Brazil’s trees can lean on Lula


Gabrielle Lashley

The 37th President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, subjected the Amazon rainforest to exploitation by illegal miners and loggers during his term from 2019 to 2022. This year, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was reelected as Brazil’s first three-term president and is the one we can rely on to halt the extended deforestation of Brazil’s rainforest.

Angela Ledesma

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (most commonly referred to as Lula) regained his power as the 39th president of Brazil on Jan. 1. Thanks to Lula’s reelection, he has become Brazil’s first three-term president and hopefully the president we can rely on to halt deforestation of Brazil’s Amazon in the future. 

In Brazil, each president is allowed a two-term limit with each consisting of four years. However, a former president who has served for two consecutive terms may run for the presidency again after at least one term has passed. This is how Lula has become the 39th president after being the 35th president from 2003 to 2011. Hopefully, his reelection will bring prosperity to the Brazilian Amazon and allow the plants, animals and indigenous people who live there to live in peace. 

Under Lula’s presidency from 2003 to 2010, deforestation was at an all time low, leaving his position with only 4,350 square miles of deforested area. Though his effort was for naught, because the 37th President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, subjected the Amazon rainforest to exploitation by illegal miners, loggers, etc. for profit. When Bolsonaro came to power in 2019, he expressed his determination to increase commercial mining and farming on indigenous reserves. 

Trees in the Amazon rainforest hold 48 billion tons of carbon, so when trees are cut down that adds onto the problem of climate change. As climate change worsens that means that more carbon is being released into the atmosphere and there are less trees to hold in this carbon. Deforestation has caused Brazil to lose 20% of its rainforest, worsening our global climate change crisis and effecting the local indigenous people that live there as well.  

From August 2020 to July 2021 (a 12-month period) the National Institute for Space Research’s Prodes monitoring system shows that the Brazilian Amazon lost 13,235 square kilometers of rainforest

Bolsonaro just blatantly exploited the Amazon for monetary gain, devastating not only the environment but the indigenous people of the Amazon. During his presidency, he lessened the authority of the Fundação Nacional dos Povos Indígenas (FUNAI), a Brazilian governmental protection agency that fights for the interests of the Indigenous people of Brazil. Some of the deforested area also occurred Indigenous territories and protected areas. According to an analysis of the Brazilian government data by the Climate Observatory, fines handed out for illegal activities such as deforestation in the Amazon decreased by 38% between 2019 and 2022, the same years that Bolsonaro was in power. 

Though Bolsonaro supporters may believe that reducing the land open for development will hurt the economy, Lula’s goal is just to help our already dying planet from worsening. To carry out these goals, Lula also appointed well-known environmentalists and Indigenous people to key positions at FUNAI and other agencies. This includes Joenia Wapichana, Brazil’s first indigenous woman to command the agency charged with protecting the Amazon rainforest and its people. 

Hopefully, President Lula will be the person to lessen the consequences of the major deforestation that occurred under Bolsonaro. During the United Nations climate summit in Egypt in November, Lula pledged to end all deforestation by 2030. Though this will be an action that will certainly be opposed and face a lot of obstacles by pro-Bolsonaro state governors and political forces in power, these are the great first few steps in saving the lungs of the Earth.