Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro—the far-right climate denier who assumed office this year and immediately began gutting Brazil’s environmental agencies and regulations—recently suggested humans can slow their destruction of Earth’s biosphere by only taking a “poop every other day.” Perhaps he’s trying to score some extra time in the john for himself, because he’s so full of shit it’s pouring out his mouth.
On Wednesday, per Brazilian news site G1, Bolsonaro blamed the wildfires currently ravaging the Amazon on NGOs angry he has slashed government funding and who have supposedly turned to arson as part of a plot to embarrass his government. According to G1, he provided absolutely no evidence for this claim, nor the identities of any groups supposedly involved in deliberately torching the Amazon.
Per the Guardian, Bolsonaro made the claims at least twice. Earlier in the day, he told news organizations including G1 that he believed that arsonists had hand-picked specific sites in the Amazon to burn down that would raise extra concern worldwide (citing just a gut “feeling”). He also said that governors in some regions were deliberately refusing to assist federal fire control efforts. Later, he repeated the claims in a speech to a steel industry meeting in Brasilia.
“On the question of burning in the Amazon, which in my opinion may have been initiated by NGOs because they lost money, what is the intention?” Bolsonaro told the steel industry congress. “To bring problems to Brazil.”
Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has recorded roughly 73,000 wildfires throughout Brazil this year, an 80 percent increase from last year. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro has rushed to open large swathes of the Amazon to business, which just so happens to dovetail with INPE data showing there has been more deforestation in May and July 2019 than during the same period in the past three years combined.
According to Reuters, scientists agree that the wildfires are being driven by deliberate burns—started by agricultural and industrial operations looking to clear land, not NGOs. NPR’s Philip Reeves reported earlier this month that Bolsonaro’s government has dramatically scaled back enforcement against illegal burns. In addition to firing senior officials and slashing budgets, Bolsonaro sacked INPE chief Ricardo Galvao (accusing him of being bought off by NGOs) and replaced him with a military official after Galvao sounded the alarm on the fires. The further fragmentation of the Amazon coupled with climate change could permanently alter the fragile ecosystem.
“This is without any question one of only two times that there have been fires like this,” National Geographic ecologist and Explorer-at-Large Thomas Lovejoy told the magazine. “There’s no question that it’s a consequence of the recent uptick in deforestation.”
“In the previous years [wildfires] were very much related to the lack of rain, but it has been quite moist this year,” ecologist Adriane Muelbert told National Geographic. “That leads us to think that this is deforestation-driven.”
Blaming NGOs “is a sick statement, a pitiful statement,” Greenpeace Brazil public policy coordinator Marcio Astrini told Reuters. “Increased deforestation and burning are the result of his anti-environmental policy.”