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Amazon fires: Brazil threatened over EU trade deal (bbc.co.uk)
149 points by Nux on Aug 23, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 160 comments



I am from Brazil, my SO family is from the Amazon.

A lot of this situation is rather complicated, but I will try to write a little of what I know.

1. This is dry season, and fires are common, not just human-started ones, natural fires are common too, fires do have a role in the ecosystem.

2. A lot of the alarm raised by the media is more due to the hate on the president than for good reasons, for example people are using as number of the "increase of fires" comparisons between 2019 and 2013, but 2013 was a year where the amount of fires was particularly low, there was some recent years where the number of fires were just a little behind the current number, and the current number is still waaaaay smaller than what it was some decades ago.

3. It is illegal to clear land using fire in Brazil, usually the ones doing it are tiny farmers that don't have resources to clear land the correct way, or megacorporations that don't care (Cargill is a common culprit, not saying they are the ones at fault this time, but often they are).

4. Brazillian laws are kinda loopsided in ways that incentive people to do some weird stuff, for example brazillian environment laws are MUCH, MUCH harsher than other laws, this actually decreases compliance, because getting caught is so dangerous compared to some other crimes, that doing other crimes to not get caught is incentivized, there was a infamous case of a mayor of a town that just outright murdered cops because the punishment for murder was smaller than the punishment he would get if the cops managed to get to his property and investigate it.


Article from NASA: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145464/fires-in-bra...

"In the Amazon region, fires are rare for much of the year because wet weather prevents them from starting and spreading. However, in July and August, activity typically increases due to the arrival of the dry season. Many people use fire to maintain farmland and pastures or to clear land for other purposes. Typically, activity peaks in early September and mostly stops by November."



1. "Fires are common" - means Brazil should have been ready to tackle them, and taken steps to minimize the chances of them breaking out in areas where people are active. It seems it hasn't; and - on the contrary, has let logging and other economic activity which can increase chances of fires expand excessively and without proper regulation.

Finally, researchers claim that most fires right now are caused by humans (and many started intentionally): https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/world/brazils-amazon-fires-st...

2. How do you know the alarm is due to the "hate on the President"? Also, the increase of fires should and can measured relative to _last_ year, not 2013. Since 2014 there was a gradual decrease, and the amount/area of fires has nearly doubled from 2018 to this year.

3. If it's illegal and damaging, why are people and corporations doing it, and doing it much more this year? It seems that to a great extent this is due to the new government's policy and rhetoric; and to a lesser extent it's an ongoing problem which both the previous and the current government have not addressed well enough.

4. Well, it seems the government is trying to avoid enforcing these harsh laws. For example:

> The environmental minister, Ricardo Salles, tweeted on Wednesday that the fires were caused by dry weather, wind, and heat. But CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said the fires are "definitely human-induced," and can't be attributed to natural causes like lightning strikes.

so it seems the government is voluntarily looking the other way. If it claims this is the cause, they are unlikely to vigorously pursue the culprits.

Bottom line: Don't do apologism for the government. Its behavior on environmental issues is inexcusable, regardless of any other issues.


> 1. "Fires are common" - means Brazil should have been ready to tackle them

No, they are common because historically it has been impossible to stop them giving the limited reach of the government in the region. For example, not a single word coming from state governors about the problem. There are 8 of them all silent. Why? What happened to the "local authorities" that should be working on issue since day 1?

> 2. How do you know the alarm is due to the "hate on the President"?

Because we saw no alarms to previous presidents in the tenures. Fires were orders of magnitude larger due to lack of interest or attention to environmental causes in general. So, yes, it has to do with the pressure groups' desire to damage this President's image, specially abroad (hence Macron).

> 3. If it's illegal and damaging, why are people and corporations doing it, and doing it much more this year?

Which corporations? Any names? Are they equally exposed in a negative fashion by media? Any boycotts? Why aren't they sharing headlines with government names in the news? The justice minister and half the congress love to play the good guys who go after corrupt corporations (does Car Wash Operation ring a bell?). They have put a dozen CEOs from the most well known Brazilian corps in jail already. Not a single one from crimes against the environment. Why?

> 4. it seems the government is trying to avoid enforcing these harsh laws

Law enforcement in continent sized developing countries is VERY difficult, let alone in distant isolated parts of the territory. The level of violence and corruption in those places is beyond mind boggling even to locals that were borne and raised in the culture.

For outsiders like us -- looking at the problem from various angles and distances -- the environmental issue in the Amazon is equally complex as the ones we see in the middle east, in the Gaza strip, in hunger regions of Africa etc. This is something that may drag on for decades without a definitive solution, which is a sad thought for me as a Brazilian.


Bolsonaro has clearly encouraged deforestation. No other recent Brazilian political leader been so explicit about it. He has also encouraged harassment and hate towards natives living in forested areas. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/19/jair-bolsonaro...


> He has also encouraged harassment and hate towards natives living in forested areas.

Your own link directly contradicts your statement. He clearly says he wants to increase the quality of life of indigenous people.


From the article:

But governing Brazil is no easy matter, he concluded. “It is difficult to be president of Brazil because it is a president that has less authority,”

What Bolsonaro thinks or says has no immediate effect on what has been going on in Amazon for decades. It's easy to blame him, but then... what do we do? More laws? Who's enforcing them?


Every president wants to have more power.

But the point is, that this president actions so far, did not help the amazonas, so how would given him more power, not harm things even more?


The article you linked is based on hearsay and people with explicit political agendas, not on facts. For example, the "unprecedented destruction" claimed by Mr. Poirier (a former assistant to Brazil's Landless Workers Movement, a far-left, anti-property rights, violent organization), is easily proven false. Just check the actual historical data and see for yourself (choose "Brasil" in the drop-down menu):

http://queimadas.dgi.inpe.br/queimadas/portal/estatistica_pa...

