Dam You! Brazil's Likely New President Has Big Plans For The Amazon

According to polls, Brazilian presidential candidate, Jair Bolsonaro is likely to be elected in Sunday's runoff vote.

One of his major political aims is to stamp out the corruption which plagues Brazil's upper political echelons. He's a former military captain, promising to  save his beloved country from a  corrupt political system.

It could almost be the script from a Hollywood movie.

But not everybody is happy. As well as being hostile towards women and gay people . He was quoted in Time Magazine as saying "I wouldn't rape you because you do not deserve it" and in 2011 he claimed he would rather have a dead son than a gay one.

Bolsonaro plans to ease restrictions on logging and use the Amazon Rainforest as a resource mine.

He wants to build hydro-electric and nuclear power stations within the forest to combat Brazil's energy problems, despite protests from environmental groups.  

The Amazon is by far the largest rainforest in the world. It houses about 10 percent of the world's known species. Approximately 40,000 of these are plants. With less than one percent of plants having been examined for medical suitability, the forest could very well contain the cure for cancer.

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However, the outer edges of the forest are being decimated by loggers, according to Greenpeace.  In the last 40 years,  more than 18 percent of it has fallen to deforestation. As the forest dies, so do the species living within it.

Logging raft on the Amazon River. Photo Credit: AAP

Bolsonaro however, is keen to use the energy supplies that can be garnered from the immense jungle. His agricultural adviser, Nabhan Garcia told Reuters he doesn't believe Brazil's energy problems can be resolved without maximising the use of the forest.

"If Brazil is to return to the rates of growth that we all want, there will be a need for energy that cannot be supplied from other sources."

A Bolsonaro government plans to complete construction of the controversial Belo Monte Hydro Dam on the Xingu river, a tributary of the Amazon. The dam would be the world's fourth largest hydroelectric facility.

According to NGO International Rivers, the dam has already displaced 20,000 local people as well as causing environmental damage.

Sigourney Weaver and James Cameron were one of a number of celebrities to protest the construction of the Belo Monte dam. Photo Credit: AAP

Rather unsurprisingly, polls in areas heavy with logging are leaning towards the controversial candidate. The state of Rondônia in Brazil's north-west, which has seen 43% of its territory logged, recently polled at 78% support for Bolsonaro.

The 63-year-old is one of many right-leaning political figures to do well in recent elections. US President Donald Trump comes to mind, Recip Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president is another.

But the election of Bolsonaro could potentially have a decisive effect, not only on Brazil's future, but also the environmental sustainability of the entire planet.

Contact the author: mgay@networkten.com.au

Feature Image: Getty