The Brazilian Amazon Rainforest is experiencing serious devastation under the country’s new far-right president Jair Bolsonaro. The month of July isn’t even over, and it’s already experienced 68 percent more deforestation than the entire month of July in 2018, reports Reuters.
Amazonia has lost nearly 400 square miles of forest in the first 15 days of the month, according to satellite images from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research. That’s an area bigger than Mount Rainier National Park. It’s the worst level of deforestation a single month has seen since August 2016, but this really didn’t catch anyone by surprise. Bolsonaro has had a clear agenda since taking office: privatize the forest and hand it over to industry.
We can’t be sure without further analysis what exactly is driving the deforestation, but many believe Bolsonaro’s pro-industry stance has encouraged more loggers and miners to do what they want with the rainforest. An investigation by conservation news site Mongabay last month showed that fines and enforcement actions against illegal loggers have plummeted since Bolsonaro took office.
This month’s data comes after May deforestation rates showed a spike, too. Not only is this bad news for the planet, which relies on the forest’s vast carbon storage to mop up all the emissions we humans spew. It’s bad news for the various indigenous communities that call the Amazon home.
If this trend continues, Brazil would be compromising a free trade deal with the European Union, according to Reuters. Member states like Ireland and Italy don’t want to see competition arise from Brazil’s growing focus on expanding agriculture in the Amazon.
Perhaps empathy won’t push Bolsonaro to protect the Amazon rainforest, but dollar signs might.