> How do you know the alarm is due to the "hate on the President"

Worse wildfires and budget cuts have happened at much larger scale than now on previous administrations, to be met with no international outrage at all.


> Worse wildfires and budget cuts have happened at much larger scale than now on previous administrations, to be met with no international outrage at all.

Except we're in the middle of evident climate change and more than ever has attention on environmental degradation been higher


Why is no one talking about Bolivia then? They’re going through one of the largest fires ever, they have much laxer protection laws than Brazil, and yet no European government is threatening their sovereignty.


Who is “we”? Climate change has been here since forever. You may very well be just reading the news about it more often.


I just love it how it has become the fashion to say someone is being "hated" or "hated on", it's like the most magical term in civil discourse, you just no longer have to respond to interlocutors


And the most crazy part that people like Macron are calling for this. France is one of the biggest importers of soya. Greenpeace even physically blocked a ship two months ago demanding France proved no rain forest was destroyed on the account of producing the soya on board.

France will be impacted more severe by climate change than most European countries but has no actual plan to realize their commitment on the Paris accord.

Macron should address the 8 million diesel cars on the road in France instead of complaining about Brazil. Macron should start by demanding a recall of those diesel gate vehicles by the manufacturers because diesel cars have been sold under false pretenses.

European law is very clear about the fact the burden of proof is on the business they actually delivered a product as advertised. Hence consumers in Europe do not have to get an extra Apple insurance in contrary to US consumers because this is already factored in a higher buying price.

But it is way more practical to shovel external costs of ghg emissions to next generations. And make some double speak comments on twitter.

At least Trump doesn't pretend to be the good guy, Macron is such a hypocrite. If Macron was my neighbor I would spank him in front of his children.


Though I'm not sure what you would accept as a good reason to raise alarm, I think the press is not unfounded in scrutinizing him.

Bolsonaro exhibits some worrying traits, such as the recent conspiratorial line of thought that NGOs would have started the fires to get back at him.


I dislike Bolsonaro as much as the next guy (probably more), but that's beside the point. I mean, not in terms of the motivations for his government's policy perhaps, but in terms of the bottom line: The Amazon is burning much too much this year.

Even if it had been Mr. Lula, or Ms. Rousef, and the fires had been the same, there would have been the exact same level of criticism due on the environmental issue.


There were much worse fires in those administrations, and no internation commotion and criticism like what we're seeing now.

http://queimadas.dgi.inpe.br/queimadas/portal/estatistica_pa...

The Amazon is not "burning too much". It's in fact below the historical average.


>There were much worse fires in those administrations, and no internation commotion and criticism like what we're seeing now.

Perhaps because those offices weren't publicly, overtly and self-admittedly anti-environment. They didn't call themselves "Captain Chainsaw", for one.


He called himself that jokingly, being ironic about how he's disproportionately blamed about the situation. Come on, at least argue in good faith, don't be disingenuous.

He recently said that now he went from being Captain Chainsaw to being Nero. Are you going to say he likens himself to Nero too?


I mean, once you burn “some area”, there isn’t “some area” to burn, so you will end up with a smaller global area to burn. That’s how you can say something like this..


I'm not saying that Brazil has had a stellar line-up of presidents, and anyone would have had to react to this, and the mettle of the person would be seen in their response.

Bolsonaro's was essentially, "it's a conspiracy against me". It's a pretty extraordinary idea to begin with, and stating it as fact to the press without backing it up with evidence makes my alarms go off at least.


s/would have/should have/ I guess.


What you say makes sense, and I understand that it may be anecdotal but I was hoping you had some sources that could enlighten a foreigner like myself to why/how the above explanations make sense? I would appreciate it!

I ask because the Americans/South Americans around me seem only to be able react to the media hype/lack thereof.

For example all my friends from SA are on IG all day saying that the paucity of international coverage on the Amazon fires shows marked unfairness, which may be true- but they haven't investigated at all beyond the realm of "forest good, fire bad".

For my own sake, I desire to know the context of this fire, in the society which it is affecting and not from the United States point of view.



Your first point is misleading. Satellite imagery and in the ground evidence clearly shows that the fires are almost exclusively driven by humans. Not wildfires. This is conscious deforestation at a massive scale. The dry season has made the problem worse, but it is an unusually dry season due to climate change. Bolsonaro has definitely encouraged deforestation.


Yes. Bolsonaro himself has claimed that the fires were started by humans:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20769327


Blaming NGO's is ridiculous gaslighting. Agriculture and forestry drive Brazil's forest loss. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/sci/361/6407/1108.ful...


There's a lot of hyperbole surrounding this issue.

1) It is dry season in the region, and wildfires are a normal occurrence. 2) Wildfires are up compared to the same month last year, but still below the historical average. 3) Brazil already has strict environment protection laws which trump even property rights. In the Amazon region, for example, 80% of the area of any property must be preserved with native vegetation. No developed country even comes close.

The reason there is so much hyperbole about the situation in Brazil is both political and economic.

Economically, the current administration has cut funding to questionable NGOs, which used to take the money and do nothing productive, or even worse, engage in biopiracy. This has sparked strong reactions from those used to receive Brazilian taxpayer money. European politicians fake outrage, but their positions can be explained by the recent Mercosur-EU agreement, which has generated a strong reaction by local producers, used to European protectionism.

See France, for example. Macron is simultaneously criticized by both the left and the right, and is trying a political win with local producers and greens, even appealing to a photo of an Amazon wildfire taken 20 years ago by a photographer who died in 2003 to put blame in the current Brazilian administration [2].

Politically, this is only generating such a big reaction because of who's in charge of government in Brazil. The media worldwide tends strongly to the left, and any opportunity to criticize a right-wing administration is not wasted. I'm not saying any government should be above criticism, but things have to be done rationally.

1) If one refers to wildfire monitoring data [3], it can be easily seen that the worst years were in the 2002-2007 range, at levels twice as bad as the recent years. The country was then under a left-wing administration, and the current media and political reactions were nowhere to be seen.

