Chaotic Brazilian Politics threatens Amazon rainforest conservation

Brazil Rainforest

The Amazon rainforest already faces devastation thanks to climate change and deforestation. Now politics is set to make things a whole lot worse thanks to the Brazilian former President, Dilma Rousseff, being impeached.

How come? It looks like a subset of the National Congress of Brazil, which represents agribusinesses and big landowners, is using the political uncertainty to force through legislation designed to reverse various legal protections that have kept the forest relatively safe until now.

Greed sits at the heart of the initiative

This greedy group is keen to make more cash from the rainforest, and wants to open up former conservation areas to mining and agriculture in a horribly short-sighted initiative. Michel Temer, the ex-President's successor, isn't helping matters. He has decided to fast-track a handful of huge infrastructure development projects that require large-scale deforestation, including the hotly contested Cuiaba-Santarem road, set to cut the Amazon in half with devastating results. At the same time the Brazilian Ministry of Environment's budget has just been cut by more than 40% and science budgets have plummeted by 44%, mirroring a post-truth cut in similar budgets in other countries.

All this means Brazil’s long standing environmental licensing process could be under threat, with environmental law enforcement at an all-time low. Constitutional amendment 65 is the culprit, a piece of legislation that will force government agencies to agree all proposed infrastructure projects no matter how seriously they affect the forest. All that's needed is a three-fifths majority vote and amendment 65 will become law.

Goodbye to hard-won rainforest stability in the region

It's terrible news since the Brazilian Amazon had been relatively stable for a decade or so until three years ago, when we saw a sudden and dramatic hike in new deforestation. 2016 saw a rise of just under 30% compared to 2015, something that conservationists are laying at the feet of global price hikes on soya beans and beef, both frequently grown on deforested land.

Indigenous landowners to the rescue

The best hope of positive action comes from the forests' indigenous people, who have enjoyed considerable success protecting their own land. In these areas deforestation is just 10% of that in non-indigenous owned areas.  Around 3000 indigenous people are about to join an encampment in Brasilia to protest about the cuts in funding.  As one commentator said in New Scientist magazine, (https://www.newscientist.com/article/2129024-amazon-rainforest-under-threat-as-brazil-tears-up-protections/) “Indigenous people across the country are outraged at the failure to safeguard their land, without which they cannot survive.”

Add your voice to the protest

Can you help by protesting direct to the Brazilian government? Yes, you can. All you need to do is click here to see how you can help.

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