Opinion – Marcelo Leite: Bolsonaro fells up to 1 billion trees in the Amazon in 12 months

Opinion – Marcelo Leite: Bolsonaro fells up to 1 billion trees in the Amazon in 12 months

It doesn’t matter if the reader is bothered by the destruction of the Amazon, if he voted for Jair Bolsonaro or if he considers the climate crisis a farce to impede national development: between August 2020 and July 2021, each Brazilian contributed four trees to decimate the largest rainforest in the world.

The calculation of environmental liabilities per capita is easy to do.

There were 13,235 km2 clear-cut this year, as informed by Inpe (National Institute for Space Research) on Thursday (18). Each hectare of Amazon forest has around 600 trees, which gives 60 thousand per square kilometer.

The devastation of 2021, the third year on Bolsonaro’s account, cut down a total of approximately 800 million trees, or 3.75 per inhabitant. It’s not just clear cutting in the Amazon, however.

For each hectare cut down, it is estimated that another has been degraded with the opening of roads almost invisible to satellites, low fire that penetrates the forest and edge effect (death of trees exposed to fire, wind and dryness in the vicinity of deforested areas).

It is possible that for every four trees felled, another one dies inside the areas still covered by vegetation. That is, 1 billion dead trees this year alone, 83.3 million per month, 2.8 million per day, 116,000 per hour, 2,000 per minute, 32 per second (when reading this text aloud, another 7,500 will be in floor).

This is without including other biomes also under pressure, such as the cerrado. The Brazilian savanna, more open, but with many woody species, has lost 7,000 km2 per year –an enormous amount for an area with only half of the Amazon, where 50% have already fallen under chains, fire, tractors and oxen hooves (in the bigger sister, 20%).

In the three years of Bolsonaro dominated by Minister Ricardo Salles in the Ministry of the Environment, the Amazon forest was reduced by 34,215 km2, surface larger than Belgium. If the successor post (Joaquim Leite) prefers, 2 billion trees.

I started writing about the Amazon in 1988, the same year that fires became the subject of global debate and Inpe started to publish clear cut estimates. It was also the year that Chico Mendes was murdered, a rubber tapper leader who Salles considered irrelevant.

Since then, it has been more than 470 thousand km2 of devastated forest. One Sweden, or 28 billion fallen trees. For every Earthman alive, 3.5 of them less. It’s overwhelming.

It doesn’t even need to make calculations about how much carbon ended up in the atmosphere, as a result, and contributed to triggering the climate crisis. They have already done it: as a result of deforestation, our biggest source of carbon emissions, Brazil appears in fourth place as a climate polluter, with 5% of the total emitted since the beginning of the industrial era.

We are behind the US (20%), China (11%) and Russia (7%). The difference: in these countries, emissions were generally used to develop industry, generate jobs and improve the lives of the population.

Around here, the destruction of the Atlantic forest, the Amazon forest, the cerrado, the caatinga and the Pantanal has only contributed to opening up areas of unproductive pastures and to enriching miners, illegal loggers, land grabbers and ranchers. The people Bolsonaro likes and who vote for him without blinking.

The reader may not be bothered by the destruction of the Amazon, he may have voted for Bolsonaro and considered the climate crisis a farce against national development. Maybe don’t mind the lies of the Bolsonaro government in Glasgow or the hiding of deforestation data before COP-26.

That’s the problem: a considerable part of Brazil is not ashamed.


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