Environment International Jake Johnson

‘Tipping Point of No Return’ Feared as Amazon Rainforest Fires Surge

"Up to now, the Biden administration has only legitimized the Brazilian government's anti-Indigenous and anti-environmental agenda," said Greenpeace USA.
Smoke rises from an illegally lit fire in the Amazon rainforest reserve in Para state, Brazil on August 15, 2020. (Photo: Carl de Souza/AFP via Getty Images)

By Jake Johnson / Common Dreams

The Brazilian government published data Friday showing that more than 2,500 fire hotspots were recorded in the Amazon rainforest last month, the highest number for June since 2007—one of the worst years ever for the critical ecosystem.

The latest report from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research estimates that the Brazilian Amazon has lost 1,450 square miles of jungle since the start of 2022.

Greenpeace Brazil said in response to the alarming figures that the far-right Bolsonaro government’s systematic rampage against basic environmental protections is responsible for the surge in rainforest fires and overall deforestation, which have helped transform parts of the Amazon—long known as a key carbon “sink”—into sources of planet-warming greenhouse gas.

“Agribusiness is hitting new records for forest destruction as the dry season arrives in the Amazon,” said Cristiane Mazzetti, a spokesperson for Greenpeace Brazil. “Illegal burnings and deforestation have accelerated over the last three years as a direct result of the Brazilian government’s anti-environmental agenda that encourages the destruction of the forest.”

“If this trend does not change,” Mazzetti added, “we will approach the tipping point of no return in which the Amazon could fail as a rainforest.”

Brazilian academics have warned in recent months that a Bolsonaro victory in the October presidential election would mean total demise for the Brazilian Amazon. Recent polling shows that Bolsonaro is trailing leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has vowed to pursue “net-zero deforestation” if elected.

“If Bolsonaro remains in the power of presidency, it’s hopeless in terms of the environment,” Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the São Paulo-based Climate Observatory, told HuffPost in April, a record-shattering month for Amazon deforestation.

“There will be more deforestation,” said Astrini. “The Amazon will fast forward to its collapse point.”

Environmental groups have voiced dismay at the Biden administration’s failure to confront Bolsonaro on the international stage over his government’s assault on the Amazon. The U.S. is Brazil’s second-largest trading partner.

Last month, during the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, President Joe Biden went as far as to praise Bolsonaro for trying to “protect the Amazon.”

“In addition to being divorced from reality, Biden’s statement is remarkably tone-deaf,” Maria Laura Canineu and Luciana Téllez Chávez of Human Rights Watch wrote on the final day of the summit, where the two leaders met for the first time. “Biden has shamefully squandered the opportunity to leverage his meeting with Bolsonaro to support the courageous defenders of the Amazon.”

“These defenders are putting their lives on the line to protect the world’s largest rainforest and a vital bulwark against climate change,” they continued. “Biden should correct this mistake and press Bolsonaro to reverse his damaging policies, urging Bolsonaro to get Brazil back on track in fighting deforestation and protecting forest defenders from violence.”

Diana Ruiz, the head of forests at Greenpeace USA, said in a statement Friday that “up to now, the Biden administration has only legitimized the Brazilian government’s anti-Indigenous and anti-environmental agenda.”

“The U.S. has a responsibility to act and stop making deals with President Bolsonaro, who continues to wage an assault against Indigenous Peoples and environmental defenders,” Ruiz added.

Jake Johnson
Jake Johnson

Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

4 comments

  1. Brazil has a problem with the current government’s environmental policies, but the world has to understand that the Amazon forest area that falls within Brazilian borders is a Brazilian problem and should be dealt by the Brazilian people. If you’re really concerned about climate change you should pressure YOUR government to increase the green coverage of YOUR country that has been destroyed over many decades.

  2. For close to 100 years extractive capitalists the likes of Rockefellers and many other industrialists and finaciers have been there with the support of every U.S. president since FDR, organized capitalist xtianity, U.S. cabinets, academics and later the CIA/Pentagon have practiced their evils there. I don’t care for him either, but is there anything left of the rain forest to blame on Bolsonaro or more often blamed, ‘indigenous farmers’? As if. ‘Thy Will Be Done – The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil’

  3. Bolsonaro is a plague upon this earth. He is the type of being who cannot adhere to simply sustaining himself, nor guiding his country toward sustaining itself. He only believes in absolute consumption, in absolute acquisition. Take and take and take, until nothing is left. Then, figure out how to eat your money, because that’s all that will be left

  4. It was US companies (logging etc) that hit the Amazon first back in the 1950’s as I recall…on behalf of the US State Dept and provided it with information on how much money could be made from cutting trees down for lumber for the US timber industry. Then the US loggers went down to clear cut a large portion of the Amazon…of course, the international oil companies saw the dollar signs and continued to ravage the forest..
    The Eastern and Western US – and Canada had been de-forested and the Amazon was next in the queue.
    If you look at the areas where they have laid waste in the US , you will see what the Amazon has come to resemble.
    But don’t look to the good old US to help curb that travesty – it on the side of the corporations who continue operating as fast as they can. Biden did not tell the truth at that meeting though he knows it!

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