Since he was elected President of Brazil in 2003, the policies of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have generally failed to see both the forest and the trees of the Amazon. Brazil hosts the greatest wonder of the sylvan world: the Amazon rainforest. This vast forest is the largest remaining rainforest on earth, and the last refuge of up to a third of all living taxa. However, as a consequence of Lula's drive to turn Brazil from an impoverished straggler into an economic power, Lula has consistently sided with development at the expense of conservation. The obvious result has been rampant deforestation; a more insidious consequence may be the exacerbation of global, and local, climate change. As the title of a recent New York Times article vividly announced, "Brazil, Alarmed, Reconsiders Policy on Climate Change".
To complement his misinformed, Bush II-like stance on the causes and consequences of global climate change (Lula's Environmental Lulus), Lula has consistently resisted international pressure to conserve the Amazon rainforest, preferring, instead, vigorously to reassert Brazil's sovereignty over the Amazon, and blaming the developed world for its loss of rainforest. Meanwhile, mostly as a result of this deforestation, Brazil has rocketed up the league tables of carbon emissions, having now achieved the dubious honor of fourth place in the world.
Lula and his policies are a significant obstacle to conserving Brazil's rainforest and the hyperdiversity it houses, in significant part because innovative suggestions for achieving conservation have consistently been rejected. Part of the problem appears to be ignorance of environmental issues reminiscent of Bush II prior to his Heiligendamm conversion (A More Convenient Truth). The New York Times recently characterized Lula as a man "whose knowledge of the technical details of the debate is widely described as sketchy".
However, as the rainforest has disappeared, so too has the rain. Drought and extreme weather have afflicted parts of Brazil accustomed to reliable rainfall and relatively benign conditions. In a sign that Lula may finally be on the verge of his own Heiligendamm conversion on deforestation and global climate change, "[in] April, he saw Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” in Brasília in the company of some of Brazil’s leading environmentalists". One hopes that, like Bush II, Lula can right his course towards more environmentally rational policies. To prevent irreversible damage to the Amazon rainforest and its surroundings, Brazil urgently needs Lula to live up to his surname by opening his eyes to both the forest and the trees.