Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has dramatically increased during the coronavirus pandemic. According to a report by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, the first four months of 2020 saw a 55 percent increase in the destruction of the rainforest compared to the same period last year. Satellite imagery from the European Space Agency analyzed by NBC News confirms the extensive tree loss.
Environmentalists say President Jair Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and the reduced workforce at the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources have encouraged loggers, miners, and ranchers to accelerate the deforestation while the focus is currently on the global pandemic. But it is currently unknown whether the increase in tree loss is the result of legal or illegal logging.
“Government agencies are in quarantine, the population is in quarantine, good people are in quarantine — but the criminals are not, so they are taking advantage of this momentum to increase their activity,” said André Guimarães, head of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, to NBC News.
Indigenous groups in the Amazon are working alongside local and global environmental organizations to fight the deforestation efforts. They have ample ground to stand on. According to National Geographic, the Amazon is responsible for stabilizing the rain supply in South America and plays a crucial role in maintaining the continent’s diverse ecosystem.
Bolsonaro has responded by sending armed forces to areas where increased deforestation is taking place.
Among other major concerns is the upcoming fire season, could be intensified due to deforestation.
In a plea for government action, Guimarães told NBC News, “It was urgent last year. This year is urgent multiplied by sevenfold. We have to stop the deforestation in the Amazon now. Now. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Not the day after tomorrow. Now.”