran. What Would Happen To The Environment?

Ari Kelo

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Since President Trump assassinated Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani via drone-strike on January 3rd, the world has stood still with bated breath. Will war break out between the United States and Iran? If it does, it will certainly destroy lives, properties, and economies. But how would war with Iran affect the environment?

A War With Iran Could Expedite Ecocide

One of the many tragedies of war is the environmental toll it inflicts. And this toll will only be compounded by the constantly rising threat of climate collapse. As the climate crisis becomes more and more dangerous in the 2020s, war (let alone world war) will only expedite its advance.

Much of war’s environmental consequences arise from chemical pollution. Especially in war zones with heavy military vehicle presences, the oil residue will contaminate natural resources. In addition, the uranium found in discarded ammunition rounds can cause radiation, which hurts both plant and human life.

Ramifications of Chemical Weapons

Chemical weapons can also easily produce carcinogenic environments. High radiation levels from chemical warfare can increase the risk of cancer around war zones — alongside poisoning soil, water, and crops.

Not only that, but air force bases can generate toxic fuel spills. These spills contaminate drinking water sources and pollute land and natural resources. Wartime destruction of infrastructure, oil fields, and military bases also cause widespread oil and chemical leaks.

Deforestation Becomes a Bigger Threat

Deforestation becomes a bigger threat during wartime as well. As warfare increases the number of displaced peoples, they often must resort to using timber for warmth in the winter months. Warlords can then take advantage of this demand, furthering deforestation.

To make matters worse, bases will oftentimes purposefully burn military garbage. These ‘burn pits,’ alongside causing long-term health problems, are disastrous for the environment.

And What About Nukes?

A war with Iran, in particular, may promise an added threat. The U.S. has an extensive supply of nuclear weapons at its disposal, although Iran has not pursued a nuclear arsenal. If the U.S. or any other nuclear powers choose to pursue nuclear warfare, the environmental outlook is grim.

Researchers have analyzed the environmental consequences of small-scale nuclear war. Only 100 deployed nuclear weapons would toss so much sun-blocking soot into the atmosphere that the global temperature would lower one degree Celcius.

This may sound like a possible combative to global warming, but the temperature drop would distribute unevenly, mainly targeting inland areas responsible for agriculture. This could cause food insecurity — or nuclear famine — that could reach the whole globe.

If that doesn’t sound too pleasant to you, then you probably won’t like to hear that global precipitation rates would also plummet, as would the security of many food chains.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Carbon Footprint

All those consequences would certainly create an enormous environmental disaster. Unfortunately, another (even larger) environmental disaster must be considered. That disaster is the astronomical carbon footprint of the U.S. Department of Defense, which would only increase in the event of a war with Iran.

Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the U.S. military has emitted around 1,212 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. This is a larger figure than the greenhouse gas emissions of 140 nations combined.

And, based off of 2017 estimates, the military has emitted 59 million tons of carbon dioxide. The Department of Defense is also the number one institutional user of petroleum across the globe. Even without a war with Iran, these numbers are unsustainable.

And, in comparison, the U.S.’s climate defense budget is 0.2% of the Department of Defense’s budget.

All these alarming numbers add up to one climate catastrophe. If a war with Iran is imminent, so is further climate collapse.

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“Addressing climate change” is the #1 issue for 14% of voters in the 2020 election, poll finds

Avery Maloto

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Climate Debate Survey

The last year seems to have been an environmental wake-up call for many, realizing addressing climate change should be a top priority. From company policies to green technology, more and more organizations are engaging with eco-friendly practices. But it’s not just companies — it’s also people like you and me.

It’s not just anecdotal either. Polls and studies are repeatedly finding that people are indeed dedicated to addressing climate change — especially in the 2020 elections. 

With the 2020 elections fast approaching, the public is constantly assessing the qualities of presidential candidates. A new poll finds, almost unsurprisingly, that addressing climate change and protecting the environment are top priorities for many American voters.

New Poll Shows Addressing Climate Change is a Priority

According to an Environmental Voter Project poll, environmental issues are one of the leading voter concerns.

In fact, after assessing 1,514 U.S. registered voters, the team found that 14% of the sample designated “addressing climate change and protecting the environment” as their single most important issue. Additionally, the research notes that the group is primarily composed of 18-29-year-olds, Democrats, and individuals who self-identify as “very progressive”.

Although seemingly small, these numbers show exponential growth from previous data collected 4 years ago. During the 2016 Presidential election, only 2-6% of registered voters considered addressing climate as their prioritized issue

Environmental Voters Show Outstanding Dedication

Compared to previous years, individuals show a record-breaking motivation to participate in the 2020 presidential election

In fact, some 35% of sampled voters were willing to wait over an hour to cast their ballot. 

