John Oliver examines Bolsonaro’s disastrous treatment of the Amazon


On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took a deep dive into the disastrous environmental impact of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro since taking office in 2019, with Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions growing by 9.5 percent amid the pandemic (while worldwide levels fell by 7 percent), and deforestation in the country hitting its highest point in a decade.

“Bolsonaro has been an absolute disaster for the Amazon, a rainforest that is critical for Brazil and you know, the Planet Earth,” said Oliver, pointing to a report from The New York Times which showed Bolsonaro “has both loosened regulations to expand logging and mining in the Amazon and scaled back protections.”

As Oliver points out, August saw the country’s worst fire season in a decade, with an average of 1,000 fires per day. And no, this isn’t due to natural extreme weather conditions, it’s directly linked to deforestation, as forests are cut down, often illegally by loggers and ranchers, and trees are burned to clear the land for industrial use.

“1,000 fires a day. That is so many fires,” said Oliver. “If you asked me what happens in the Amazon 1,000 times a day, my first guess would be capybaras fucking. Self explanatory. My second would be frog birthday parties. Statistically there’s got to be at least 5,000 of them with a birthday every day and we have to assume there’s some combined parties for convenience and others just don’t want to have a big thing this year. But exactly zero of my guesses would be fires.”

Though he delivered the segment with these signature jokes peppered throughout, Oliver highlighted a seriously vital point, the devastating impact of this deforestation as it encroaches on land where Indigenous people live, putting immense pressure on communities to defend their land against threats, invasions, and illegal extraction of natural resources.

“They’ve been forced to confront these loggers, ranchers, and miners on their own, which can be both very dangerous and deeply dispiriting,” said Oliver.

“It has got to be tough to fight someone taking your stuff when they feel they’ve got permission from the most powerful person in the country. If I stole your wallet, and then play a clip of Biden saying, ‘Hey, John, I don’t give a shit if TV hosts rob their audience members. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go and say 10 wrong or weird things in a row on 60 Minutes,’ there really wouldn’t be much that you could do about it.”


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