The Amazon is being destroyed by government mismanagement at the highest rate in more than a decade. Deforestation ravaged an area equivalent to 1.4 million soccer fields between August 2018 and July 2019, according to data from Brazil’s Institute for Satellite Deforestation Monitoring Project (PRODES) of the Instituto de Space Research (INPE) released on Monday.

We are living in a global climate emergency, but President Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental agenda has degraded Brazil’s ability to protect the Amazon and the people who live in it. The deforestation measured over the 12-month period by INPE stretches across 9,762 km². That figure represents a 30% increase over the previous year and is the largest recorded since 2008. In the months leading up to the release of the latest data, fires raged across the weakened Amazon, drawing global attention to a crisis that we must all join together to end. 

A view of Amazon destruction during a flight over the state of Pará in 2019.

Destruction has risen again in the Amazon amid an unprecedented dismantling of Brazil’s environmental policies by Bolsonaro’s administration. In 2019, the planned inspection operations of the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) were cut by 22%. In April, IBAMA’s fire-fighting budget was reduced by 38%. In August, as the world looked on in horror at the fires throughout the Amazon, Bolsonaro dismissed the renowned physicist Ricardo Galvão from INPE’s management. The systematic attack on environmental protections happening under Bolsonaro’s watch represents a stark reversal of previous achievements by Brazil in the fight against deforestation. 

Putting the Amazon at further risk, the lands and rights of Indigenous Peoples who have been the defenders of the forest continue to be violated. In early November, Paulo Paulino Guajajara, a guardian of the forest, was murdered by loggers in an ambush. With deforestation, fires, and blood shed increasing in the Amazon, the government hasn’t presented any consistent policy to protect the forest and its people.

A member of the Huni Kuin tribe inspects the destruction of forests neighbouring their home in the state of Acre, Brazil.

The need for climate action will only become more urgent as deforestation warnings have continued to increase in the three months following the period measured in the latest PRODES report. In August through October of 2019, there was an increase of about 100% of the area with deforestation warnings compared to the same period of 2018, according to INPE’s Deter data

By standing with the Guardians of the Forest and calling on fast food companies to reject beef and soya (used in animal feed) linked to deforestation, we must all do everything we can to protect the Amazon. The time for action is now, before any more of the forest is lost.