Antonio Donato Nobre is one of the most important Brazilian specialists in virgin forest ecology. He advised the government on the Brazilian forest protection law, the “codigo florestal”. He lived and researched years in Manaus Amazon. He is currently a professor at the Brazilian Institute for Space Research in Sao José dos Campos near São Paulo, which records deforestation and forest fires.
Why was the director of the Brazilian National Institute for the Study of Deforestation in the Amazon Region (INPE), Ricardo Galvão, recently fired by President Bolsonaro? has done highly respected research colleague, outraged by the President’s personal attacks on him. Bolsonaro and his advisers simply said that our rainforest destruction data are blatant lies.
In fact, it is Bolsonaro and his employees who fabricate lies. After these personal attacks against himself and his colleagues, he defended himself in a public statement against the president. And that clearly. The result: one of the most respected scientists in our country was fired and replaced by a military.
The shattering images from the Amazon are just going around the world. What is the current situation on the ground?
It’s really very, very bad. It is clear that the current fires are due to illegal arson by those who want to exploit the forest economically for their particular interests: land robbers, timber merchants and ranchers. If you want to have new land for yourself, go after the old traditional rules of the hinterland: Deface the land and it is yours. So burn down the forest and let you then issue a document that it is now in your possession.
This is a machine of destruction. So it’s really bad and we are only at the beginning of the dry season. The areas in which it burns the most are those with the most proven land rovers, lumberjacks and ranchers. These are the districts of the transition.
In the past these were the forests of Matogrosso, the east of the state of Pará and Tocantins. Today there is hardly any forest left, only remnants, fragments. So now it’s getting to the west of Pará and the state of Amazonia, one of the most intact areas yet. They cut roads in, wood from. An invasion.
Why so slow right now?
This has been going on for a long time. However, by the end of last year, the surveillance and containment of these criminals at least worked reasonably well. Under the Minister of the Environment Marina Silva, at the beginning of the Lula government.
But, under President Dilma Rousseff, the agrarian lobby managed the “Codigo florestal”, a forest protection law, to stamp. And immediately, the rate of deforestation rose again with the onset of significant dismantling of state control bodies.
With the impeachment trial against Dilma Rousseff it got even worse.
And since Bolsonaro is in power, the “agents of jungle destruction” have been completely off the leash. There was a public mediator alliance between the new Minister of the Environment and the loggers, under current law criminals.
In addition, the government has systematically prevented and prevented all control measures to protect the forest. What we have now is the result of these activities of the new government, which now wants to “develop” the Amazon as it sees fit.
Bolsonaro claims that it is the international NGOs that are responsible for the fires …
This is really the peak of the absurd. The NGOs in particular make sure that there are so many projects and programs for sustainable forest management. Incidentally, on this point, the regional governments, the states of the region, are opposed to the federal government. They are really angry.
Just like the individual communities and municipalities. Blaming the NGOs is the same as blaming a raider on the robbery. So it is clear that the responsibility for this fire is borne solely by the Brazilian government and its policy of encouraging criminal activity.
How many fires are actually burning at the moment?
A week ago it was 50.000 single Fire. Yesterday it was already . So an increase of 25 percent within a week. But we do not only record the number of fires, but also the emissions of carbon monoxide. And the current amount emitted by the forest fires is really worrying. And it’s not just burning in South America. There are also huge fires in Congo or Siberia.
Is this a new phenomenon?
No, that’s been good in Brazil years. However, with the exception of the few years at the beginning of the millennium, when Brazil was able to stop the deforestation process in the short term and suddenly took on a kind of role model role for sustainability. The current government has now completely stopped this policy and turned it into its opposite. However, she has achieved a strange effect with it.
Those who have helped power this government, the landlords and lobbyists of agribusiness, suddenly turn against them. It now seems to them that the current policy also harms them enormously. Above all, they are afraid of losing their international sales markets.
People like ex-Senator Katia Abreu or Brazil’s biggest soybean producer Blairo Maggi – both carriers of the dubious Order of the Golden Chainsaw – are now publicly opposed to Bolsonaro’s policies. Maggi, responsible for large-scale forest destruction in Matogrosso, gets cold feet and suddenly worries about Brazil’s extremely poor visibility. And suddenly, the President sends military to fire-fighting and persecuting the arsonists in the region.