According to satellite data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), the number of trees cut down in January in the Amazon (by far) exceeds the amount of deforestation for the same month last year.
Brazil’s vast Amazon rainforest absorbs large amounts of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, acting as one of the most powerful carbon sinks on our planet. Thus, protecting it is essential in our fight against climate change. Unfortunately, increasing numbers of trees are being cut both for their wood and to clear spaces to plant crops in order to supply global food companies.
Cutting large numbers of trees at the start of the year is unusual because the rainy season stops loggers from accessing many areas of the forest. However, in January 2022, deforestation totaled 430 square kilometers (166 square miles) – an area more than seven times larger than Manhattan.
Although at the COP26 international climate summit in Glasgow last year, over 100 governments – including the Brazilian one – promised to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro in fact weakened the environmental protection for this region, arguing that the government should exploit the Amazon in order to reduce poverty. Moreover, high global demand for agricultural products such as beef or soya beans keep fueling the destruction of the forest.
“Even in January, when deforestation is usually lower due to the rainy season in the Amazon region, destruction has dramatically skyrocketed,” said Cristiane Mazzetti, a campaigner at Greenpeace Brazil. “Just weeks ago, this government had delayed the release of annual deforestation numbers that revealed a massive increase and then told the world that it was resolving deforestation in Glasgow. The new data yet again exposes how the government’s actions contradict its greenwashing campaigns.”
Mazzetti and her colleagues at Greenpeace strongly urge supermarkets all over the world to drop suppliers who are involved in deforestation, refusing to accept their meat and dairy supplies.
Moreover, according to Ana Karina Pereira, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia, fundamental changes in political structure are necessary in order to reverse this trend, since even though the Bolsonaro government changed their tone last year (especially at the COP26 summit), their policies have largely remained the same.
“Changing the political profile of the president and federal government leadership is crucial in this moment to see a break in this trend of high levels of deforestation,” she concluded.