2) Bolivia has much more lax environment protection laws, and is currently facing a way larger wildfire problem, probably the largest in its history. You hardly see anything about it in the media, except sometimes as a footnote in a story about Brazil. No European president is threatening their sovereignty; no one says their president is the destroyer of the Earth.

3) The previous (impeached) Brazilian administration cut environmental protection funds in 2015 from R$ 6b to R$ 1b. There was no outrage. Yet somehow otherwise reasonable people think the Amazon was destroyed in 7 months by the current administration.

[1] https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145464/fires-in-bra... [2] https://factcheck.afp.com/prayforamazonas-thousands-people-a... [3] http://queimadas.dgi.inpe.br/queimadas/portal/estatistica_pa...


These are man-made fires driven by large-scale deforestation. Calling them wildfires is misleading.


There's nothing that implies natural causes in the word "wildfire".


Definitions here "wildfire, defined as largescale forest loss resulting from the burning of forest vegetation with no visible human conversion or agricultural activity afterward". There is clear agricultural activity immediately shown after the vast majority of Brazilian fires. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/sci/361/6407/1108.ful...


"Any large fire that spreads rapidly and is hard to extinguish."

I'm using the dictionary definition of the word.


So you would honestly describe the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 which clearly was large, spread rapidly, and was hard to extinguish as a "wildfire"?


Was it in the wild?


As a Brazilian who despises the current administration, I find your comment on the matter rather sober. Thank you for your input, opened my eyes for a new perspective. Still worried by the current situation though. :(

[edit] grammar


You take comments like "the media worldwide is leftist" seriously? These are mostly not bad supporting arguments, not enough to conclude this is just a big misreading of the presidents funny style. Shit is going down and that's a fact, of course you should be worried. "It just means you are still sane"


How do you explain zero media coverage of the same issue, in larger scale, in previous administrations? Or about the current wildfire situation in Bolivia and Paraguay?


I know it may sound harsh, but have you tried thinking about it rather than looking for a dismissal or deflection? Of course the media edits stuffs, editting is literally taking a cut of things, there are a hundred million threads buried underneath editting all the time, that's why we should always seek to dig a little more. This though is indeed a large story, climate change is being felt all over the world, bolsonaro's behavior(infantile at times, bordering insane others) and direct attacks(both verbal and as official policy) on science, environmental, indigenous concerns, the fires, the data, images, its all there. It's only been 6 months and this is indeed an international crisis, 3.5 years of this ahead and it could close the coffin on trying to manage the climate problem, if you forgot,according to science we're already missing the mark pretty bad. Try to dismiss it whatever, we could be setting up for hell on earth. Its too easy to freestyle justifications adhoc, too bad it's not actual rationality. This is not left/right dialectic, it is insanity.


This is just hyperbole. Again, wildfires are within the average for the season as reported by both INPE and NASA.

You have to think in terms of geopolitics, not in terms of “forest good / fire bad”. The reaction against Brazil was unjustified and disproportionate, as can be clearly seen by the total lack of similar attacks on other countries with similar or worse situations. Why is that? What are the motivations and incentives? Who benefits if economic sanctions are imposed against Brazil?


It is interesting to see the global shock about the fires. For us in Brazil, it is hardly a shock coming from this administration.

Here are some facts the president that should shed a light on how he and his office views environmental issues. If anyone is interested I can gather some links to detail any of them.

* The Minister of the Environment was condemned for crimes against the environment in 2017.

* Brazil has a Ministry of the Environment. President Bolsonaro unsuccessfully tried to extinguish that ministry once he assumed office.

* President Bolsonaro transferred the Brazilian Forest Serivce to the Ministry of Agriculture (!!). It previously was under the Ministry of the Environment.

* Ricardo Salles (Minister of the Environment) decided to review _all_ the national reserves in Brazil so they can get resized or extinguished.

* A standard procedure when officers find illegal logging sites is to destroy their logging equipment (chainsaws etc). President Bolsonaro personally asked his minister of the Environment to instruct officers not to do that.

* Environmental protection agencies now announce beforehand where the inspections are going to be.

* President Bolsonaro received a fine for illegal fishing a few years ago. A few months after assuming office, he fired the officer (just a regular low-level environment officer, same level as municipal police) that fined him.


> For us in Brazil, it is hardly a shock coming from this administration.

We’re the much larger wildfire issues in previous administrations shocking?

> The Minister of the Environment was condemned for crimes against the environment in 2017.

He was condemned by an administrative misconduct. Classifying this as crimes against the environment is partisanship hyperbole.

> Brazil has a Ministry of the Environment. President Bolsonaro unsuccessfully tried to extinguish that ministry once he assumed office.

Do you really think the existence of a bureaucratic body is what will make or break environmental protection? We also have a a Ministry of Education...

> Ricardo Salles (Minister of the Environment) decided to review _all_ the national reserves in Brazil so they can get resized or extinguished.

12% of Brazil’s area is reserved for indigenous populations of around 500k people. Reviewing this is completely reasonable.

> A standard procedure when officers find illegal logging sites is to destroy their logging equipment (chainsaws etc). President Bolsonaro personally asked his minister of the Environment to instruct officers not to do that.

... so they can be reused by these same officers in their inspection tasks. Why burn perfectly reusable equipments.

Honestly, you’re speaking half-truths that mischaracterize the actual situation.


* Bolsonaro fired the director of INPE after calling deforestation data lies.

* Bolsonaro refused to answer about environmental policy when asked about it by Germany and Norway who contribute millions to the Amazon Fund, he subsequently told Brazil doesn't need that money and told Norway to send the money to Germany to help them reforest.

* One of his first actions in office was this one: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/02/brazil-jair-bo...


>he subsequently told Brazil doesn't need that money and told Norway to send the money to Germany to help them reforest.

