An area as large as IJsselmeer was cleared in the Amazon jungle in the month of May alone. That’s a 41 percent increase compared to last year, according to the Brazilian space agency INPE, which monitors deforestation with the help of satellites. An increase has also been reported in the past three months.
The numbers are very alarming, according to the Brazilian Climate Observatory. He asserts that May is the beginning of the dry season, which is also the beginning of the logging season. If this trend continues, the Climate Observatory expects another record amount of wood to be harvested in 2021.
Already a lot of forest fires
In the world’s largest tropical rainforest, a relatively large number of wildfires have erupted in the past month. The number of fires has increased in the last month, according to INPE It hasn’t been this big since 2007.
“The rainy season is already over and it’s been a bad (dry) season,” Marcello Silucci, a meteorologist with the National Institute of Swimming (INPE), told Reuters news agency. “Possibly bad bushfire season.”
Little rain fell, especially in the south of the rainforest. Experts argue that there is little that needs to be done to grow a small fire into a large forest fire that is difficult to control afterwards. Illegal logging plays a major role in this: A healthy rainforest remains moist even after the rainy season, but fewer trees means a drier one.
Reducing climate policy
Environmentalists assert that the Amazon fires were started illegally by farmers. In this way, farmers hope to get more land. The government didn’t bother them too much: President Bolsonaro’s government made deep cuts in climate policy. This year’s budget for the responsible ministry has been reduced by 24 percent. There is also less and less money for supervisors who have to protect rainforests and they can fine farmers.
Police investigation with the Minister of the Environment
Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles is involved in two ongoing police investigations. In it, he is associated with a large-scale trade in illegally harvested timber.
An investigation is centered on an incident in December last year when Salles personally approved a record amount of confiscated timber, even though police determined that 65,000 trees had been illegally felled. The then regional police chief was dismissed the next day. Then his successor, with only six months of experience, dropped the investigation. But this week it reopened after the Supreme Court ruled it.
The Federal Police is also investigating whether Salis made significant profits from exporting large quantities of illegally harvested timber to Europe and the United States. The focus is on the nearly 1 million euros Salles has received in recent years, and shady paperwork. Police have already conducted searches last month, including at Minister Salles’ home.
The actions of Bolsonaro’s government in the Amazon region have been criticized since taking office in 2019, due to the massive increase in wildfires and deforestation. Bolsonaro has long defended his policy by saying he wants the region to advance economically, and that parts of the forest have to give way.
Bolsonaro said this spring that Brazil wants to be energy neutral by 2050 and has promised a complete halt to illegal logging by 2030. Whether or not his words will translate into action. A day later, the president announced that he would make further cuts in environmental policy.