People Are Seriously Talking About Invading Brazil to Save the Planet
With the Amazon burning, some foreign policy experts foresee a new era of global conflict shaped by climate catastrophe
It started as a mere thought experiment, a little what-if: As fires raged in the Amazon basin — many of them intentionally set — Stephen Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, took to the pages of Foreign Policy to do a little thinking out loud in an essay entitled “Who Will Invade Brazil to Save the Amazon?”
The piece begins with a stab at speculative fiction, set six years in the future, in which President Gavin Newsom puts the Brazilians on notice: bring a halt to unchecked deforestation, or face a U.S.-led naval blockade and airstrikes against key government infrastructure.
“The above scenario is obviously far-fetched,” Walt quickly assured readers. Which was indeed reassuring, since it seems to presuppose a second term for Donald Trump. Besides which, Brazil is a major U.S. ally and trading partner and is one of the most stable democracies in Latin America.
As the angry tweets rolled in — “Come to Brazil with your idiot ideas to wonder[if] we could defend our land! Shut up your shit mouth and Pencil!” one user wrote — Foreign Policy changed the headline to something less incendiary. “Brazil was just an example,” a slightly chastened sounding Walt told GEN in an interview. “I didn’t mean to single out Brazil.”
But as the weeks progressed, and day turned prematurely to night in the skies over São Paulo — smoke, it was said, drifting over from the blazing jungle — Walt’s hypothetical began to seem a little less out-there. After all, the Amazon rainforest is not just any old precious tropical biome to be tossed on the scrap heap of market growth like so many others. More than half the size of the U.S., the Amazon basin (two-thirds of which falls within Brazil’s borders) is the most diverse land-based ecosystem on the planet.
More important is its role in regulating the climate. A quarter of the carbon dioxide (CO2) scrubbed from the atmosphere by all of the world’s forests is attributable to the region. The burning of the Amazon’s plant…