Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro Is Devastating Indigenous Lands, With The World Distracted

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro Is Devastating Indigenous Lands, With The World Distracted

The Amazon fires of 2019 drove the greatest single year loss of Brazilian forest in a decade. But with the world in the grip of a pandemic, forest loss in 2020 is already on track to dwarf the devastation of a year earlier. In April 2020 alone, 529 square kilometres of forest was destroyed – an increase of 171% on April 2019.

And worse may be on the way. In order to clear deforested land for farming, felled trees are burned. According to Ane Alencar, director of the Department of Science at the Institute of Environmental Research of the Amazon, “this was the main ingredient of the 2019 fire season, a story that could be repeated in 2020”.

The smoke that engulfed cities in Brazil during the 2019 Amazon fires caused widespread breathing problems. As cases of COVID-19 grow by the day – even in remote areas of the Amazon – Brazil risks exacerbating the public health crisis and causing lasting harm to the forest and indigenous communities.

Emboldening illegal activity

On May 22, the Federal Justice ordered the government to establish bases for environmental inspectors in hotspots of felling and burning. These are areas in the Amazon where 60% of all deforestation occurs.

This was intended to restrict the criminal market that drives illegal logging and mining, but also to help reduce the spread of the virus to indigenous people in the region.

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro Is Devastating Indigenous Lands, With The World Distracted Deforestation hotspots overlap with indigenous and protected lands. Mauricio Torres, Author provided

But Jair Bolsonaro’s government appears set against the aims of the prosecutors. With attention turned to the health crisis, the Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, sacked Olivaldi Azevedo as director of the federal environmental inspection agency, IBAMA, in April.

Azevedo’s dismissal is thought to be linked to his unwillingness to stop an anti-mining operation on indigenous lands in the interior of Pará. The successful raid resulted in the burning of equipment used by illegal miners, with images of the arrests broadcast on Brazil’s most popular news channel.

These miners form a loyal base of support for Bolsonaro, hence the government’s irritation. But the television broadcast also featured people who had occupied indigenous lands to build farms. One of those interviewed made it clear that their incursions were encouraged by the speeches of President Bolsonaro and his Environment Minister, Salles.

It’s illegal for non-indigenous people to trespass on Brazil’s indigenous lands. But people eager to exploit the natural riches of these territories often claim support from the president, who recently promised to decrease the amount of land that is protected. In the interview, the trespassing farmer said “the people are with this hope, this expectation, that one day it happens … Meanwhile, we are occupying here”.

An opportunity amid crisis

During the recent surge in deforestation, the Brazilian government reduced the budget for the environmental inspection agency IBAMA by 25%. The government also replaced two of the agency’s chiefs with a military policeman from São Paulo, Walter Mendes Magalhães Junior, who was previously accused of releasing timber exports without the necessary license.

We interviewed Ricardo Abad from the Socio-environmental Institute (ISA), a leading non-governmental organisation in Brazil, who said “the dismissal of Ibama’s inspection coordinators sends a message that organised crime is liberated in the Amazon and punishes those who work to combat illegal activities.”

Brazilian legislation allows inspectors to burn confiscated machinery from loggers and miners. This equipment is often expensive, and so its destruction greatly undermines criminal operations in the forest. It’s a tactic that President Bolsonaro has reportedly condemned. In 2019, the destruction of seized equipment fell by half compared to the previous year.

Many of the recent setbacks in Brazil’s environmental policy could be explained by a video that was released by court order on May 22. The video shows a meeting between Bolsonaro and his ministers from a month before, in which environment minister Salles suggests the government take advantage of press attention being focused on the pandemic to relax regulations in the Amazon.

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro Is Devastating Indigenous Lands, With The World Distracted Indigenous people attend the funeral of someone who died from COVID-19 in Manaus, Amazonas state. Their masks read ‘indigenous lives matter’. EPA-EFE/RAPHAEL ALVES

Failure to control environmental crimes doesn’t only threaten the forest though. It also increases the vulnerability of indigenous peoples to COVID-19. A recent study found that indigenous lands that aren’t formally demarcated let in intruders much more easily, preventing these communities from isolating from the disease. Of the 1,005 cases of COVID-19 confirmed among indigenous people living in the country, there have been 44 deaths, with 41 in the Amazon, the region with the lowest number of intensive care units in Brazil.

The Brazilian Amazon may be on the eve of a catastrophe. COVID-19 could decimate indigenous communities, while the government response paves the way for profiteers to further degrade their lands and the forest. Bolsonaro’s legacy may be one of the highest national death tolls during the pandemic, and a point of no return for destruction of the Amazon.The Conversation

About The Author

Brian Garvey, Lecturer in Work, Employment and Organisation, University of Strathclyde and Mauricio Torres, Professor in Human Geography, Federal University of Pará

