Does Amazonia Belong to the World?


The policy of Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and his government is to deforest the region.
What right do other nations have to give it legally protected
status and intervene to enforce that?


Renaud Lambert

French president Emmanuel Macron thinks of himself as leading the resistance to his illiberal counterparts in other countries. He started with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, and moved on to Matteo Salvini, head of Italy’s (Northern) League. The wildfires that have been destroying the Amazonian rainforest this year gave him an ideal new adversary: Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, misogynist, homophobe and climate sceptic. In August, Science magazine established a link between the smoke that darkens Brazil’s skies as far as São Paulo and its government’s policy of deforestation. Macron suggested the rainforest should be given protected status under international law ‘if a sovereign state took concrete actions that clearly went against the interest of the planet’.

Can this ancient forest be saved by mobilising everyone it benefits? Macron sees our world as the planet Pandora in James Cameron’s film Avatar (2009), and himself as the Na’vi, the blue-skinned natives resisting colonisation. But most Brazilians, even those who oppose Bolsonaro, are unlikely to favour his idea. It is too like many past projects that have threatened to deprive Brazil of its sovereignty over the region the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt(1769-1859) called Hylea.

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