According to new satellite data released by the Brazilian government this week, deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is at the highest levels the area has seen in over a decade. The data was collected by the Satellite Legal Amazon Deforestation Monitoring Project (PRODES), and documented the rates of deforestation in nine states of the Brazilian Legal Amazon. The figures were published by The National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
The data showed that roughly 9,762 square kilometers, or 3,769 square miles of rainforest have been lost in the past year. The INPE indicated that this represents a 29.5% increase in deforestation from the previous year, which is the worst rate of deforestation that the region has seen since 2008.
Amazon deforestation in July was more than triple what it was a year earlier. To see why activists were concerned about this issue under new president Jair Bolsonaro, see our episode on Brazil & the Amazon. https://t.co/h6cfGCkS6R pic.twitter.com/WS0A1zVnCQ
— Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj (@patriotact) August 21, 2019
Many environmental activists have placed the blame on newly elected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who campaigned on promises to allow corporations to pillage indigenous lands. Since coming into office, his administration has significantly scaled back environmental protections, essentially giving a green light to loggers, miners, and ranchers to violently expel native tribes from their lands and destroy the local ecosystem.
Furthermore, documents leaked from the Brazilian government show that the current administration planned on building infrastructure projects through the Amazon as a way of pushing back against international pressure to put protections on the forest.
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A PowerPoint slide leaked from a government presentation about these infrastructure plans said that, “Development projects must be implemented on the Amazon basin to integrate it into the rest of the national territory in order to fight off international pressure for the implementation of the so-called ‘Triple A’ project. To do this, it is necessary to build the Trombetas River hydroelectric plant, the Óbidos bridge over the Amazon River, and the implementation of the BR-163 highway to the border with Suriname.”
One of the tactics listed in the document was framing the Amazon crisis as a wedge issue to divide liberals and conservatives. If the destruction of the Amazon can be reduced to a simple “political opinion,” the legitimate concerns from activists and experts can be easily dismissed as nothing more than a dissenting political opinion.
IMAGE CREDIT: Yotrak Butda