The Amazon rainforest is on the brink. 

Last month it was reported that vast areas of the Amazon are emitting more carbon than they absorb. Fires and deforestation are now releasing huge amounts of carbon from the forest into the atmosphere, and the remaining rainforest is drying out.[1] This is the start of the tipping point scientists have been warning us about — beyond which the rainforest will no longer be able to sustain itself and will collapse.[2]

Bird in the Tapajós National Forest in the Amazon, Brazil
A blue-crowned motmot in the Amazon. The Amazon rainforest is home to a staggering diversity of life and regulates our global climate — but it is at a critical tipping point. © Greenpeace / John Novis

And yet at this critical moment, Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro is laying the conditions for things to get far worse. And our government is pretending that the escalating crisis does not even exist.

Amazon destruction is out of control. Over the past year, a whopping 8793 km2 of rainforest was deforested in Brazil’s Amazon.[3] Just how much land is this? Imagine cutting a 1-km wide path from Halifax all the way to Vancouver — and then back again.

Now the Amazon “burning season” is getting started. This is the peak time when landgrabbers and cattle ranchers intentionally set fires to clear even more land for industrial agriculture. With ongoing historic deforestation, the worst drought in almost a century,[4] and signs that Bolsonaro will once again allow illegal land clearing with impunity[5] — the stage is set for a devastating fire season.

Fire in deforested area of a public forest in Porto Velho, Rondônia in the Amazon, Brazil
A large fire burns in a deforested area of a public forest in Rondônia, Brazil in late July. This year’s fires could be the Amazon’s worst ever. © Christian Braga / Greenpeace

At the same time, the Bolsonaro government is pushing through a suite of new laws that would lock in the conditions for the Amazon destruction for years to come. Two bills have already passed the initial law-making stage and are headed for final vote in Brazil’s Senate.

The “land grabbing” bill (PL 2633/2020) would hand over ownership of millions of hectares of public and Indigneous lands to those illegally occupying it.[6] The “environmental licensing” bill (PL 3729/2004) would allow a wide range of destructive activities including cattle ranching, mining and road expansion to proceed with no license.[7] And yet another upcoming bill (PL 191/2020) threatens to open up Indigenous lands to mining and other industry, posing a serious threat to Indigenous people’s sovereignty and safety.[8]

Indigenous People Manifest in Brasília, Brazil in June
Indigenous Peoples’ demonstration in Brasília in June. © Adriano Machado / Greenpeace

Indigenous peoples of Brazil have issued a call for international solidarity in response to such threats. Last week the national Indigenous organization APIB filed a request with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Bolsonaro for crimes against humanity and genocide.[9] Next week Indigenous peoples will converge in Brasilia for a week of protests. The last time they gathered, they were met with police violence.[10]

In other words — the situation unfolding in Brazil could not be more urgent, and the need for international pressure more critical

Yet the current Liberal government has failed to take any meaningful action in response to the crisis unfolding in Brazil’s Amazon. Worse than that, they are actually planning to reward Bolsonaro with a lucrative trade deal.

Greenpeace Canada Amazon protest on Parliament Hill, October 2020
Greenpeace Canada activists protest the federal government’s plans to sign the Canada-Mercosur trade deal with Brazil’s Bolsonaro government, Parliament Hill, October 2020. © Nhattan Nguyen / Greenpeace

For the past year, Greenpeace Canada supporters have been calling on the federal government to halt the planned Canada-Mercosur free trade deal with Brazil and speak out against Bolsonaro’s destruction of the Amazon. The trade deal would increase imports into Canada of products linked to this destruction — including as much as $1.8 billion in meat products each year.[11]

Three opposition parties — the NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green Party — have taken a position against signing this deal under the current circumstances. But the current Liberal government is once again choosing corporate interests and business as usual in the face of a catastrophic ecological crisis.

The Amazon is at a tipping point — and so is our climate. But already more than 50,000 Canadians have already signed onto this campaign, and together we are strong. And we will keep fighting until we win. Because losing the Amazon is not an option.