Aug. 22, 2019, 4:36 AM EDT
By Bill McKibben, founder, global climate campaign 350.org
Sao Paulo is the largest city in the western hemisphere — and Tuesday it was also the most hellish. Around two in the afternoon, the sky turned suddenly and ominously dark, almost as if the sun had been eclipsed. And it had — not by the moon, but by a pall of smoke from the burning rainforests of Brazil’s Amazon.
It’s not often you can pinpoint one person as the culprit for something on this scale, but the midday darkness is the direct result of the election of Jair Bolsonaro to the country’s presidency last year. Bolsonaro, who has told people, supposedly ironically, to call him “Captain Chainsaw,” campaigned on the theory that his country’s economic development had been limited by the world’s affection for the Amazon, and he made clear that those who wanted to cut it down had little to fear from his administration. He even fired the head of the federal agency tasked with monitoring by satellite the extent of deforestation, when he found that deforestation was increasing.