The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
'This is a Sick Statement': Brazil’s Bolsonaro, Under Pressure for Anti-Environmental Policies, Blames NGOs for Record Amazon Fires
Responding to international outrage following the news that there are record numbers of wildfires burning in the Amazon rainforest, Bolsonaro tried to shift the blame away from his pro-business administration and onto an unlikely culprit: non-governmental organizations.
"Everything indicates" that NGOs were planning to set fires to the forest, Bolsonaro said on Facebook Live Wednesday, as Reuters reported. When asked if he had proof, he could not provide any, answering that he had "no written plan."
Later the same day, he repeated the claims at a steel industry congress in Brasilia, The Guardian reported.
"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? To bring problems to Brazil," he said.
Environmental groups, however, say that the fires are a result of deforestation encouraged by Bolsonaro's policies. He has promised to open the Amazon to mining and agriculture, and that has encouraged farmers to start illegal fires in order to clear land. Local papers report that farmers emboldened by weaker enforcement are even organizing "fire days" in some regions, according to The Guardian.
"This is a sick statement, a pitiful statement," Greenpeace Brazil Public Policy Coordinator Marcio Astrini told Reuters of Bolsonaro's remarks. "Increased deforestation and burning are the result of his anti-environmental policy."
The fires came to global attention this week when Brazil's space agency announced that the number of fires burning in the year since Bolsonaro took office were up more than 80 percent when compared with the year before. On Wednesday, the hashtag #PrayforAmazonas was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter worldwide.
Experts attribute the fires to deforestation because this year has not been particularly dry.
"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 fire."
Farmers and ranchers start fires to clear forest for soy or grazing land, but the fires then catch and spread. If this continues, ecologist and National Geographic Explorer-at-Large Thomas Lovejoy explained to the nature magazine that it could have devastating consequences for the rainforest, and for the world:
Lovejoy describes a cyclical system in which deforestation fuels forest loss, making the region drier, spurring even more deforestation. Much of the rain in the Amazon is generated by the rainforest itself, but as trees disappear, rainfall declines. Experts worry that this downward spiral could increasingly dry out the forest and push it to a point of no return, where it more resembles savannah than rainforest.
"The Amazon has this tipping point because it makes half of its own rainfall," says Lovejoy. That's why, he says, "the Amazon has to be managed as a system."
Not only would such a change endanger the 40,000 species of plants, 1,300 species of birds, 430 mammals and 400 to 500 indigenous communities that call the Amazon home, it would also make it harder to fight the climate crisis. The world's largest tropical rainforest is an important store of carbon, absorbing millions of tons of emissions per year.
Given the global stakes, it's no wonder that Bolsonaro has come under international scrutiny for his policies, as The Guardian explained. Both Germany and Norway recently suspended donations to the Amazon Fund, and there is pressure for the EU to block a trade agreement with Brazil and other countries in South America.
- Bolsonaro Greenlights New Pesticides While Environmentalists ... ›
- Amazon Deforestation Increase Prompts Germany to Cut $39.5M in ... ›
- Norway Freezes $33.2M Transfer to Brazil's Amazon Fund Amid ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dan Gray
- Research shows that 16 weeks of a vegan diet can boost the gut microbiome, helping with weight loss and overall health.
- A healthy microbiome is a diverse microbiome. A plant-based diet is the best way to achieve this.
- It isn't necessary to opt for a strictly vegan diet, but it's beneficial to limit meat intake.
New research shows that following a vegan diet for about 4 months can boost your gut microbiome. In turn, that can lead to improvements in body weight and blood sugar management.
By Jeff Turrentine
Nearly 20 years have passed since the journalist Malcolm Gladwell popularized the term tipping point, in his best-selling book of the same name. The phrase denotes the moment that a certain idea, behavior, or practice catches on exponentially and gains widespread currency throughout a culture. Having transcended its roots in sociological theory, the tipping point is now part of our everyday vernacular. We use it in scientific contexts to describe, for instance, the climatological point of no return that we'll hit if we allow average global temperatures to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. But we also use it to describe everything from resistance movements to the disenchantment of hockey fans when their team is on a losing streak.
By Mark Mancini
On Aug. 18, Iceland held a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change. The deceased party was Okjökull, a historic body of ice that covered 14.6 square miles (38 square kilometers) in the Icelandic Highlands at the turn of the 20th century. But its glory days are long gone. In 2014, having dwindled to less than 1/15 its former size, Okjökull lost its status as an official glacier.
By Alex Schwartz
Among the many vendors at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18 sat three young people peddling neither organic vegetables, gourmet cheese nor handmade crafts. Instead, they offered liberation from capitalism.
I’m a Psychotherapist – Here’s What I’ve Learned From Listening to Children Talk About Climate Change
By Caroline Hickman
Eco-anxiety is likely to affect more and more people as the climate destabilizes. Already, studies have found that 45 percent of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. Some of that emotional turmoil must stem from confusion — why aren't adults doing more to stop climate change?