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

books_causes

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

POLITICS

God Intended It As A Disposable Planet: Meet The Us Pastor Preaching Climate Change Denial
God Intended It As A Disposable Planet: Meet The Us Pastor Preaching Climate Change Denial
by Paul Braterman
Every so often you come across a piece of writing so extraordinary that you cannot help but share it. One such piece is…
Climate Heat Melts Arctic Snows And Dries Forests
What Lies Ahead For The Youth Climate Movement
by David Tindall
Students around the world returned to the streets in late September for a global day of climate action for the first…
Methane Ruling Seen as Ominous Sign With Barrett Poised to Join Supreme Court
Methane Ruling Seen as Ominous Sign With Barrett Poised to Join Supreme Court
by Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams
The judge delivered a "puzzling and unsupported conclusion that the Bureau of Land Management can't limit methane waste…
How Much Do People Care About Climate Change? We Surveyed 80,000 People In 40 Countries To Find Out
How Much Do People Care About Climate Change? We Surveyed 80,000 People In 40 Countries To Find Out
by Simge Andı and James Painter
New survey results from 40 countries shows that climate change matters to most people. In the vast majority of…
Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro Is Devastating Indigenous Lands, With The World Distracted
Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro Is Devastating Indigenous Lands, With The World Distracted
by Brian Garvey, and Mauricio Torres
The Amazon fires of 2019 drove the greatest single year loss of Brazilian forest in a decade. But with the world in the…
How Dystopian Narratives Can Incite Real-world Radicalism
How Dystopian Narratives Can Incite Real-World Radicalism
by Calvert Jones and Celia Paris
Humans are storytelling creatures: the stories we tell have profound implications for how we see our role in the world,…
Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate impasse
Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate Impasse
by InnerSelf Staff
Everyone has energy stories, whether they’re about a relative working on an oil rig, a parent teaching a child to turn…
Violent Weather Rises Spur More Political Conflict
Violent Weather Rises Spur More Political Conflict
by Tim Radford
Violent weather – seasonal storms, floods, fires and droughts – is growing more extreme, more often.

LATEST VIDEOS

Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…
What Is A Hurricane Storm Surge and Why Is It So Dangerous?
What Is A Hurricane Storm Surge and Why Is It So Dangerous?
by Anthony C. Didlake Jr
As Hurricane Sally headed for the northern Gulf Coast on Tuesday, September 15, 2020, forecasters warned of a…
Ocean Warming Threatens Coral Reefs and Soon Could Make It Harder To Restore Them
Ocean Warming Threatens Coral Reefs and Soon Could Make It Harder To Restore Them
by Shawna Foo
Anyone who’s tending a garden right now knows what extreme heat can do to plants. Heat is also a concern for an…
Sunspots Do Affect Our Weather But Not As Much As Other Things
Sunspots Do Affect Our Weather But Not As Much As Other Things
by Robert McLachlan
Are we headed for a period with lower Solar activity, i.e. sunspots? How long will it last? What happens to our world…
Dirty Tricks Climate Scientists Faced In Three Decades Since First IPCC Report
Dirty Tricks Climate Scientists Faced In Three Decades Since First IPCC Report
by Marc Hudson
Thirty years ago, in a small Swedish city called Sundsvall, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)…
Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
by Josie Garthwaite
Global emissions of methane have reached the highest levels on record, research shows.
kelp forrest 7 12
How The Forests Of The World’s Oceans Contribute To Alleviating The Climate Crisis
by Emma Bryce
Researchers are looking to kelp for help storing carbon dioxide far beneath the surface of the sea.

LATEST ARTICLES

God Intended It As A Disposable Planet: Meet The Us Pastor Preaching Climate Change Denial
God Intended It As A Disposable Planet: Meet The Us Pastor Preaching Climate Change Denial
by Paul Braterman
Every so often you come across a piece of writing so extraordinary that you cannot help but share it. One such piece is…
Drought And Heat Together Menace American West
Drought And Heat Together Menace American West
by Tim Radford
Climate change really is a burning issue. Simultaneous drought and heat are increasingly likely for more of the…
China Just Stunned The World With Its Step-up On Climate Action
China Just Stunned The World With Its Step-up On Climate Action
by Hao Tan
China’s President Xi Jinping surprised the global community recently by committing his country to net-zero emissions by…
How Do Climate Change, Migration And A Deadly Disease In Sheep Alter Our Understanding Of Pandemics?
How Do Climate Change, Migration And A Deadly Disease In Sheep Alter Our Understanding Of Pandemics?
by Super User
A new framework for pathogen evolution exposes a world much more vulnerable to disease outbreaks than we previously…
Climate Heat Melts Arctic Snows And Dries Forests
What Lies Ahead For The Youth Climate Movement
by David Tindall
Students around the world returned to the streets in late September for a global day of climate action for the first…
Historic Amazon Rainforest Fires Threaten Climate And Raise Risk Of New Diseases
Historic Amazon Rainforest Fires Threaten Climate And Raise Risk Of New Diseases
by Kerry William Bowman
The fires in the Amazon region in 2019 were unprecedented in their destruction. Thousands of fires had burned more than…
Climate heat melts Arctic snows and dries forests
Climate Heat Melts Arctic Snows And Dries Forests
by Tim Radford
Fires now blaze under Arctic snows, where once even the wettest rainforests burned. Climate change delivers unlikely…
Marine Heat Waves Are Becoming More Common And Intense
Marine Heat Waves Are Becoming More Common And Intense
by Jen Monnier, Enisa
Improved “weather forecasts” for oceans hold hope for reducing devastation to fisheries and ecosystems around the world