Another answer of Bolsonaro's to Norway was pointing the finger at that country's supposed whale hunting. Unfortunately for him, the video he used to attack Norway was actually from the Faroe islandsm, which are Danish:

https://www.france24.com/en/20190819-bolsonaro-takes-on-norw...


There's also the huge sargassum seaweed problem that is heavily influenced by the mass deforestation of the Amazon [1] (among others), which is significantly harming the beaches, impacting wildlife, and values of properties in Florida and Cancun and on all beaches along that whole side of the peninsula.

I just came back from a trip to Mexico and it was everywhere and smells awful. You can smell it driving on the highway from the airport. Its diverting lots of resources from the Mexican navy, local governments, and volunteers who have to clean it up constantly to keep the beaches usable.

There was plenty of sea turtles who love to eat the stuff.

This is a good opportunity for some international pressure as the consequences are very much here and now. Not some hypothetical climate change in the future.

1. https://youtu.be/whqaV8xfOTg?t=85


There is nothing hypothetical about climate change.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumental_temperature_recor...


I think his point is that the consequences of climate change are still down the road and just how bad it will be is yet to be seen. Harder to get people around on big changes due to climate change since we're a couple years off from big consequences. The impact from deforestation of the Amazon can be seen right now.


The consequences of climate change are here and have been for years. In Hawaii >50% of coral reefs died off in 2015 [1], including my favorite fishing spots. Three years later most of this eroded habitat was then destroyed by winter swells. These reefs had never bleached in modern history. I saw a coral colony the size of a small house (100s of years old) flipped over and crushed. It was so sad that it was a major contributor to me deciding to leave the state.

Many coastal communities are dealing with more serious problems.

[1] https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/reefresponse/files/2016/09/WHI-Coral...


Sure, yet many of the worst future risks are very much still abstract and not yet fully developed concrete risks in people's minds. Human motivation is very fickle and it seems to be in our nature to do everything last minute, maybe some genetic legacy to conserve energy and a natural aversion to adding more effort for yet another problem.

With this sargassum issue they can no longer just say they "don't believe" in something when its in front of them.

The stuff that's happening today is probably the best motivator to get people to invest in the future. That's why all of those BBC nature docs are the great sales pitches as they always touch on real issues happening now (see: shots of a polar bear on an ice block!).

Plus it's not just climate change, it could be any major human disruption of natural habits.


I think we’re beginning to see the madness of even a slight climate adjustment and how it’s impacting lives (and in the case of Greece and Portugal and many other people - killing people in massive fires)

People are beginning to seriously freak out. I see that in the UK where I live and in Portugal where I come from and in Brasil where my family is from. People are seeing fires, drought and extreme weather (in Europe heatwaves are killing people). It feels like the end of times.

To be fair climate change denial is mostly a political Problem. Most Americans believe in climate change and same in the Uk and I believe in most of the developed world.


Eh, I live in Portugal and while climate change doesn't help, I also don't think that's the biggest cause of our large fires, we mostly just suck at managing the forest - we depopulated the interior without having a backup plan.

The fires in the Artic and Siberia, that does feel like the end of times :/


I do feel temperatures have been getting higher than they used to be when I was a kid. Particularly in peak summer. In my hometown I don’t remember barely being able to be out in the sun for so many days as lately.


The comment refers to 'some hypothetical climate change in the future'. Given that there is no justification for projecting trend lines beyond existing data points, use of the word hypothetical is correct.


There is a clear justification in projecting the trend lines; we have a theory developed from observation that has predicted what has happened so far. This theory predicts that the trends will continue, it is robust and substantiated. The introduction of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere by humans is causing the earth to heat.


The world needs to pay Brazil for management of the Amazon. If the Amazon is truly (and it is) this important to the planet, then they should be paid to not destroy it to earn a living.


Our government is short sighted so even if you all chipped something, our current president would rather have it burned to the ground to allow illegal mining, wood cutters and cattle raising on the burned ground.

http://www.amazonfund.gov.br/en/home/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/16/norway-halts-a...


> SAO PAULO, Brazil — First, Brazil announced it would take foreign aid away from projects to protect the Amazon rainforest and give it instead to cattle and soybean farmers.

> Next, Germany and Norway froze tens of millions of dollars in planned assistance.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/bolsonaros...


I don't necessarily disagree, but this feels like a diplomatic nightmare. It would encourage the rest of the world to threaten to burn their resources too, in order to extract payment.

Perhaps we should be paying the rest of the world too, but what if there's a disagreement about how much a resource is worth? And remember, this is all money that could be invested in solar panels, or carbon capture, or countless other things.


>How do you avoid encouraging the rest of the world to also threaten to burn their resources?

I mean, this type of extortion for foreign aid is already common among pariah states. See: North Korea.


Clearly the UN should be funded and buy this to set aside as a global reserve.


Then the UN can help put out fires, but only if fired upon.


Given the UN’s history of corruption, they’re the last org that should run anything. See Oil for Food scandal for one example.


That'd be great, like you can see how good Brazil is at managing its resources, so let's all pay them, they surely will not spend it on their 5th megayacht.


Why does it matter if they spend it on their megayatch as long as they did what they paid for, which is not burn the Amazon.


Jesus Christ... So Brazil gets to dictate some sort of hostage/cold-war scenario and you're suggesting that this is a good solution?


That is exactly what is being proposed, but the inverse.


Very true. Unfortunately there is no way to put a value on the environment until it needs to be fixed. In reality its value is infinite but current economics can't place a value so we don't. But I can imagine a system where the world's large economies start paying to save it.


This is already being done. Germany and France are paying Brazil 1.5b to keep the forest safe but Balsinaro is unwilling to curb the illegal logging. This is making the Europeans wonder why they should be investing this 1.5b into something that will clearly not be respected/carried out.


