The number of fires this year in the Amazon is the highest since 2010 and reached more than 90,000 active fires.
Farmers and farmers regularly use forest to clear the forest. But this year's number reflects a worrying rise in the rate of deforestation, which began to decline around 2005 before returning earlier this decade.
Many people blame the Brazilian government and its pro-agricultural policy for the current crisis. But as an environmental researcher who has worked in the Amazon for the last 25 years, I can say that the seeds were planted before President Jair Bolsonaro was elected in 2018.
And the prospects of delaying deforestation remain bleak, an issue that is important to people around the world.
Farmers and farmers regularly use forest to clear the forest. But this year's number reflects a worrying increase in deforestation, which had begun to decline around 2005 before returning earlier this decade
This is partly because the current government has only aggravated the situation with its anti-environmental agenda.
Unless the Brazilian people manage to withdraw Bolsonaro from its stated goal of developing the Amazon, deforestation will increase again.
Adding fuel to the fire is the acceleration of the South America Regional Infrastructure Integration Initiative (IIRSA), a multinational plan to construct roads, dams and railways across the Amazon.
Brazil managed to significantly reduce deforestation rates at the start of the millennium with an effective environmental policy and voluntary efforts from the private sector.
Deforestation, which began in the 1970s, began to climb again in 2015 due to political unrest and an economic recession paving the way for policy reversals.
The deforestation rate in the Amazon fell from around 10,700 square miles in 2004 to 1,765 square miles in 2012 and remained low until the revival a few years ago.
This was due to an effective environmental policy, which in Brazil is usually based on protected areas, such as national parks, and a forestry code that limits the amount of land that can be harvested on individual properties.
Over the years, the Brazilian government has developed a system of protected areas for ecological protection and indigenous reserves. In 2002 it expanded their coverage to around 43% of the entire Amazon.
It also created protected areas in zones of land conflict as a means to sabotage unbridled fire and deforestation.
In addition, the enforcement of the forestry code has been improved by the development of a satellite monitoring system that has enabled the Brazilian environmental protection agency to identify space violators.
The number of fires this year in the Amazon is the highest since 2010 and reached more than 90,000 active fires
Unless the Brazilian people manage to withdraw Bolsonaro from its stated goal of developing the Amazon, deforestation will increase again. Adding fuel is the acceleration pace of the South America Regional Infrastructure Integration Initiative (IIRSA), a multinational plan to build roads, dams and railways across the Amazon
In addition to the government, the private sector contributed to reducing deforestation.
Farmers in soybeans stopped planting new fields in the forest, and retailers demanded that the goods they sold came from countries that had already been cleared so that they could certify them as & # 39; green & # 39; especially beef.
Unfortunately, these efforts started to unravel almost as soon as they proved themselves.
The reason for the background is that many people have long viewed the Amazon as an enormous supply of valuable resources that can be used for the economic development of a poor region.
The IIRSA agenda – an extensive infrastructure project launched in 2000 to connect the economies and remote areas of the region – reflects this view, common to all countries that share the Amazon basin.
These include, in addition to Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
It will come as no surprise that their individual orientation towards the region all reflects a contradiction between economic development on the one hand and conservation on the other.
In Brazil, the government not only creates protected areas, it reduces them to prepare for infrastructure projects. Former President Dilma Rousseff even reduced the Amazon National Park in 2012, the first in the Amazon, to make way for the Hydroelectric complex Tapajós, an important part of the IIRSA plan.
The government is not acting in a vacuum and in Brazil a powerful congress block, the rural / mining caucus known as the Ruralistas, is working tirelessly to undermine environmental policy.
This led in 2012 to revisions to the forestry code that favor agriculture, and not the environment, by exempting those who illegally deforested before 2008 from reforestation in accordance with the law.
Continuing the political action of Ruralista made it easier for land grabbers in 2017 to obtain the title of illegally seized countries.
Fear of a turning point
President Bolsonaro has inherited a series of weakened environmental policies and all indications are that he will continue to weaken it.
At the same time, he has delivered on his promise to open up the Amazon for development by announcing plans to build a bridge across the Amazon and to extend a paved road all the way to the border with Suriname.
Research shows that every year when the forest burns, the destructive effect spreads beyond the flames to kill trees and dry out the landscape
The IIRSA agenda seems to be accelerating and as people come to the region to take advantage of the jobs it creates, the fires can only get worse.
Since the opening of the Amazon for development in the 1970s, fires have been intentionally fired annually to make way for fields and meadows and to fertilize the soil. The Amazon maintains a humid climate that limits their size.
Superfires have never raged more than hundreds of square miles such as forest fires in the US. But this can change due to the cumulative effect of repeated use of fire.
Research shows that every year when the forest burns, the destructive effect spreads beyond the flames to kill trees and dry out the landscape.
This can make the forest increasingly vulnerable to fire through the build-up of combustible materials and the coalescence of fire-damaged ecosystems across wide parts of the entire basin.
If Brazil does not retreat from its course, scientists are warning that in the near future there will come a time when Amazon fires are out of control and pushing the forest to a point of no return, which some will call a "tipping point" the underlying ecosystem permanently change.
Without restoring the environmental policy in Brazil, the worst fires are yet to come.
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