It’s no secret that deforestation is a major issue plaguing hundreds of ecosystems around the world, but in the Amazon — perhaps the most important forest of them all — the situation is dire. Due to the policies of Brazil’s new right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, massive chunks of the Amazon are being cleared by using heavy machinery. In some areas, illegal loggers are carving new tracks to reach valuable hardwood trees, which they sell on the black market. The ultimate result is a staggering loss of trees at an alarming rate — about the length of a soccer field every minute.
According to satellite images, since Jair Bolsonaro became president of Brazil in the first half of this year, there has been a noticeable decline in the number of trees. Specifically, an average of 2.4 acres have been cleared every minute over the past two months.
The reason behind this rampant deforestation appears to be populist politics. Bolsonaro was elected primarily by agricultural businesses and small farmers who generally believe that the Amazon region is too heavily protected and that environmental staff wields too much power. Many hold the opinion that the extensive network of protected areas is too restrictive for a region that needs to create jobs. To satiate his base, Bolsonaro is enacting an agenda designed to weaken the laws protecting the forest and even attacking civil servants who protect the trees.
One environment official, who remained anonymous, told the BBC that “it feels like we are the enemies of the Amazon, when in fact we should be seen in a completely different way, as the people trying to protect our ecological heritage for future generations.” He added that “there’s a government attempt to show that the data is wrong [regarding official deforestation figures], to show the numbers don’t portray the reality.”
“People need to know what’s happening,” the environment official explained, “because we need allies to fight against invasions, to protect areas, and against deforestation.”