It's a complex issue, Brasil is doing what the US and Europe did 150 years ago: burning down the forest and taking advantage of natural resources until a large percentage of the country is covered by agricultural fields.

We did so why can't they? I think they shouldn't because of global warming and what science tell us, but there should be some compensation given under the form of a tax to keep the forest alive, I don't think that would be ecological blackmail at all.

The biggest export of Brasil is soy beans (27 billion market) mostly to China - https://oec.world/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/export/bra/show..., but of course its much more complicated then that.

The China demand has increased recently due to the US trade wars, so that plays a role too.

There are tens of different crops used for all sorts of products, like palm oil used in doughnuts, kids cereals etc.

For example, leather is exported to China, that produces clothes that are sold globally a lot of it to the west, but not only.

The Amazon basin has a huge concentration of cattle in the world (200 million heads), and is a huge exporter of soy beans (27 billion market).

Pasture land and cattle feed crops are the main driver of the deforestation, so reducing global meat comsumption is the only way to stop the economic incentive to tear down the rainforest.

Brasil by itself has no interest in tearing down the forest to feed their population, this level of agriculture is for exporting and for feeding a highly resource intensive and environmental impactful process: meat production.

Its a global problem, maybe threatening the trade deal with Brasil is an effective short term solution to put some brakes on at least some of the damage, but without a global change of common habits like eating too much meat, the deforestation is not going to slow down anytime soon, by the contrary.


> there should be some compensation given under the form of a tax to keep the forest alive, I don't think that would be ecological blackmail at all.

Norway has already been providing Brazil financial assistance linked to Amazon forest preservation since 2008, and is now reacting to the current events:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/22/norway-i...


Norway provides 1 billion, the soy market alone is 27 billion, not much of an incentive. A lot more countries would have to provide a lot more money for this to work.


They don't seem to understand that without the rainforest they would be trying to plant stuff in a desert. The whole economic aspect is moot, the forest provides the rain to plant so they burn deforest to plant more. But agribusiness doesn't want to hear it.


It was the beginning, but our extreme right president doesn't like it because it gives money to NGO. For him all NGOs are communist.

https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/internacional/en/scienceandhea...


The fact that the causes are complex and that there's a global aspect to it does not detract from the fact that it is absolutely imperative to preserve the Amazon. And - Brazil can do a much better job of it - at least as good as last year.

As for the cattle and Soy export - you're right in that they are major contributors. But again - that was true last year as well. Also, it is up to Brazil to shape its economy so that no more land is cleared. Farming can be intensified (not sure how much, for Soy, but it definitely can); and beef production should just be indirectly capped through prevention of clearing. In fact, one might argue that there should be a re-forestation effort, but I'm not sure enough about that to make the argument proper.

And - what about the importance of those exports, you might ask? Brazil's economy should evolve - if even through protectionist measures of some sort - so as to be somewhat more self-reliant in terms of production. Japan did it, China did it, so can Brazil. Also, let's look at its imports:

    Mineral fuels including oil: US$26.2 billion (14.5% of total imports)
    Electrical machinery, equipment: $21.8 billion (12%)
    Machinery including computers: $19.1 billion (10.5%)
    Vehicles: $14 billion (7.7%)
    Organic chemicals: $10.6 billion (5.8%)
    Ships, boats: $9.9 billion (5.4%)
    Fertilizers: $8.6 billion (4.8%)
    Plastics, plastic articles: $7.3 billion (4%)
    Pharmaceuticals: $7.2 billion (4%)
    Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $5.5 billion (3%)
What it can and should do is, therefore:

* Transition to renewable energy.

* Develop and expand industry, particularly of land and sea vehicles, machinery.

* Transition from plastic to renewable/recyclable materials which can be produced locally.

Of course this is not easy to do, but it's definitely possible.


I'm not excusing Brasil (I don't come from there), my main point was that it's just not Brasil's "fault" for not taking care of the forest, a lot of countries have a ton of responsibility: China and the west for example.

If anything, these type of articles come at a suspicious time so close to the signing of the Mercosur trade deal, because yes the forest is burning but according to Nasa not more and not less than in other years.

Which is bad and should be stopped, but why are we talking about it so much now? It reeks of political manipulation.

I don't like that at all but well if it forces some sort of immediate action and concession from Brasil it's better than nothing, but it does not tackle the underlying issues.

If people want to do something about it, the most important thing is to stop eating the main end product of the Amazonia burning which is meat.

Not necessarily only from Brasil, because they export the crops for cattle feed globally. I'm talking about meat in general.


There's a lot of ways to try and solve this, good and bad, and if Brazil was a super rich country, just strong arming them or shaming them into fixing their shit would probably be morally justifiable but...they're not. By far the easiest way is to give them positive incentive to care about the amazon as much as the rest of the world cares for it. It would be a heck of a lot easier to toss a ton of cash their way, and tell them "if you fuck it up, all of this money is going away". It's not a perfect solution, but logistically speaking, it's by far the easiest that may work.


If you manage to give as much money they would get using the land to produce minerals and soy beans, there is no reason they don't choose too.

The funding they provided in the past it is irrelevant compared to the sou bean production on deforested land.


Past actions of our ignorant and destructive ancestors does not exist current behavior. We should know better by now.

Those same people created colonial empires, held slaves and engage in all sorts of nefarious deeds. None of these should be considered acceptable in this day and age.


Other countries should indeed have put in financial effort to make sure this ecosystem is preserved. It might be too late now.


> It might be too late now.

Why this? Are you expecting some unavoidable global phenomenon to take the forest down?


At certain levels of deforestation the Amazon rainforest ecosystem is believed to break down, turn into savannah:

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/2/eaat2340


Those fires are way too localized to do something like this.


It is particularly funny to see Europe trying to scold Brazil's actions, given that many of the social and economical issues that the country faces are direct consequences of European colonialism exploitation.


