Leo and the Amazon

When it comes to the Amazon rainforest fires in 2019, we could compile an extensive list of lies spouted by President Jair Bolsonaro. But no single mistruth grabbed the world’s attention as much as when the Brazilian leader accused actor Leonardo DiCaprio of funding philanthropic organizations that he claimed are somehow responsible for the environmental crisis this year. 

Mr. Bolsonaro had already blamed French Emmanuel Macron for what he saw as imperialist interference, but things didn’t go full Hollywood until December.“DiCaprio is a cool guy, isn’t he? Giving money to set the Amazon on fire,” he said to supporters in the capital Brasilia, without offering any proof.  

In fact, the far-right government thinks about NGOs all the time, blaming them for Brazil’s environmental mess. This has followed the administration’s M.O.: whenever there’s a problem, there’s always someone else to blame.

Data? We don’t think so

From August 2018 to July 2019, 9,762 square kilometers of the Amazon rainforest were deforested, 29.5 percent more than in the previous year, according to the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe). That was the highest level since 2008. 

Though the government keeps using data from Inpe, the institute’s former director, Ricardo Galvao, was fired early this year following disputes over deforestation numbers and insults traded between him and Jair Bolsonaro. Mr. Galvão was another that the president claimed was “in the service of some NGO.” 

“We [at INPE] use scientific publications, not the crap from Twitter you use,” Mr. Galvão said. While Inpe helped with data, the U.S movie star’s environmental organization Earth Alliance has pledged USD 5 million to help protect the Amazon. 

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