Buried under the news of COVID-19 is an acknowledgment of just how devastating the Amazon wildfires have been this year. Brazil has hit its 12-year high for deforestation in 2020, with more than 4,280 square miles of rainforest destroyed between August 2019 and July of this year. That’s equivalent to an area larger than seven times the size of Greater London — the most sizable loss since 2008.
According to Carlos Rittl, a Brazilian environmentalist working at Germany’s Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, the record numbers are a reflection of the environmental damage under President Jair Bolsonaro’s leadership.
“This is an area a third the size of Belgium,” he said, “gigantic areas of forest that are being lost simply because under Bolsonaro those who are doing the destroying feel no fear of being punished, Bolsonaro’s great achievement when it comes to the environment has been this tragic destruction of forests which has turned Brazil into perhaps one of the greatest enemies of the global environment and into an international pariah too.”
Environmentalists directly blame the deforestation on Bolsonaro’s weakening of enforcement efforts.
The Guardian reported that Cristiane Mazzetti, a Greenpeace spokesperson for the Amazon, said, “This is…a direct reflection of the Bolsonaro administration’s anti-environmental policies which have weakened the monitoring agencies and used misguided strategies to fight deforestation, such as deploying the armed forces rather than environmental protection agents.”
As he’s one of Bolsonaro’s key international allies, many hope that Donald Trump losing in the United States presidential election will result in increased pressure on the Brazilian president to stop destroying the world’s most important ecosystem.