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Amazon`s deforestation explained

Amazon`s deforestation explained


Deforestation spikes in the Brazilian rainforest during the pandemic. 


Deforestation has increased the risk for Brazil’s Amazon rainforest to experience fires more devastating than those recorded last year, sparking global outrage. Statistics have demonstrated that out of 10 hectares lost to deforestation, 3 are abandoned, 6ha are converted into grazing lands with 1ha serving for agriculture, and other usages such as urbanization and mining. Nonetheless, a study carried out by the National Institute for Space (INPE) in Brazil and NASA, has revealed that 2019 results are not unprecedented. Data was collected through analysis of satellite imagery. This study led to the following conclusion: most of the fires are taking place in areas that already deforested. 


However, the destruction which occurred last year triggered an outcry worldwide and some news reports on social media barely gave an insight into the full extent of the issue at hand. Even though 80 per cent of the forest remains protected, it is worth noting that deforestation dropped by 70 per cent in recent years. Only a tiny fraction of land can be used for purposes such as soy farming. Fires ravaging the Amazon forest are worrisome in many regards. The Amazon forest boasts a wide array of biodiversity featuring exotic plants and animals. This unique ecosystem is the vital element anchoring indigenous ethnic groups to their land. Furthermore, as one of the lungs of our planet, the Amazon’s rainforest is home to tons of woods, storing carbon dioxide and helping  to keep a weather eye on climate change. 


On the other hand, notwithstanding the fact Brazilian President Bolsonaro`s pro-agriculture policies will accelerate the deforestation, analysts are also fearing the impact of the fiscal crisis on this situation. NGOs active in the region denounced the government environmental agenda which is leading to deconstruction and deregulation, in total contempt of warnings issued by scientific research institutions.


During his electoral campaign, Mr.Bolsonaro made the promise to help mining and agribusiness companies expand their operations in environmentally protected areas, including in the Amazon. Considering that he was sworn in at the beginning of 2019, he seems to be keeping his promises with no delay. 


He appointed a Minister for Environment with good intentions, Ricardo Sales, who was later convicted of allegations of altering environmentally protected areas, including the river basin, for the benefit of the mining groups, when he was sitting in the chair as Secretary for Environment in the State of São Paulo between 2016 and 2018. 


Over the past months, Bolsonaro and Mr.Sales have been accused of weakening environmental legislation. For instance, Bolsonaro did not only approve a decree to downsize National Council for the Environment, reducing the number of its members from 100 to 21 people, but he had also tried to transfer the role of demarcating indigenous areas from the Departement of Justice and Public Safety to the Department of Agriculture. Additionally, Bolsonaro declared that he was considering a proposal to regularize illegal mining in territories benefitting from environmental protection.


In this series of controversial measures, we can also mention that Minister Sales contested the necessity of the Amazon Fund. Amazon fund is a facility collecting donations to make an investment to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation in the Amazon Forest. These donations proceed mainly from two countries-Norway and Germany-which is considering halting their support for this program altogether. 


President Bolsonaro questioned the role of the former president of the Institute, Ricardo Galvão because the latter allegedly reported data revealing an increase in the pace of deforestation. The president downplayed this report, considering this information simply as fake news. He also accused Galvão of serving the interests of “some NGO” (non-governmental organization). Consequently, scientists and academics came out to defend the institute and its former president, who has rejected these allegations.


Conservation groups assert that, since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, fewer law enforcement agents had been deployed. Recently, Brazil has reached one of the worst-case scenarios globally with more than 1 million cases and surpassed 50,000 deaths. “The pandemic has not helped because there are fewer agents out there and illegal loggers don’t care about the virus in remote areas of the Amazon,” writes BBC quoted Paulo Barreto, senior researcher for the non-profit conservation group Amazon.


Last month, a video of the ministerial meeting was released, showing Mr Sales arguing that “we need to make an effort while we are in a quiet moment for press coverage because they only talk about COVID” and he added, using an expression related to cattle to push for “changing all rules and simplifying norms”. This statement should be to raise the alarm in this chaotic situation. 


If we continue with such policies, deforestation may increase year over year, damaging the vegetation in protected areas, whose oxygen-producing function is vital for tackling the increasing human-generated CO2 emission. The aforementioned NGOs, as well as many other currents and future encouraging projects, play a key role in the preservation of the forest and promotion of sustainable economic activities. 

By  Lucas Guimarães 

"Lucas Guimarães is post-graduate in International Relations from the University of Brasilia and currently works for Ultramares International Business consultancy firm. He also is a leader at Students for Liberty Brazil"