Last year Brazil impeached its president, Dilma Rousseff. Since then new Brazilian President Michel Temer has repeatedly given strong signals that the country’s powerful agriculture interests will have more say on everything from imports to land ownership. And with Latin America’s largest economy enduring its worst recession in over 100 years, its business community is eyeing lands the Brazilian government recently promised would be protected.
Greenpeace says such a policy reversal would leave around 1 million hectares of land, an area larger than Yellowstone National Park, at risk of deforestation. Aerial photographs taken by a Greenpeace team in Brazil indicate areas around these lands are already being primed for development.
After years of steady decline, Greenpeace claims deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon increased 75 percent between 2012 and 2015. Nevertheless, President Temer’s administration is considering a proposal from the country’s National Congress to cancel one designated conservation area and reduce the size of four others by about 40 percent.
“These forests are being cleared for global commodities such as animal feed, as well as cattle products such leather and meat – which end up exported to Europe and elsewhere all over the world,” Daniel Brindis, a campaigner for Greenpeace, told TriplePundit.
Some Brazilian politicians say these conservation units are an obstacle to economic development. But the photographs reveal that landowners, or business interests well connected to the federal government, already had designs on these lands even before a change in policy became official.
Greenpeace says that so far there is little evidence of development underway other than the construction of roads and mining operations. But some areas have already been burned or cleared of forests, suggesting signs of new farms or timber logging.
Local and indigenous communities depend on these lands, Greenpeace says. “The fact is that you have the people in traditional communities who rely on them to survive,” Brindis told us.
And that’s only the start of why these forests should continue to be preserved. “In addition, these forests have critical roles that vary from pollinators to some of…