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Rainforest Being Lost Quickly Under Bolsonaro

Brasilia, Brazil —(Map)

Huge amounts of Brazil’s unique rainforest are being destroyed quickly under the country’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro. Since Mr. Bolsonaro became president, more forest is being cut down and less is being done to protect it.

Fishbone Deforestation Rondônia, Brazil August 5, 2016 In the Amazon rainforest—just east of Porto Velho, Brazil—fires burn, clearing hectares of rainforest in preparation for farming and grazing.
Deforestation means cutting or burning down forests, usually over large areas. The picture shows rainforest in Brazil being cleared by burning.
(Source: Planet Labs, Inc. [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Deforestation means cutting or burning down forests, usually over large areas. Because of the threat of the climate crisis,  deforestation anywhere is not good. Cutting down huge areas of forests is one of the things that has made the climate crisis worse. But cutting down the rainforest is a special problem.

The Amazon rainforest covers around 2.1 million square miles (5.5 million square kilometers) of land in South America. About 60% of the Amazon rainforest is in Brazil.

This is a map location of the Amazon Basin. The yellow line encloses Amazon Basin as delineated by the World Wide Fund for Nature. National boundaries are shown in black
The Amazon rainforest covers around 2.1 million square miles (5.5 million square kilometers) of land in South America. About 60% of the Amazon rainforest is in Brazil.
(Source: Pfly [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)

The Amazon is sometimes called the “lungs of the planet”. That’s because trees, like most plants, use carbon dioxide as food, giving off oxygen, which humans breathe.

The Amazon is the largest forest of its kind in the world. More different kinds of plants and animals live in the Amazon rainforest than anywhere else. There are still many plants and animals that have not been discovered yet.

Opisthocomus hoazin photographed in the Amazon, Brazil, in November 2010.
The Amazon is the largest forest of its kind in the world. More different kinds of plants and animals live in the Amazon rainforest than anywhere else. Hoatzins (above), birds which eat only leaves and fruit, are one example of animals found only in the Amazon rainforest.
(Source: Cláudio Dias Timm [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

People have long understood how important the rainforest is. And over much of the last 20 years, Brazil worked hard to protect the forest. Many other countries looked to Brazil as an example of how deforestation could be slowed.

But last year, Mr. Bolsonaro was elected president. During the election, Mr. Bolsonaro said he thought that protecting the Amazon was getting in the way of business. He said that as president, he would allow businesses to use the Amazon.

Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil
Last year, Mr. Bolsonaro was elected president. During the election, Mr. Bolsonaro said he thought that protecting the Amazon was getting in the way of business.
(Source: Isac Nóbrega/PR [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

The Amazon rainforest is valuable to businesses in many ways. Logging companies can use the wood from the trees. Mining companies want to dig under the ground. And farmers want more land cleared to raise cows for meat and to plant crops like soybeans.

After he was elected, Mr. Bolsonaro cut 24% of the money for the main government group responsible for the environment. He got rid of the groups which dealt with climate change and with deforestation.

Aerial view of the boundary between the forest and pasturelands in Novo Progresso, Pará.
The Amazon rainforest is valuable to businesses in many ways, such as logging and mining. Farmers want more land cleared to raise cows for meat and to plant crops like soybeans.
(Source: Ibama [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Mr. Bolsonaro has also spoken out against the government fining companies that break environmental laws. He says he plans to get rid of other laws that make it harder for companies to make money in the Amazon.

Ricardo Galvão was the director of Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) until last week. INPE recently released a report showing that 870 square miles (2,254 square kilometers) of rainforest had been cleared in July alone. That’s almost four times as much as was cleared last July.

Ibama e Polícia Federal combatem grupo criminoso responsável por extrair e comercializar ilegalmente madeira da Reserva Biológica do Gurupi e das Terras Indígenas Caru e Alto Turiaçu, no Maranhão.
Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research recently released a report showing that 870 square miles (2,254 square kilometers) of rainforest had been cleared in July. That’s almost four times as much as was cleared last July.
(Source: Ibama [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Mr. Bolsonaro called the report “lies”. After Mr. Galvão stood up for the report, Mr. Bolsonaro fired him. Mr. Galvão says the “government has sent a clear message that there will not be any more punishment” for companies that break environmental laws in the Amazon.

Some foreign leaders, such as Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, have criticized Mr. Bolsonaro’s environmental actions. But Mr. Bolsonaro isn’t very interested in the ideas of outsiders. As he told one reporter from Europe, “The Amazon is ours, not yours.”

Brasilia, Brazil


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