Huge Rise in Rainforest Destruction Under Bolsonaro - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Only hours after Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro took office, he launched what many critics are calling an “assault on environmental and Amazon protections.” Indeed, under far-right Bolsonaro, monthly deforestation of the Amazon rainforest – which is known as the “lungs of the planet” for good reason – has increased by 88.4 percent from a year ago.

Brazil’s space agency says that deforestation in the world’s largest tropical rainforest is record-breaking.

And that it’s dangerous for all of us.

Brazil holds about 60 percent of the Amazon, which is seen as essential to the global fight against climate change. Tropical rainforests – like the one in Brazil – draw in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. As the rainforests shrink in size, so does their capacity for cleaning the air. Without the benefits the rainforests provide, the greenhouse effect that now holds Earth in its tight grip is likely to become even more pronounced, creating a terrible cycle that causes more trees and plants to die out all over the world.

The rainforest is also home to the most biodiversity in the world. Native plants and animals that can’t live anywhere else call the Amazon their home.

Brazilian activists, including politician Marina Silva, have denounced Bolsonaro as an “exterminator of the future.”

“We are watching them deconstruct everything we’ve put together,” said José Sarney Filho, former environmental minister of Brazil. Filho served under two other right-wing presidents – Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Michel Temer – but he’s never seen anything like this. “We’re talking about biodiversity, life, forests … the Amazon has an incredibly important role in global warming. It’s the world’s air conditioner; it regulates rain for the entire continent.”

Bolsonaro claims that rainforest and other environmental protections hold Brazil back, particularly in the area of economic growth. He promised during his campaign that he would not allocate “one more centimeter” of land to reserves.

He recently said that he would remove all the environmental protections preserving part of Brazil’s forested coast, just south of Rio de Janeiro, so developers could create a “Cancún of Brazil” for tourists.

What Do You Think?

Are you concerned about the Amazon rainforests? Do you think we in the U.S. should mind our own business, or do you believe that the record levels of deforestation affect us all? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so please feel free to share them with me on Facebook or on Twitter. Join the conversation and make your voice heard!

Carlos Gamino