There hasn’t been a social media hastag for the Amazon this year, there hasn’t been a million dollar check from American stars to try and save it. Yet the rainforest in Brazil has lost 11,088 km², 9.5% more than in 2019. It is as if Jamaica had been burnt down or the two Savoyard departments. Despite the dismissal of its director Ricardo Galvão last year, the National Institute for Space Research continues its work and announced the numbers on Monday as the 2020 fire season is over.
It’s not just the Covid-19 that has diverted our attention from the Amazon this year. The 2019 controversy was also triggered by what has been called “the day of fire”. On this day in August 2019, hundreds of arson were ignited along a road that crosses the forest in the state of Para, in the heart of Brazil. The idea was to transform forest areas into meadows for cattle in particular. But with the drought, these fires quickly spilled over and got out of hand. This is the event that made deforestation so visible last year.
In 2020, the fire was more discreet, but it regularly ravaged different areas of the country, in particular the Pantanal, on the border with Bolivia and Paraguay: a biodiversity reserve as well as a refuge, especially for jaguars .
For 30 years, the National Space Research Institute (INPE) has relied on images sent by Earth observation satellites: American, European and today Chinese. This program was born under the military dictatorship to observe the expansion of the forest in the interior of the country at the time. But from the end of the 1980s, he showed forest losses. A collaboration is initiated with the environmental police who could intervene quickly when the satellites spot fires.
A collaboration undermined by President Bolsonaro who prefers to exploit the forest rather than protect it. But this is not just a problem for the tropical forest since these fires in 2020 released a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere. Brazil will therefore succeed in the feat of being the only big polluter to have increased its greenhouse gas emissions this year, while the pandemic has slowed those of all the others.