This week, Jair Bolsonaro, the President of Brazil, ignored the advice of his own health minister, and went for a walk in the capitol, declaring “We’ll all die one day.” Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist elected to the Presidency in 2018, is known for flouting conventional wisdom. He is especially cavalier about the environment. Several weeks ago, he introduced a bill to allow commercial mining on protected indigenous lands in the Amazon. Jon Lee Anderson, a New Yorker staff writer, recently returned from Brazil, where he was reporting on the effects of these exploitative practices on one indigenous group in particular, the Kayapo. He says that Bolsonaro’s mining bill, like so many of his more radical policies, will have effects that are almost impossible to predict. “The indigenous people are the last defense for some of the world’s last wilderness areas. Its habitats, its ecosystems, the animals that live within it, the medicinal plants that we have yet to even know exist—the indigenous people turn out to be the final custodians,” Anderson says. “And, in some tragic cases, they are also the handmaidens to their own destruction. And it’s always been that way, and that’s what people like Bolsonaro understand.”
Audio used from the video of the late Chief Mro’o’s was produced by Glenn Shepard, an anthropologist at the Goeldi Museum, in Brazil. Additional music by Filipe Duarte.