Soybean harvesting
Vast areas of Amazon forest have been replaced by soybean farms. Photo: ©Shutterstock

Brazil’s fall from grace

It wasn’t that long ago, under the enlightened presidency of Lula da Silva, that Brazil was an environmental exemplar for the rest of the world. Then came August 2019.

Between 1985 and 2002, nearly 500 forest-defending activists were killed in Brazil. But when ranchers ordered the murder of American missionary nun Sister Dorothy Stang in 2005, things changed for those who would exploit the Amazon jungle.

President da Silva created the ‘Forest Code’ – tough regulations banning logging and land clearing in the Amazon. And by 2012, deforestation had dropped more than 80 percent.

Agricultural lobby

But it wasn’t to last. A year into Dilma Rousseff’s presidency, the powerful Brazilian agricultural lobby drove through a major dilution of the forest code, with consequential large-scale increases in land clearing.

Then along came the right-wing environmental vandal, President Jair Bolsonaro, who quickly disembowelled all of the government bodies protecting the environment. And before long, the Amazon was on fire!

Between 1 January and 20 August this year, independent satellite imaging detected 74,000 fires burning across the Amazon jungle (not just in Brazil) – creating global outrage and threats of trade and financial sanctions.

Pile of sustainably harvested tropical logs
Tags on these tropical logs confirm they were harvested sustainably. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

Disaster responses

The level of local and international condemnation forced South American politicians to act. In September, seven national leaders (including Bolsonaro) initiated disaster responses – including large scale re-afforestation pledges.

The Amazon will take decades to recover from the August 2019 fires, but for the people, animals and insects that went up in smoke, there is no return.

Catastrophes such as this occasion a sense of helplessness. But as consumers, we can at least apply some pressure at the check-out: if it’s not environmentally certified, don’t buy it.

(Note: Some background for this item was obtained from Birdlife International, WWF and Wikipedia.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.

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