Brazil And The Fires In The Amazon: What Is Happening Is, In Fact, Not Really Happening

How a passion for “that rich piece of Brazil", the Amazon rainforest, has made Bolsonaro into a victim.
PILAR OLIVARES / REUTERS

What is going on in Brazil right now is anything but the Brazilian government’s responsibility. There’s a sinister plot afoot against the country that is making it impossible for President Jair Bolsonaro to do his job.

For starters, European countries want to “steal” the Amazon. As if that weren’t bad enough, NGOs are engaging in criminal activity to undermine the president.

Even Brazil itself is in on it. The real-time data on deforestation from satellite images provided by the DETER system (part of INPE, Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research) are lies. Public studies, available in real-time, were released just to smear the country’s image on the international stage.

The problem isn’t the 278 percent increase in deforestation in July of 2019 compared to last year. The problem is the equipment that detects that deforestation. We’ll buy different equipment! Those fires? Oh, come on! “They’re happening because NGOs saw their source of funds drying up.” Furthermore, governors of northern states, who Bolsonaro discreetly declines to name, “aren’t lifting a finger to help fight the fires, because they’re enjoying the situation”.

As General Augusto Heleno of the Institutional Security Office (GSI) says, President Jair Bolsonaro is “passionate about that rich piece of Brazil”, the Amazon rainforest. He would not permit its destruction. He insisted that the president “would never permit it to be degraded, whether through deforestation, fires, or exploration that was not sustainable”.

As far as the government is concerned, Brazil is a victim. What is happening, is in fact, not really happening.

The soot from the smoke caused by the fires at the Triple Border region that traveled 2000 kilometres to reach São Paulo may not have been the only reason that the sky turned dark at 3:00 in the afternoon this week. Rainwater analysis, however, registered soot levels seven times higher than normal.

But those two things are not necessarily related. Why should they be? Making those connections is fake news, according to Ricardo Salles, minister of the environment – the official primary source.

<strong>Fires, burning in the Amazon Rainforest, are pictured from space, captured by the geostationary weather satellite GOES-16 on August 21, 2019.</strong>
Fires, burning in the Amazon Rainforest, are pictured from space, captured by the geostationary weather satellite GOES-16 on August 21, 2019.
NASA NASA / Reuters

Also, the Ministry of the Environment is doing its part. “Despite budgetary difficulties, an infrastructure problem, and a series of limitations passed from administration to administration, we are leveraging all of our administrative skills to bring together, for example, all of Prevfogo’s (the federal organisation to combat fires and unauthorised burn-offs) teams.” Those resources are there at the state governments’ disposal, and monitoring is ongoing. All of the necessary conservation measures will continue to take place, so absolutely nothing is being overlooked.”

Nothing is being overlooked.

So, mind your own business! Brazil wants Norway – a principal donor to the Amazon Fund – to take the money invested to combat deforestation in Brazil and give it to German chancellor Angela Merkel for reforestation in Germany. Berlin, who also suspended investment in the preservation of our rainforest, can save their money. The president has said it: “Brazil doesn’t need it.”.

There’s a problem with that narrative – while the government is pointing fingers, jumping to conclusions, and rejecting help, the Amazon rainforest keeps burning. Fires have shattered all records of the past seven years. According to INPE, there were 72,843 fires between January of this year and last Monday (August 19th). That is an 83 percent increase over the number recorded last year.

The journal Folha do Progresso stated that farmers in the state of Pará in northern Brazil said that the only way to show the president their willingness to work was by clearing the land, so they decided to have a “fire day”.

Bolsonaro claims he is being accused of being Nero, the emperor who set fire to Rome.

While the government alleges it is the drought season which is conducive to fires, INPE states the blazes in question are not from natural causes. “Drought conditions are favourable to the spread of fire, but when the fires start, it is by human action, whether intentional or through carelessness,” explained researcher Alberto Setzer, coordinator of the INPE group that monitors fires.

This year, deforestation in the Amazon affected 5 thousand km² of forest. That is an increase of 15 percent over the last 12 months compared to the same period last year, according to Imazon, a non-profit organisation dedicated to conserving the Amazon rainforest, whose methodology is different from INPE’s. In July alone, the area affected by deforestation was 1,287 km² – an increase of 66 percent compared to July of last year.

To sum it up, the door to deforestation was opened, but, in the end, loosening oversight is what is fanning the flames of the blazes. According to the Brazilian Climate Observatory, data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act shows that there was a 58 percent decrease in oversight operations by IBAMA (the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment’s administrative arm) through April of this year, in comparison to the same period last year. If looking at the Amazon alone, that decrease was 70 percent.

Furthermore, a study conducted by Folha de Sao Paulo shows that between January and June of this year, fines for deforestation fell 23 percent compared to the same period in 2018.

And all of this is what is happening, while the president dodges responsibility and alleges “environmental psychosis.”