Lets be honest here: having a florest jsut for having a florest, does no good. The amazon needs to be exploited for its natural resources, otherwise may as well not exist, but if gonna do it, we need to do it rigth.

And burning the florest to plant soil or grazing land is a shit way to do it.

And in the end, if having a florest in place helps people make money, they will start working harder in preserving it.

Is like legal elephant hunting. My looks barbaric to some (i really dislike it), but is the only reason that there still elephants today, and people who used to hunt them for the preys, now help preserve because they make more money of rich tourist that pay big bucks to shoot an animal.


Just by staying there, the Amazon is a natural resource. The lungs of the planet.

"We just need to figure some way for the Brazilians to make money off of it."

If Jair Bolsonaro is sufficiently Trump or Kim like, he could call it tribute.


The whole lungs of the planet is kind of overated. The amazon florest by itself produces a lot of CO2. It whothever have important role regulating the local climate.


I see a lot of bullshit being posted here. Bolsonaro himself actively encouraged the deforestation, during his campaign and during all of his current administration until now.

"The fires are fueled not only by a rise in global temperatures but also by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. The fiery, anti-environment populist has encouraged settlements in the Amazon region, sacked the head of the government agency that monitors deforestation from space, and just this week blamed NGOs for setting the fires to make him look bad."

https://www.wired.com/story/humans-more-than-drought-are-fue...


for comparison:

https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145464/fires-in-bra...

interestingly nasa says there is nothing unusual about the fires, while it is brazil's space agency that the mainstream news is quoting. which reference is trusted just seems to depend on which will get the most clicks?


The fires are larger than on the few previous years. They are still well bellow the historical average. The recent trend has been of growth.

A lot of this year's fires have been on a natural preservation area that in theory can not be used to agriculture. Some people claim the area got out of equilibrium due to global warming and the fire was unavoidable, some claim it's a criminal fire caused by people that want to plant there. Honestly, I have no idea how to assess media claims anymore, most likely, both are false and it's something else.


So this is a stick, but where's the carrot?

All these countries that are complaining about the burning forest - why don't they pony up some cash and pay Brazil not to burn it down?

If the Amazon is the "lungs of the world" then surely between all the countries of the world (or, just a few, or just one rich one) we could make it worth their while to keep the forest intact.


They used to pay billions of dollars according to this article.

It is called Amazon Fund.

However Norway and German halted the payments because Bolsonaro doesn't agree with them on how to curb the deforestation and the fires.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-environment-norway...

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/16/norway-halts-a...


I mean, the Brazilians will suffer too when the lack of Amazon forest starts fucking the world up. With that said, yes, 100% agree that we should just pay them to stop the bleeding. That forest is worth more than money. We can figure out a better solution later.



I was more thinking if a bunch of first world countries got together and put up an amount of money that Brazil can't possibly give up on.


Well, for what it's worth, according to the articles it amounted to billions of dollars. It was supposed to be used to police the area for deforestation, fires and other things.

As a Brazilian I disagree that other countries should be paying us anything, we should sort those problems by ourselves.


For sure, I don't disagree with you, but I dont think the world can wait for those problems to be solved.


Oh, that's for sure.

However I think there's a huge incentive problem here: The people who stand to gain from foreign money coming to "save Amazon" (Brazil's general population) is not the same people who stand to gain from its destruction (businesspeople).

Second, a large chunk of the current government ideologically believe there's nothing wrong with deforestation, or deny it, or deny climate change. Hell, some of them are flat-earthers.

It is common in the Brazilian right to associate environmental causes (include climate change) with leftists, and the current Brazilian government treats the left (any kind of left) as the worst possible enemies. So a sure-fire way of not being heard by the right is... talking about environmental causes/climate change.

So, in the end it should really be an astonishing amount to make sense for the current government to change its course.



As Boris criticises Brazil; he might want to reflect that until the 1990s; here in the UK we used to set our own fields on fire to burn the stubble. I remember the smoke; and the red sun and moon.

I am pro preserving the rain-forest; but interestingly enough that is also a human managed environment and has been for 1000s of years.

As for bio-diversity; I am pretty sure a lot of the UK was once forested and certainly had wolves, bears and other inconvenient creatures; at this point we are starting to even wipe out our insects. For the sake of bio-diversity we should re-introduce all those animals.


Unfortunately you cannot re-introduce those that are extinct, or doomed because of the gene pool already diminished. A complex ecosystem needs long time to develop.


I wish the United States had the will power to similarly try and influence Brazil to stop the deforestation in Amazon.


I wish the United States of America had the will power to do something about their own country's emissions as well, but alas. Or that the EU would have the balls to stand up to the USA instead of licking their boots. Perhaps future governments will see the seriousness of the situation, but it appears that that would be too late. So far it seems to be up to individuals to try and save the planet.


China seems to be the biggest Brazil partner. EU and USA do not contribute much.


Given that the Chinese are big buyers of Soya Beans and the USA are using Soya Beans in their trade war against China, I can't help but think that they've basically been pouring petrol onto the Amazon..


> EU and USA do not contribute much.

Not true.


They have, but when they do, everyone in latin america call them imperialists, so, why bother?


When has the US tried to influence Brazil to stop the deforestation in Amazon?


A cynic might point out that Bolsonaro was far more palatable to American finance and government than the alternative. He is to some degree America's monster and has caused a thawing of US-Brazil relations which wasn't possible under left wing leaders.

https://www.thedialogue.org/blogs/2019/06/remaking-us-brazil...

The whole situation is terrible but I don't think the establishment powers in the US would have much interest in pressuring his administration.


Amazon deforestation and land-business model is the human piece of all this. Far right in South-America always wanted to have more land and more space for their agro-business, and now they have many political influence to do whatever they want. They don't care the damage and they are screwing every industry in South-America for their goals. Argentine president, Mauricio Macri, also let his business partners to do the same in the Chaco. I hope other European countries respond.


