BRAZIL: The amount of deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest reached its highest monthly level ever in February, highlighting the magnitude of the challenge facing Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s administration as it works to reverse the environmental damage caused by the far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro.
According to government satellites, a record 322 sq km of Amazon rainforest was destroyed in February, a 62% rise over the previous year and the highest monthly total ever.
After deforestation reached a 15-year high during the Bolsonaro years, Lula, who assumed office on January 1st of this year, promised to put an end to illegal logging.
The government has started up the Amazon Fund, which is an important tool for protecting the environment, and made a civil society council on the environment again. Both of these things were ignored by Bolsonaro.
The environment ministry is once again led by environmentalist Marina Silva, who, in the same capacity during Lula’s first term in office, oversaw a sharp decline in deforestation.
Silva has also ignored and changed a plan she made nearly 20 years ago to stop and control deforestation. This plan was the basis for her successful policies at the time.
Under the previous administration, crime and violence shot up as a result of Bolsonaro’s contempt for the rainforest and the people who protect it, giving criminals of all stripes the confidence to commit violent crimes like the murders of British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira. Batista says that fixing the problem will require rebuilding the environmental agencies’ staffs after the far-right populist got rid of most of them.
Silva told reporters last month that loggers were working even during the rainy season in the Amazon as “sort of revenge” for the current government’s crackdown after early data showed a rise in destruction in February.
The Amazon rainy season makes it difficult to clear forests, and cloud cover makes it less likely for satellites to detect it, so deforestation statistics are usually lower at the beginning of the year. Due to this, experts had told people not to celebrate the fact that deforestation went down in January.
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