Things That Matter

Under Bolsonaro, The Brazilian Amazon Has Reached Record-Breaking Levels Of Deforestation

Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro is largely responsible for Amazon deforestation reaching an 11-year high. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) determined deforestation reached 3,769 square miles, an increase of 29.5 percent over the course of a year. 

According to Al Jazeera, that’s the worst its been since 2008. Bolsonaro has been accused of weakening IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency in favor of further monetizing the Amazon region. The president’s rhetoric has allowed illegal felling of the forest to thrive without impunity by nefarious loggers, miners, and farmers. 

Activists hold Bolsonaro singularly responsible for deforestation.

“The Bolsonaro government is responsible for every inch of forest destroyed. This government today is the worst enemy of the Amazon,” Marcio Astrini, public policy coordinator for Greenpeace, said in a statement. 

According to Brazil’s Climate Observatory, the recent increase is the fastest it has been seen since the ’90s and the third-fastest ever. 

“In a break with what occurred in previous years during which the rate rose, this time the government did not announce any credible measures to reverse the trend,” the group told the New York Times. 

Bolsonaro used executive power immediately upon taking office to ensure that Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture oversees the regulation and creation of indigenous reserves. The decision, many believed, gave the agricultural industry a significant expansion of power to determine where new indigenous reserves could be located. 

Within months, the INPE noted an increase in fires across the Amazon from January to August 2019, more than in the agency’s history of tracking the fires which began in 2013. 

“It is no surprise this is happening because the president has defended environmental crime and promoted impunity,” Adriana Ramos of the Socio-environmental Institute told The Guardian.

Bolsonaro lashed out against the head of INPE, Ricardo Galvao by firing him after Galvao called the president a coward for attempting to undermine the legitimacy of deforestation satellite imagery. Bolsonaro has repeatedly called the agency’s figures false. This year, following the G7 summit in France, Bolsonaro rejected $20 million in aid to fight the forest fires. 

Environment Minister Ricardo Salles finally acknowledged the issue.

Environment Minister Ricardo Salles has often deflected or dismissed evidence of the deforestation increase, but finally acknowledged it, according to Reuters

“[The level of deforestation] is far from what we wanted, but it’s also far from the three-digit numbers that had been reported,” Salles said. 

He blamed the deforestation on the illegal acts of miners, ranchers, and loggers rather than the president, adding that Brazil needs “a sustainable economy alternative for that region of the Amazon.” Salles did not present any course of action to address the issue. Experts are not hopeful that Bolsonaro will improve the situation. 

“Proposals like legalizing land-grabbing, mining and farming on indigenous lands, as well as reducing the licensing requirements for new infrastructure will show that the coming years will be even worse,” Carlos Rittl, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, said. “The question is how long Brazil’s trading partners will trust its promises of sustainability and compliance with the Paris agreement, as forests fall, indigenous leaders are killed and environmental laws are shattered.”

Brazil and the rest of the planet need the Amazon.

The Amazon is the largest rainforest and largest river basin on the planet. There are more species there than anywhere else on Earth. Roughly 20 percent of the Amazon has disappeared in just 50 years due to agriculture, illegal logging and urbanization. Brazil’s draconian policy that allows farmers to burn down the forest to clear land, and now under Bolsonaro to due so illegally without being fined has contributed to this. 

“Fires mark one of the last stages in deforestation,” said Raoni Rajão, an environmental professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais told the Washington Post. “First, the expensive wood is removed. Then, the bush is left to dry. Finally, fires are set to clear the land before grass can be planted for pasture.”

However, scientists note that whether you are an indigenous person displaced by the fires or in an entirely different country, this issue affects you directly. 

“Reforestation is essentially a way of removing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The existing forest is absorbing some carbon dioxide already,” Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy, a tropical and conservation biologist told National Geographic. “In terms of the global carbon cycle, tropical forests have a carbon sink roughly equal to half of what is in the atmosphere. About half of that is in the Amazon. This means to lose the Amazon would dramatically increase climate change.” 

Dr. Lovejoy notes that all hope is not lost if the nine Amazon nations take a proactive approach the Amazon can be restored to 90 percent of what it was. Bolsanaro’s critics are not as hopeful.

