WILD OLIVES, France — An old New Yorker cartoon has a couple sitting among flowers on a mountainside gazing upon a see-forever view under sunny skies flecked with wispy clouds. Birds and butterflies swoop by. And the guy says something like, “The world is shit.”
I get it; I’m even beginning to bore myself. A Mort Report meant to range widely, with stabs at humor, has descended into a one-note screed about a Machiavellian miscreant back home in America. Friends of sound mind know better than to invite me to dinner.
True, this is still a pretty good world. Yet in Biarritz beyond the horizon, President Emmanuel Macron welcomed leaders to the G7 summit with an alarm-bell tweet: “Our house is on fire!” He meant it literally.
Amazon, for most people these days, evokes Jeff Bezos’ empire of books and canned beans. But in the real Amazon, half the size of Europe, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is getting away with a crime to end all crimes: planetary ecocide.
Fires in Brazil to clear land for cattle, crops and timber approach 80,000 since Bolsonaro took power in January — 85 percent above last year’s rate. Black smoke turns day to night in São Paulo, thousands of miles away from the Amazon. In the last eight months, flames consumed 4.6 million acres of the Brazilian Amazon.
Those figures are from the prestigious National Institute for Space Research, but new ones will be suspect. Bolsonaro sacked its director for reporting that fires soared 278 percent in July over the same month last year, saying he was unpatriotic for damaging Brazil’s reputation.
The Amazon emits 20 percent of Earth’s oxygen, and it traps carbon. Waterways it shelters add moisture that keeps it healthy. If this vital lung were to collapse, scientists calculate, atmospheric damage could equal what was done over the last 150 years.
At the summit, rich-world leaders pledged $20 million to help fight the fires, only four times more than Leonardo DiCaprio donated on his own. The big dog among them skipped the session on climate change. Donald Trump’s aides say he had private talks with Angela Merkel and Narendra Modi who, in fact, were with everyone else at that session.
Bolsonaro tells critics to butt out of Brazil’s business. Colonial days are over, he says, and all that land is too valuable to be left to half-naked Indians and do-gooder environmentalists. He has savaged laws, enabling wealthy developers who put him in power to burn and bulldoze.
When Pope Francis, among others, recently voiced concern, he replied: “Brazil is a virgin that every foreign pervert desires.” That raises a crucial question: How much can a domestic pervert in a single country be allowed to defile when an entire planet is struggling to survive?Read More