Brazil Suffers Major Oil Spill Down The Coastline And People Are Cleaning It Up By Hand

On the heels of massive fires decimating the Amazon rainforest, Brazil is now suffering an environmental disaster in the form of an oil spill that has contaminated 1,300 miles of pristine coastline. And the government isn’t doing anything about it.

Thus far, there is no cause of the oil spill and no word on how long the spill will last, but what is certain is that this oil spill is an ecological catastrophe and it demonstrates that the government under President Jair Bolsonaro doesn’t care about protecting the environment under any circumstance whatsoever.

And that infuriates locals who are now forced to clean up the oil spill themselves by hand because the government won’t do it.

Joel de Oliveira Filho operates a guesthouse on Carneiras beach, a popular destination for tourists, but his livelihood is now in jeopardy because of the oil spill, which is the largest in Brazil’s history as thousands of gallons continue invading the beaches and all the ecosystems in and out of the water, killing wildlife and destroying coral reefs.

It all started two months ago when crude began washing up on the shores. And the population has been inundated with more oil every day since and it shows no sign of stopping. Because the government has refused to do anything to save or protect the environment from the follies of the irresponsible fossil fuel industry, locals have been forced to clean the mess up themselves.

“People in the north-east are cleaning the oil from the coast with their own hands while the federal government is immobile,” Filho told The Guardian.

Without specialized equipment to clean it up, the people have been using everything from wheelbarrows to plastic bags to their own hands to collect what they can, only for more oil to replace what they remove.

Of course, Bolsonaro would rather assign blame and cry conspiracy rather than take action, accusing Venezuela of deliberately spilling oil to poison Brazil’s coastline. He even suggested that the oil was spilled to prevent an upcoming auction of oil prospecting rights.

“Could it be a criminal act to prejudice this tender? It is a question that is in the air,” Bolsonaro said.

But that is likely an absurd claim because causing a massive oil spill to stop oil development just doesn’t make any sense. And the fact that the government isn’t identifying where the oil came from and how it came to be on the beaches up and down the Brazilian coast makes it seem like they are covering up the disaster to protect the industry to which Bolsonaro has strong ties.

Understandably, this makes people angry.

“There is clear revulsion over the government’s inaction,” Federal University of Pernambuco political science professor Marcus Melo said. “The government has a certain myopia in understanding how serious this is.”

Indeed, it’s just as bad as Bolsonaro’s response to the Amazon rainforest fires, which have been raging for months as farmers burn thousands of acres to create more pasture for cattle farming.

This is especially bad because the Amazon sucks up the most carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provides 20 percent of the world’s oxygen. The rainforest had been considered the planet’s best weapon to fight climate change, but Bolsonaro has taken that weapon out of the fight to pander to the agriculture industry.

Now it’s not only rainforest wildlife and ecosystems that are dying, it’s coastal wildlife and ecosystems as well. Birds, sea turtles and fish are already washing up dead onshore. And coral reefs, which are already threatened with extinction worldwide, have been poisoned along the coast. Once they die off, Brazil should brace itself for worse coastal flooding in the future since coral reefs provide a buffer preventing flooding from being worse than it otherwise could be.

Clearly, Bolsonaro won’t be satisfied until the entire environment in Brazil is turned into a wasteland that profits greedy businessmen. Unless the world does something about it, particularly a global boycott of all agricultural and energy products produced in Brazil, it will be too late to save the environment there and that will have devastating long term consequences for everyone.

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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