If these fires are being set intentionally, shouldn't it be possible to pinpoint exactly where these fires are occurring and monitor who is reclaiming the land for other purposes... and then sanction them?


Harder than you might think! People in my lab have worked on a system that monitor deforestation in Indonesia with satellite data https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01431161.2019.15... and it’s not a simple problem. You need to work tightly with local authorities, and they are often complicit in these deforestations.


About time.

If this president has no problem openly screwing his own people and lie about it right in your face, I don't think he makes the greatest trade partner anyway.


Aside from your opinion about that president, this is an interesting take, since the trades are between countries and the markets within those countries -- not between presidents.

> I don't think he makes the greatest trade partner anyway

This seems to imply that the president of Brazil represents the entirety of an economic block, and as such a trade deal should suffer because of just one person?


Brazilians chose him to represent them and negotiate trade deals. He refused to meet France's foreign affairs minister and had a haircut instead. I guess these are the consequences and one thing leads to another. At least the EU is acting more like a block this time, rather than being in disagreement. Why give Brazil aid from EU taxpayer money to fight deforestation if they're not interested? We could take his advice and use those funds to plant trees in Europe instead.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/beta.washingtonpost.com/world/t...


I don't understand the reasoning behind this suggestion. Is it that the government in Brasil does not want to put off the fires because they see this as a great opportunity to clear more land for raising more cattle?


Yes, this and a few other things, just now (as of half an hour ago) the president authorized the armed forces to help with the fires, and it just happened because there's a lot of pressure, internal and from outside, but the actual president also wants to eliminate indigenous people and their land to allow illegal mining and illegal wood cutters to thrive.

As I said, there's a lot more to this, for example, farmers started the burning (we're calling it "day of the fire") because of shit that the president said.

Also he blamed NGOs for the fires, when asked if he had any proof he said "Is there need for proof?".

He's a short sighted moron doing what short sighted morons do, it's a sad state of affairs here.


Yes.

Not just cattle but logging and mining. The Minister of the Environment is basically a lobbyist for such companies.


From an Irish perspective, this is actually quite clever politics from the Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister). Ever since this potential trade deal was announced, he has been getting it in the neck from the Irish beef industry, who are quite powerful and stand to lose a lot if open access to EU markets is given to Brazilian and Argentinian producers. So I can't imagine he would lose too much sleep if the trade deal was in fact cancelled because of this.


things in Brazil are getting really weird.. most ministers and politicians started to use alt-right vaporwave meme aesthetics on their social media profiles, even though this is a clearly neonazi joke


I'm from Brazil.

For the rest of HN which might not know: the president has long dismissed environmental issues as idle "communist" talk (in his own words: "Construction projects get delayed because someone finds a petrified poo of an indigenous person"[1].

His Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, has a history[2] of environment-related crimes. He is basically a lobbyist for mining and logging corporations.

The Amazon fires are just the most jarring example of how the administration doesn't care about the environment, but they are far from the only or even the greatest environmental issue right now in Brazil.

[1] https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/mercado/2019/08/cocozinho-petr...

[2] https://g1.globo.com/sp/sao-paulo/noticia/2018/12/19/justica...


The agricultural trade is the root cause of the Amazon deforestation, so this is good.


Am I a bit wimpy, when I have to think about all the animals that live in these forest, right now being burned alive?

I have a hard time grasping why, again, people are so damn greedy. For the quick money, basically destroy this precious resource of the amazon forest. I am really angry. I stand with the people, that care about this and want it to end [1]

I do hope, that this Mr. "Trump of the Tropics", listens to his colleagues in Germany, France, etc. and just stops.

I cannot consume any more beef from south america, knowing this is happening because of it.

[1]: https://twitter.com/violadavis/status/1164720036021321728?s=...


Wonder if any of the Amazon indeginous tribes had some ancient knowledge of handling fires. I bet there were some doozies back in the day lack of technology and tribal wars must have sparked some maybe there is some good strategy they came up with or did they just let them burn?


We all want to stop the fires, but the fires are the same as they ever were. This isn't about the fires, if it was, the sanctions would have taken place already during Dilma or Lula's government:

"As of August 16, 2019, an analysis of NASA satellite data indicated that total fire activity across the Amazon basin this year has been close to the average in comparison to the past 15 years." [1]

[1] https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145464/fires-in-bra...


The fire activity has radically decreased in the last years. The average isn't a good measure.


You mean, with President Temer?


No, since Marina Silva was the Environment Minister. Her effective work decrease deforestation.


free market they said. it's going to fun they said.


According to the NASA the fires of this year are in the average so what exactly are they trying to achieve? Is this simply populism?

https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145464/fires-in-bra...

>As of August 16, 2019, an analysis of NASA satellite data indicated that total fire activity across the Amazon basin this year has been close to the average in comparison to the past 15 years.


The Amazon basin is 2.1 million square miles, the (informed) worry seems to be directed mostly at the almost virgin State of Amazonas where fires are in line with the highest recorded since 2003?, per the Global Fire Emissions Database in your link.

http://www.globalfiredata.org/forecast.html#amazonas


Isn't the problem that, yes, they're below average now (because we're not at the end of the year yet), but they shouldn't be so high at this time of the year, and the peak should come much later (I think August to October)? (I'm no expert on this!)

Don't get me wrong, I think it's shitty that because of history, the US and the UK (I'm from the UK) got a headstart and polluted all they wanted. But the fact of the matter is, we know far more about the climate now, and such pollution simply can't happen now. I'd really like to see Western countries providing more funding for economic development in other countries, contributing to more green technologies etc, since a lot of their/our gains were by chance that we could pollute all we wanted 200 years ago. And not abusing globalisation and shitting on countries that don't fall for "free trade" which turns them in to low wage workers whilst the West enjoys the fruits of their labour.

The thing is, when it comes to the environment, it affects everyone.


I am from Brazil

Amount of fire is... normal.

