Last year, images emerging from Brazil showing more than 80,000 fires ravaging through the Amazon rainforest led to global outrage. Now, in 2020, Brazil is yet again consumed in flames, but in a year of crises, the same historic irreversible damage caused by deforestation-related wildfires isn’t attracting the same international attention.
Rights groups are now calling on the international community to speak up against Brazilian far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who they say is pursuing economic interests at the expense of ecological and indigenous protections. Last week, human rights organisation Amnesty International warned that there are now an “alarming number of new fires” detected in the region during this year’s burning season.
According to satellite data from NASA and reported by The New York Times, wildfires this year – which are often deliberately set by farmers to clear land for the unsustainable cycle of cattle grazing and soy feed production – have already burned through an estimated 7,861 miles, which represents 10% of the wetland region. In the report, Douglas Morton, chief of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, described the fires as “unprecedented”.
There’s a sense that environmental laws can be ignored with impunity. That’s largely a result of how the government has been handling these issues.Ane Alencar, Science Director at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute in Brazil
While Bolsonaro faced international condemnation last year, this year’s wildfires ravaging through one of the planet’s last remaining precious rainforests, has largely been overshadowed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Bolsonaro has largely been able to dodge any action against those driving illegal deforestation activities, and has even gone as far as refuting claims of wildfires as a “lie” and describing them instead as “campfires”.
“There’s a sense that environmental laws can be ignored with impunity,” said Ane Alencar, the science director at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute in Brazil, in conversation with the Times. “That’s largely a result of how the government has been handling these issues.”
The Amazon fires are not wildfires. They are criminal acts, supported by the Bolsonaro administration and big business. They’re a part of a chain of production, of commerce, and of tainted investments that are all contaminated.Defund Bolsonaro
A group of environmental NGOs have since created a website called Defund Bolsonaro in an attempt to draw greater attention over the environmental negligence of the administration, urging potential investors in Brazil to pressure the government on its commitment to protect the Amazon.
“To save the Amazon, we must defund Bolsonaro and turn the protection of the Amazon in a ‘must-have’ condition for development, business and investment,” says the website.
“The Amazon fires are not wildfires. They are criminal acts, supported by the Bolsonaro administration and big business. They’re a part of a chain of production, of commerce, and of tainted investments that are all contaminated.”
Lead image courtesy of Christian Braga / Greenpeace.