Bolsonaro’s Military Strategy Fails to Protect Amazon from Deforestation

Amazon Burning      Photo: YouTube 

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s most recent effort to reduce the destruction of the Amazon rainforest has failed, The Washington Post reports. Bolsonaro’s plan to deploy military troops and take illegal mining operations by surprise ultimately failed when miners got wind of it. Experts explained that Brazil’s militarized approach to environmental protection has consistently been plagued by “disorganization, inexperience, and allegations of political bias.” Bolsonaro previously downplayed and even denied the destruction, but now supports Amazon protection efforts perhaps due to the threat of sanctions by the Biden administration.

Why This Matters: The health of the Amazon rainforest is crucial in the fight against climate change. It’s the largest rainforest — one of the most biodiverse ecosystems — and it’s one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. Continued logging, burning, and mining in the Amazon will result in the release of 76 billion tons of CO2. Moreover, a recent study reported that the Amazon is getting less and less rain, and thus could be transformed from rainforest to savannah this year.

Bolsonaro’s Environmental Failures

Deforestation and logging in the Amazon have thrived under Bolsonaro due to his weakening of environmental regulations which cleared the way for loggers, miners, and ranchers. The Amazon Environmental Research Institute reported that 2020 was the worst year for deforestation in the rainforest since 2006, with a loss of 5,405 square miles.

As part of Bolsonaro’s environmental plan, the military no longer assists environmental law enforcement but instead directs operations. This has resulted in multiple instances where loggers and miners were alerted to raids in advance due to incompetence, or perhaps corruption, by the military. In the state of Pará, the army chose to raid an illegal logging site, taking the loggers by surprise, but days before the operation, the military flew a helicopter over the site. By the time armed forces got there, the loggers were gone. The relationship between the military and the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) has grown more volatile in the past months, one IBAMA agent reported, “they call us watermelons, green on the outside, red in the middle. They think we’re communists.”

In August 2020, as a portion of rainforest twice the size of Delaware burned, Bolsonaro publicly claimed, “there aren’t any fires, nor is there one bit of deforestation. It’s a lie.” In September, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden said that if elected, he would work with other nations to offer Brazil $20 billion to stop deforestation in the Amazon, threatening “economic consequences” if Brazil did not comply.

Bolsonaro’s Recent Conversion

Since then, Bolsonaro has changed his tune, but not necessarily for the right reasons. The Washington Post obtained an unpublished government plan to address the Amazon’s problems. They found that Bolsonaro’s main concern wasn’t with deforestation caused by industry that he enabled and empowered, but a fear that other nations would swoop in to steal and plunder the rainforest’s resources. In the plans, the authors point to China, France, Germany, England, and the United States as threats to Brazil’s sovereignty, a fear potentially influenced by Biden’s prior threats. 

Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of Climate Observatory says that Bolsonaro’s proposed narrative is hogwash, “these are conspiracy theories, as if the world had come together to take away the Amazon from Brazil just because Bolsonaro was elected.” Bolsonaro’s strategy shows similarities to those shown by President Trump throughout his administration, promoting conspiracy theories about fake statements made by American politicians and more. 

Up Next

Indigenous Communities File Suit Against Ecuadorian Government to Protect Amazon

Indigenous Communities File Suit Against Ecuadorian Government to Protect Amazon

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Earlier this year, Ecuador’s new President Guillermo Lasso issued decrees to expand oil and mining projects in the Amazon. Indigenous communities from the country’s rainforest are now suing the government in an effort to stop these projects, calling them a “policy of death,” according to reporting by Reuters. Community […]

Continue Reading 320 words
Giant Sequoias Threatened by California Fires 

Giant Sequoias Threatened by California Fires 

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer The giant sequoia trees in California’s Sequoia National Park are over 1,000 years old and could live another 2,000 years, but climate change-fueled fires are killing them. The trees can usually withstand the flames, but the intensity of recent fires has been overpowering. Last year’s Castle Fire killed up […]

Continue Reading 385 words
Amazonian Communities Urge International Action & Invests in Restoration

Amazonian Communities Urge International Action & Invests in Restoration

By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor As wildfires and deforestation grip the Amazon rainforest, Indigenous communities are urging world governments to pledge to protect 80% of the forest by 2025. The groups launched their campaign at a biodiversity conference in France, where experts from around the world are laying the groundwork for the UN’s delayed […]

Continue Reading 441 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.