Amazon wildfire in Tocantins. Photo: Fabio Pozzebom/ABr

Brazil made international headlines after skies in its biggest city, São Paulo, turned abnormally dark at 3 pm on Monday afternoon. While largely caused by thick low clouds and an incoming cold front, there is the suggestion the darkness was compounded by traveling smoke clouds from Brazil’s Amazon and Center-West regions.

Over the past five years, Brazilian forests have been burned down at a never-before-seen rate. Between January and August 19, the country registered an 83-percent increase in forest fires from the same period in 2018—with a total of 72,843 occurrences over the last eight months, according to the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe).

Fires have also increased in protected areas, with 68 blazes in indigenous territories and conservation areas this week alone. 

</p> <p>Not surprisingly, fires have occurred more often in areas where deforestation also increased (<a href="">ranchers often set fires to clear areas</a> that will be used for crops, such as soybeans, or as pastures). The Amazon Environmental Research Study showed that the municipalities with most registered fires were also the ones which lost the most vegetation: Apuí (Amazonas), <a href="">Altamira</a> (Pará), Porto Velho (Rondônia), and Caracaraí (Roraima).</p> <p>The state of Mato Grosso—where soybean, corn, and cotton crops are the main source of revenue—saw the most fires. The state is home to the Chapada dos Guimarães National Park—which has already lost 12 percent of its vegetation—and the Serra do Ricardo Franco Park—labeled a word heritage site by UNESCO.</p> <h2>How the Brazilian government reacted</h2> <p>In recent weeks, the government has faced heat after discrediting deforestation data produced by Inpe—a crisis which culminated with the resignation of former institute director Ricardo Galvão. But now, as evidence mounts, even Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro admits that fires are on the rise.&nbsp;</p> <p>But, true to his style, he protected agricultural producers and erroneously <a href="">blamed</a> environmental NGOs for the problem. &#8220;There may have been—and I&#8217;m not stating that—criminal actions by these organizations to draw attention against me, against the Brazilian government. That&#8217;s the war we&#8217;re facing. We&#8217;ll do the impossible to curb arson [in protected areas].&#8221;</p> <h2>30 years of Amazon deforestation, in images and charts</h2> <p>We have compiled data from PRODES—the government&#8217;s program to monitor Amazon deforestation—and images from Google Earth that help understand the devastating effects of human action on the planet&#8217;s largest rainforest.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/613095"></div><script src=""></script> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/612930"></div><script src=""></script> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/612965"></div><script src=""></script> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img src="" alt="amazon deforestation" class="wp-image-22646"/><figcaption>BRAZILIAN AMAZON DEFORESTATION (1989-2019)</figcaption></figure> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img src="" alt="apui amazonas" class="wp-image-22641"/></figure> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img src="" alt="altamira para" class="wp-image-22640"/></figure> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img src="" alt="porto velho rondonia" class="wp-image-22639"/></figure> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img src="" alt="caracai roraima" class="wp-image-22638"/></figure> <p>

Read the full story NOW!

PowerAug 21, 2019

Tags: - - -

BY Euan Marshall

Euan Marshall is a Scottish journalist living in São Paulo. He is co-author of A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.

BY Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist with experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets.