When infernos tore through the Amazon last year, it quickly became clear that the main culprit—at least in Brazil—was malevolent politics: Jair Bolsonaro kicked off his presidency in January 2019 by dismantling environmental protections and openly encouraging forest destruction. Deforestation rates quickly surged, and the felled trees were left to dry out. A few months later, they were set ablaze with the intent of clearing land—and those fires raged out of control.
Deforestation in Brazil has been even worse in the early part of 2020 than it was in 2019—which does not bode well for fire season. And in fact, Brazil saw more fires in the Amazon this June than in any other June since 2007. Brazil’s space research agency INPE spotted 2,248, compared with 1,880 in June last year.
The Rainforest Alliance has worked for decades to stop fires before they start, through a time-tested strategy of creating thriving economies for the communities who live from and defend forests. As part of that, we work to build responsible supply chains and influence policies that support this approach. In a prime example of how responsible business can drive change, scores of international companies and financial institutions applied their collective pressure—in some cases by threatening boycotts—to Brazil’s leadership, and in mid-July the Bolsonaro administration announced a three-month ban on agricultural and forest fires.
But the ban may come too late. Photographer Christian Braga and Greenpeace Brasil flew over the southern Brazilian state of Mato Grosso only a week before the fire ban was announced. Here are his alarming photos: