Amazon’s Green Reapers
There's a new species in the rainforest, but bad news - it brings death.
After large parts of the Amazon rainforest turned to ashes, we assembled the puzzle to find out the guilty people behind the disaster and it all starts from the controversial government led by Jair Bolsonaro and goes down to the profit-chasing land-grabbers.
Before getting any deeper, just look at how smoky the “Earth’s lungs” turned after they were consumed by tens of thousands of fires provoked not only by the heat of the tropical dry season, but also by humans’ own greedy hands.
Pretty apocalyptic, isn’t it? I must admit that it’s surprising to see even Mr. Ka crawling in the picture, but I wonder how he will manage to satisfy his appetite in those extremely unpleasant surroundings. What you saw in the video is just a small portion of the 5,500,000 square kilometers covered by the Amazonian rainforest, but, at the fast pace it is being exploited, we will hardly be able to call it a forest in the near future.
Who is behind the burning disaster?
The country who owns most of the Amazon is Brazil with (60% of the area), followed by Peru (13%), Columbia (10%) and other South-American countries - Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana -, with smaller percents. What this means? It shows that the country led by Jair Bolsonaro has, by far, the greatest responsibility over the Amazon.
Map source: MATTHEW W. CHWASTYK, National Geographic STAFF
Even if Brazil has the biggest slice of the Amazon pie, we can't blame them for just being the main 'shareholder'. Unfortunately for Brazil, the National Institute for Space Research recorded that among the over 80,000 fires that occurred in the rainforest this year, over 40,000 of them happened in Brazil's part of the Amazon. That's a huge amount, especially as the researchers found out an 88% increase in the number of fires compared to 2018.
"The numbers were fake" - Jair Bolsonaro
Let's settle one thing out. You say "the numbers were fake" when you encounter a miswritten math problem in school, not when statistics and deep research reports conducted by a specialized institute are presented to you and you just happen to be disturbed by them. The INPE can be wrong too, but to find that out you need to have someone to combat those numbers with another properly made analysis.
Photo: Britannica – Stockbyte / Thinkstock
The so-called ‘slash-and-burn’ methods of 'grileiros' - land grabbers: loggers, miners, farmers and cattle ranchers -, who obviously don’t care at all about environment, contribute massively to the smoky situation that Amazon has been dragged in. Even if such practices are mostly illegal, the governments keep a loose string around them.
99% percent of the fires result from human actions “either on purpose or by accident”. The burning can range from a small-scale agricultural practice, to new deforestation for a mechanized and modern agribusiness project.
Let's recap. Amazon is burning because of the humans who exploit it for big financial gains. So, that's it: money over our planet's health, the artificial green of a banknote over the natural green of a plant. How to stop this? By actually enforcing the law!
Cattle Ranching – Amazon’s top business
Photo: Nigel Dickinson / WWF-Canon
Among all the types of land-grabbers enumerated above, not the loggers, not the miners, and definitely not the farmers, but the cattle ranchers are the main actors behind deforestation in the Amazon jungle, according to Greenpeace. No wonder about it since Brazil is one of the largest exporters of beef. They trade about 20% of the worldwide beef and 2018 saw them export a record-breaking 1.6 million tons of beef. That’s about 1.6 million well-fed cows which entered the Amazon’s slaughter house and got mailed to other lands in just one year.
But what drives the cattle ranchers to raise so many horns and hoofs? The demand and the good price of the meat. Just go in a restaurant and see what’s the most expensive choice in the menu. You’ll see that beef stands tall, of course, if you’re not going to take the caviar, or the homar, or that Duck a L’Orange.
Europe wants beef, Asia wants beef, the whole world requests beef, so ranchers saw the opportunity and didn’t hesitate to cut through Amazon to provide pasture for their animals. Many Brazilians tried to turn vegetarian to stop the cutting of the forest, but the foreign deals are too good for the ranchers.
And the government led by Jair Bolsonaro made things even worse. The EU-Mercusor trade agreement – that took place in June 2019 -, made it cheaper for farmers and cattle ranchers to export agricultural products and meat – especially beef. In exchange, Brazil and the other three countries in Mercosur – Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay -, opened up the gates for Europe’s vehicles, chemicals, machinery, wine, and cheese. We could say that this is Bolsonaro’s way of saying ‘F**k the environment, let’s make some money!’
To understand even better how beef exports affect land clearance in Amazon, The Guardian made an easy-to-understand comparison:
Britain is indirectly responsible for the deforestation of the equivalent of 500 football pitches from the Amazon jungle. Italy is four times worse, but China tops everyone. The mandarin speaking nation is Brazil's biggest importer of beef and soy as the area of 30,000 football pitches was needed to be cleared from Amazonia to satisfy the needs of the most populated country in the world.
Base photo: Gustavo Frazao / Shutterstock
It’s not like Brazil didn’t try to reduce the deforestation of their national treasure. Forest clearance rates lowered down starting from 2004, but this dim lasted only until the 2014 economic crisis. To boost the economy, Brazil focused on their beef and soy exports, but this led to massive chops in the Amazon.
The Brazilian state constantly fails to keep land-grabbers away of the rainforest. Farmers got used to the loose application of the law and even mocked the government by organizing a strange type of national holiday on 10th August 2019. They called it queimada “Day of Fire” and celebrated it with large ‘slash-and-burn’ actions right under the nose of Jair Bolsonaro. That’s what happens when you let your mad dog of the leash – you get yourself bitten. Regarding the name of the ‘holiday’, I find it inappropriate. I mean, come on, you can’t name it ‘Day of Fire’ when your forest burns each and every day.
What land-grabbers don’t know or don’t want to know is that deforestation will bring them in a no-win situation. Or at least that’s what a 2013 study found out. How will the ‘grileiros’ get in a no-win situation? Researches expect that by 2050, “a decrease in precipitation caused by deforestation in the Amazon will reduce pasture productivity by 30 percent in the governance scenario and by 34 percent in the business-as-usual scenario.” So, even if the land-grabbers will have more land to produce on, their work-reward ratio will be significantly lower due to the negatively affected climate.
You still ‘slashing-and-burning’, grileiros!?
Well, it’s understandable that you didn’t get to read the study mentioned above, but let’s hope you don’t forget that the sky turned black in the middle of the day – 2:00 PM -, in Sao Paulo on 20th August. You can’t really miss that, can you?
True Amazonians’ message
Despite the continuously exploiting actions, Amazon’s indigenous people are ready to stand in their home until their last breath. They act like their home was invaded and they are right to do so. The rainforest is their life, so they can’t just step aside. Just look at the pain in the indigenous people’s eyes when they talk about the disastrous situation that unfolded right besides them.
Brazil lost 12% of the Amazonian forest since 1970, but with a president whose pro-economic policies intoxicate the environment we can only expect that things will get worse.
Our message to Jair Bolsonaro, to the farmers, the loggers, the miners, the cattle ranchers, and to all who profit unfairly from the luxurious Amazon involves a line of Spiderman’s uncle – Uncle Ben: