Political Circus: The Amazon, The Fires and the Interests

By Fernanda Ferreira

The Amazon Rainforest is Burning at Record Rates – The Political Issue Around It Only Worsens It.

A political cartoon published in the BusinessDay magazine caricatures Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro with a lawnmower in his hands cutting up the Amazon forest. In a symbolic way, that cartoon represents the current environmental situation and the political issues around it that is wounding the world’s most important rainforest. It is widely known that the Amazon rainforest – whose territory is 60% in Brazil with the other 40% located among 9 South American countries such as Peru and Bolivia – has essential importance to humankind. Besides providing one-fifth of oxygen available in the atmosphere, it is a huge climate controller. According to studies reported in The Ecologist, Amazon’s flying rivers – air current that takes vapor from the forest to the entire south of the continent –  prevents Brazil from turning into a barren desert. 

The importance of the forest is nothing new. Recently, however, there was a large scandal regarding the Amazon forest fires – these happen naturally, on a smaller scale, every year, due to the drought season and other natural conditions. Yet, it has been proven that a significant cause of the fires was humans. This year, the forest is burning at never before seen rates. A comparison made by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) states that from the same point last year, this year’s fires are 85% worse. Reasons for the astonishing increase have been investigated but, according to the same institution, there is solid evidence of these having a criminal origin. Brazil’s newspaper G1 reported an inquiry made by Brazilian police that found out that farmers from Pará state organized a Fire Day, as they called it, to set fire to the forest to “show work” for Bolsonaro. For those who are not familiarized, the president’s policy supports the exploitation of the forest in order to ensure the agricultural triumph.

But that is not all. The institution previously mentioned, INPE, has also recently published the data regarding the 2019 fires, which have invalidated the on-going fake-news that said the fires situation was not that critical. In response to the publishing, Bolsonaro exonerated the president of the institution saying that the data must be biased and it was not reliable. As being a national organization, INPE is legally required to publish all its information and researches.  Another chapter of this circus was the conflict between Bolsonaro and France’s President Emmanuel Macron. It all started with a demonstrated notable concern from Macron with the Amazon fires. He urged the G-7 members to gather in a discussion on how to address the problem and turned out to a donation of 20 million dollars offered by the countries. Bolsonaro rejected it. His arguments were that France and the international community had imperialist interests on the Amazon forest and moreover, he said the donation would only be accepted if Macron apologizes from insults made.

In contrast, many European countries have had a contradictory concern regarding Amazon preservation. Norwegian investors such as the store brand ASA and the pension fund KLP managed $170 to ensure that global companies were not involved in the fires. The irony is that one year before, another Norwegian company, Hydro, was held responsible for dumping toxic waste in the Amazonian rivers and refused to pay the compensation. Why weren’t the investors concerned back then? It is certainly very controversial for them to express such a genuine concern with global companies when their own country’s company is being blamed for part of the damage as well. 

On the other hand, Brazil’s president continues to support farmers and tried to take out their blame from the Amazon fires. Bolsonaro declared to the Brazilian press when he was asked about the cause of the fires: “Everyone is a suspect, but the main ones are the NGOs”. Again, the political inclination has been over the environmental concern itself. Amazon is burning and the Brazilian government is prioritizing the political issues around it rather than focusing on battling the fires. The political aspect is a huge determinant of all national matters but it must not surpass in importance, the topic itself. 

Bolsonaro is not directly burning the world’s biggest rainforest as the cartoon presented. Still, the trend of positions such as his, inside the Brazilian government, is directly encouraging the setting of fires. Neither Bolsonaro nor the controversial international companies are in fact helping the forest. The political interest of all sides is not really promoting solutions as it should. The Amazon is burning and, unfortunately, the political issue is making it even worse. 

 

unnamedPolitical cartoon mentioned / By Brendan Reynalds

 

*DISCLAIMER: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article above belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the Bullseye newspaper nor the EAB institution*