However, out of all categories, individuals who listed addressing climate change as their most important issue seem to display the most dedication to their civic duties. In this group, voters are willing to wait an average of an hour and 13 minutes to cast their ballot. This is approximately 10 minutes more than the next longest wait time. 

Storming Polling Booths in Waves

According to Nathaniel Stinnett, the founder of the project, “There are almost 30 million climate voters who are already registered to vote. That’s a huge constituency”. He continues to note that these numbers are approximately “four times the number of NRA members”. Historically, the NRA is a group that helped influence previous elections.

These numbers can only increase. With this, the overall political advocacy for the environment should strengthen over time.

Summary (oh, and Register to Vote!)

Although other matters such as healthcare and immigration seem to play an important role in voters’ minds, it’s comforting to see a trend in environmental dedication. However, it does not stop here.

From raging bushfires in Australia to the melting of the Arctic, it is evident that more effort needs to be put into addressing climate change.

Fortunately, we are becoming rapidly weary of the implications climate change has on the planet. Despite tens of millions of individuals already committed to voting for the environment, you can still play a role.

To ensure that our planet will have the proper protection, register to vote and make sure to stay up to date with the 2020 elections.

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The Real MEAT Act Of 2019: A Vicious Political Attack On Plant-Based Meat

Brian D'Souza

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Plant-based meat has gained significant traction in the past year as companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods released their products to a mainstream audience. Using ingredients like soy, beetroot, and herbs to create a surprisingly convincing plant-based burger, these companies have received generally positive reception from consumers and critics alike.

The market is growing at a rapid pace too; in fact, some estimates show that the plant-based meat market could reach $85 billion in the next decade. Hence, it is unsurprising that the beef industry is worried about plant-based meat taking market share. But what is surprising is the way the industry is fighting back.

Introducing the Real MEAT Act, a piece of legislation supported by strong political and financial backing from some of the most prominent companies in the meat industry.

How the Fight Between Plant-based Meat and the Meat Industry Began

Though on one hand consumers have found plant-based meat to be tasty, they are also an environmentally-friendly substitute. Providing a valuable nutrition source at a fraction of the energy necessary for naturally-sourced beef, plant-based meat is giving the beef industry a run for its money.

Today, the methane that cows belch out is one of the many sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, cattle herds require wide swaths of cleared land. Land clearing has most recently allowed the Amazon fires to ensue.

These sustainability concerns have made plant-based meat all the more appealing for consumers and companies like Beyond Meat and others.

The beef industry is worried; hence, it is looking to take competitors down with legislation.

Introducing The Real MEAT Act of 2019

In October, Representatives Roger Marshall (Republican, Kentucky) and Anthony Brindisi (Democrat, New York) introduced the Real MEAT Act to the House.

MEAT stands for Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully, which nicely caps off an obvious bow to vested interests with a succinct acronym. The bill received raucous applause from NCBA (National Cattlemen’s Beef Association) elites, their profits seemingly assured.

The bill asserts that plant-based meat products are confusing customers. Though the bill makes no specific mention of any companies, it seems to assert that companies like Beyond Meat are ruthlessly deceiving customers.

The Real MEAT Act would force these companies to stop using words like “burger”, “sausage”, and “meat” in their products. Instead, legislation would force companies that sell plant-based meat to use clinical and un-appetizing adjectives to describe their products.

That, unsurprisingly, would likely lead to decreased sales.

Understanding the Real MEAT Act and Its Interests

More recently, Nebraska Senator (Republican) and career cattle rancher Deb Fischer proposed the Real MEAT Act in the Senate. She defended her bill in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

Deb Fisher proposed the Real Meat Act of 2019 in the Senate.
Deb Fisher proposed the Real Meat Act of 2019 in the Senate.

The article features a plethora of willfully obstinate and patently false arguments, but this is one of them: 

“Many of these fake-meat companies are running smear campaigns against actual beef, using deceptive labeling and marketing practices. This has left consumers confused about the ingredients and nutritional values of so-called beef alternatives.” — Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer

What the Real MEAT Act Means for Plant-Based Meat

The bill seems to have a nefarious motivation behind it, but there’s a chance that it still passes. On the bright side, a federal judge recently swatted down a similar bill from Arkansas state legislature.

The Real MEAT Act, however, is supported by financial and political backing on a nationwide scale.

What You Can Do Today To Help

If you are for free-market competition in the beef industry, consider calling your Congressional Representative today. Urge them to speak against the Real MEAT Act.

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