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The Last Wild Macaw In Rio de Janeiro Visits the Zoo Everyday Because She’s Lonely

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The Last Wild Macaw In Rio de Janeiro Visits the Zoo Everyday Because She’s Lonely

via Getty Images

If you’re the type of person who constantly complains about being single, this story will most definitely resonate with you. In Rio de Janeiro, there is a macaw that experts believe is the only free macaw currently living in Rio. To make things more tragic, this Brazilian macaw is so lonely that she makes daily visits to her fellow macaws at Rio de Janeiro’s zoo.

Every morning, a blue-and-yellow macaw (affectionately named Juliet) flies into the enclosure where the zoo’s macaw lives and canoodles with her fellow species.

According to the staff of the Rio de Janeiro Zoo, Juliet has been making daily visits to the enclosure for 20 years. The last time a blue-and-yellow macaw like Juliet was seen in the wild was in 1818. So it’s safe to say she’s fiending for some company. The average lifespan of a macaw is 35-years, which means Juliet has spent the majority of her life as a single lady.

“They’re social birds, and that means they don’t like to live alone, whether in nature or captivity. They need company,” said Neiva Guedes, president of the Hyacinth Macaw Institute, to the Associated Press. “[Juliet] very probably feels lonely, and for that reason goes to the enclosure to communicate and interact.”

Luckily for Juliet, the Rio de Janeiro Zoo is launching a program called Refauna that is aiming to breed and reintroduce blue-and-yellow macaws back into the wild.

The Refauna program plans to breed 20 macaw chicks and give them “training” on “forest food sources, the peril of predators and avoidance of power lines.” Once they’re thoroughly educated, workers will release the birds into the Tijuca Forest National Park to live full, free lives. Some people are hoping that with so many macaws flying free out in the open, Juliet will feel less lonely.

But some animal experts are warning the general public not to feel too bad for Juliet. “We don’t want to project human feelings,” biologist Angelita Capobianco told AP News. I look at the animal, and see an animal at ease.” That’s nice to hear. We love a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need a man to thrive.

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Brazil Just Passed a Bill That Will Allow Rich Corporations to ‘Skip the Line’ for COVID-19 Vaccines

Things That Matter

Brazil Just Passed a Bill That Will Allow Rich Corporations to ‘Skip the Line’ for COVID-19 Vaccines

Photo via Getty Images

Currently, Brazil is one of the world’s epicenters of the coronavirus. In March 2021, Brazil saw 66,573 COVID-19-related deaths. That means 1 in every 3 COVID-related deaths worldwide are occuring in Brazil.

And it doesn’t appear that the numbers will be slowing down anytime soon. While the United States is making strides in their COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Brazil is lagging far behind. And things are about to get a lot more complicated.

On Tuesday, Brazil passed a bill that would allow corporations to buy up as many vaccines as they can get their hands on, and privately distribute them to their employees first.

Elected officials in Brazil are arguing that the country has become so desperate to vaccinate its citizens, that it doesn’t matter who gets the vaccines first at this point.

The country, once renowned for having one of the most robust and efficient public vaccine-distribution programs in the world, has failed to make strides towards getting their citizens vaccinated.

“We are at war,” said the leader of the chamber, Arthur Lira. “And in war, anything goes to save lives.” We don’t know about you, but usually when it comes to war, we’ve heard that soldiers prioritize the health and safety of young, the weak, and the elderly before their own? We digress…

Brazil’s plan to privatize the vaccine rollout has brought up moral and ethical questions.

From the beginning, the World Health Organization has asked countries to first prioritize essential health workers and then high-risk populations when distributing the vaccine.

Anything other than that would promote a pay-to-play schemes in which the rich could protect their lives before poor people could. And poor people are more likely to die from COVID-19 in the first place.

As Alison Buttenheim, behavioral scientist and expert on the equitable allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine said, vaccine distribution should not “exacerbate disparities and inequities in health care,” but instead address them. Brazil’s vaccine rollout plan would fail to do any of the above.

If countries begin to allow the rich to prioritize their own interests during the vaccine rollout, the consequences could be disastrous.

In a time when the world is stoked by fear and uncertainty, the worst thing that can happen is for rich companies to exacerbate inequalities by effectively choosing who lives or dies.

As the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization said at the beginning of the global vaccine rollout: “any distribution of vaccines should advance human well-being and honor global equity, national equity, reciprocity, and legitimacy.”

Poor Brazilians should not be left to fend for themselves against COVID-19 simply because they are poor.

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