About november (remember Brazil is south hemisphere) the humid season starts and the fires stop (even if people WANT to set stuff on fire it doesn't work, my SO is from Amazon state, according to her family except those months where the fire is possible, it is normal for it to rain every single day, sometimes multiple times per day... my SO misses the rain so much that she often opens rainymood.com )


This is correct, dry season will occur in a few months.


Deforestation via slash and burn has been going on for years, but the rainforest isn't growing back at anywhere near the same rate(basically it's not growing back at all). Even if it is populism, what is wrong with finally taking action to curb that?


2004 and 2005 had a gigantic spike in deflorestation that is pulling the average up. So the data is a bit skewed.


Maybe more like a submarine aiming to clear a path for their own beef industry?

https://medium.com/@FoodFromFinland/mouth-watering-finlands-...


The reason Finland is doing this is the same why you are being down-voted for posting scientific data: political agenda. Science mostly doesn't matter, only when it fits your favorite narrative.


[flagged]


WhatsApp? A direct messaging service? They have no recommendation engine, no algorithms, no nothing. It's all just infrastructure. How can you blame WhatsApp?

I mean, it's basically just "SMS, but then free". Blaming WhatsApp for the messages its users send is like blaming ISPs for piracy, right?


There was massive disinformation campaign through targeted massive whatsapp groups.

Everyone in Brasil is on whatsapp so that was a way to do it. I understand your point but some research would help.

It’s not so much as blaming ISPs for piracy but blaming hosting services for serving stuff like 8chan ir far right neonazi websites.

Yes the networks are different but we still need to consider the consequences and how to mitigate things. It’s either that or chaos.


So you think WhatsApp should have censored user messages?

I mean, that's quite a thing to say, very different from saying YouTube should make their recommendation algorithm more varied/broad.

I'm mostly just guessing what you're arguing for, but an American (i.e. foreign) megacorp blocking my message to my aunt because their shitty AI decides that it doesn't fit their head office's politics du jour, that sounds pretty dystopian to me. Is that what you're for? If not that, then what?

It's easy to blame people for things gone wrong when you can't tell what they should've done instead. If you can, please enlighten us.

(I agree with your points wrt Facebook and YouTube)


They could have prevented the deliberate misinformation campaign.


not true.

spread that the Left stole the tax payer is not disinformation.


Not even HN is a safe place anymore. This is a perfect example of the targeted users in Brazil's last elections: little care for facts, fond of over simplifications and dichotomies.


What about blaming the forest fires on NGOs, like he did earlier this week? That's the kind of thing being spread to his electoral base.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20762592


There's a ton of news articles about WhatsApp responsabilites:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/19/technology/whatsapp-brazi...

Google and you'll find a ton more.


There have been people interested in spread misinformation. But until WhatsApp, YouTube, and Facebook, which rely on and encourage oversharing, they didn't have the means to do it cheaply. They had do it the old-fashioned way by reaching people via publications or organizations. It used to take decades to build a misinformation campaign, now it takes weeks or months.


Ideally, at this point, working for Facebook should have become a badge of shame.


Hmmm... First, that's an excuse. The blame comes to the voters first.

Second, the main media this happened through was Fox News, which is a pure propaganda machine, that design lies and presents them as facts.

Third, I am fine with companies choosing to not intervene in political debate and stay as neutral as possible when it comes to manually applying filters on content. Being used to transmit propaganda is not the same as producing it


I don't think Fox News got Bolsonaro elected.


> elected due to fake news and extreme right radical content freely spread in Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube.

not true.


well, even writing software for domains like healthcare does not seem that meaningful any more with the ecological collapse rolling out around us. I'm probably fooling myself with the idea that I need to earn some more money to put it into conservation efforts...


Deflorestation and fires are a problem in the Brazilian amazon many since ever.

Besides news of fire in amazon this is a common phenomenon that time of the year. The biggest problem is this is the Dry season, combining with fires spread by farmers owners used to clean the land and start a new crop (or grazing for animals), that inevitable get out of control.

The thing is, biggest producers usually follow more strict rules, medium and small farms still start fires, because is a quicker and cheapper way to clean the land in the start of a new season.

I`m not a specialist, but as far as I researched, staring fires, specially in native florests, is illegal, but the ambiental police is low in resources when it comes of fiscalization and appplication of the law.

The fund to protect the amazon florest, had been cut in radically in the last 10 years. To give perspective, in the last goverment, it was dropped from 6.5 billion to 1.2 billion.

What we can take from the current situation:

- There was increase in fire area in the amazon region, but this happens in a yearly basis.

- There where a sistematic cut in the budget for protecting the florest.

- Add the low budget situation, to corruption of polititians in the regional level, and is a recipt for disaster.

- The current news are worrisome, but they are boosted by the current political climate. The press hate Bolsonaro almost as much as they hate Trump. Some of it based in facts, some in pure histeria.

- Much international pressure are now comming because the brazilian goverment stop working with international ONGs that used to receive money for goverment to do nothing about. No international ONGs cried with almost 100k area fires that happened in 2010, or the 79ks that happened a few years before.

- In the end is all about money. The forest will continue to burn, animals will continue to die. No on will remmember in a few months.

- Independent of what the goverment does (and is current doing a crappy job, don't take me wrong), there will still be attacked by the press. Is how it works.


A lot of lies here. Bolsonaro is dissolving all the environment protection infrastructure we've build in the last decades.

Here are some info: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/23/world/americas/amazon-fir...


Exactly.

Those people blaming the current president doesn't understand that this is not a new problem. They're doing this only because the president is not who they want. I never saw the world saying anything when the Left was in the government and this same thing happen.


Try thinking geopolitically, and above all, contextually.


Correct. Marina Silva continuously warned about these issues since she left the government: https://politica.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,marina-marca-...


When Marina Silva was the ministry of enviroment in the Lula goverment, Amazon saw one of the biggest deflorestation grows in its history.




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