Brazil: Deforestation of Amazon reduce by more than 30 Percent

For years, the Amazon rainforest was cut down. The concern: the unique ecosystem could collapse. The deforestation in Brazil is a huge environmental problem. But the election of Lula da Silva as president gave hope. He announced that he would end the deforestation of the Amazon. In fact, the first steps followed a few days after taking office. The encouraging result: in comparison to the previous year, deforestation was reduced by more than a third.
“Brazil is ready to resume its role i the fight against the climate crisis and protect all ecosystems, especially the Amazon. Our government once managed to reduce forest destruction by 80%. Now lets all fight together for zero deforestation!” says Lula da Silva, President of Brazil.
The BBC reports first successes in the fight against rainforest deforestation. Compared to the first half of the previous year, deforestation was reduced by 33.6%. In June 2023, as much as 41% less forest was destroyed than the previous year. Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva attributes this to Lula’s successful environmental policy.
Lulas potential to reduce deforestation by 89 percent
Lula’s goal of ending deforestation by 2030 is a major challenge. Under his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, deforestation took on alarming dimensions. The new conservation plan, which President Lula published at the beginning of June 2023, aims to achieve this goal. Among other things, it provides for the confiscation of half of all illegally used land within protected areas, as well as higher penalties for illegal logging.
Furthermore, the Brazilian president calls on other countries, especially the rich West, to contribute financially to saving the “green lungs of the earth” in order to combat the climate crisis globally.
A study confirms that Lula’s plans actually have the potential to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 89 percent. In any case, Lula will not have it easy: The left-wing president still faces a conservative majority in parliament.
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Under Bolsonaro, the Amazon shrank by more than twice the area of Vienna – per month
This is sorely needed, because the Amazon has been badly affected in recent years. When Lula first moved into the presidential palace in 2003, he launched an ambitious program to save the rainforest. He and his successor Dilma Rousseff, who like Lula comes from Brazil’s leftist Workers’ Party, succeeded in reducing deforestation by 80 percent to a historic low. But when Bolsonaro came to power in 2019, Brazil did an about-face on environmental policy.
Bolsonaro readily awarded concessions to allow corporations to clear rainforest for soy and palm oil farming, as well as cattle ranching and mining. Illegally cleared areas were legalized by Bolsonaro, and forest fires were fought only half-heartedly. Clearing jumped by 70 percent under his government.
For the first time, the Amazon emits more CO2 than it can absorb
Under Bolsonaro, the Amazon’s climate balance had turned around: For the first time, it emits more CO2 than it can absorb. This was shown in a study by researchers from the French National Institute for Agronomic Research. The scientists mainly analysed satellite data documenting the plant biomass in the rainforest and its deforestation. The result: the Amazon basin released about 16.6 billion tons of CO2 into the environment, but only absorbed about 13.9 tons. This 2.7 billion ton difference is roughly Austria’s consumption for 35 years.
Without well-maintained Amazon rainforest, the whole ecosystem could topple over
Currently, the Amazon has a perfectly functioning water cycle: regions inland actually have too little rainfall for a tropical rainforest. But the trees suck the groundwater upwards, it evaporates and rains down again over the huge forest area. This cycle could be permanently disrupted by further deforestation. The rainforest would slowly die, turning into savannah and changing the climate around the world.
This process would release as much CO2 as the entire world consumes in seven years. The unique ecosystem that is home to 10 percent of all species would be irretrievably lost, and with it the CO2-binding effect of the rainforest. Scientists assume that this tipping point is reached at a deforestation rate of 20 to 25 percent. Currently, we are at 18 percent.
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Deforestation in Brazil: Raids after taking office
Within days of taking office, Lula’s government took action, conducting checks in the rainforest against illegal logging. As reuters reports, controls were carried out in areas all within the Cachoeira Seca indigenous reserve, where deforestation is strictly prohibited.
While deforestation is decreasing, the number of fires continues to increase, satellite monitoring shows. Whether due to natural causes or arson cannot be determined.
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Historic appointment: Brazil gets first indigenous minister with Sônia Guajajara

Brazil is getting a new Ministry for Indigenous Peoples, has more indigenous deputies than ever before, and is getting its first female indigenous minister with the appointment of Sônia Guajajara. Who is this woman, and what will change for the indigenous population now? 
More than 256 different indigenous peoples live in Brazil. Yet their interests and concerns have received little attention. The history of the indigenous population in Brazil is partly a history of displacement, exploitation, and exclusion. Especially under the extreme right-wing ex-president Jair Bolsonaro, illegal land and raw material theft increased again. With his disastrous environmental policy, he destroyed not only the habitat, but also the livelihood of many indigenous peoples.
With the inauguration of the new left-wing president Lula da Silva, something seems to be changing: With five deputies, more indigenous politicians are joining Brazil’s National Congress than ever before.
In addition, a newly created ministry looks after the concerns and interests of the indigenous population. The Ministry for Indigenous Peoples is headed by activist Sônja Guajajara. This is another milestone in the country’s history: For she is Brazil’s first indigenous minister.
Sônia Guajajara: Brazil’s first female indigenous minister
The U.S. magazine TIME has named Sônia Guajajara one of the 100 most influential people of 2022. The 48-year-old is one of Brazil’s best-known activists. She fights for the rights of the indigenous population, for the preservation of their cultures and against environmental destruction and the theft of land and raw materials.
She appeared with Greta Thunberg and Javier Bardem at the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference, and was asked by Alicia Keys to take the stage at Rock in Rio (2017) to reiterate her demands to protect the Amazon.
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Sônia Bone de Souza Silva Santos, who bears the name of her people Guajajara, was born in 1979 in Arariboia, a reservation in the state of Maranhão. At the age of ten, she left her village to go to school. After attending secondary school, she graduated in literature and completed postgraduate studies in special education.
In March 2022, she was among 151 international feminists who signed the Feminist Resistance Against War: A Manifesto in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Demands of the indigenous peoples: An end to mining in their own territories, more participation, and easier territorial claims
Before she was sworn in as minister, she coordinated the campaigns of the Association of Brazilian Indigenous People (APIB). This association published a 10-point plan with demands to the new government when Da Silva took office.
Right at the beginning, the new Ministry of Indigenous Peoples has the chance to prove itself by responding to the demands of the Association of Indigenous Brazilians (APIB). The association is demanding the immediate repeal of seven normative legal acts of the previous government. Among them, for example, the decree that allows mining on the territories of indigenous peoples.
Sônia Guajajara campaigns for land rights and recognition for Brazil’s indigenous peoples. First as an activist, now as a minister (photo: Midia Ninja/CC by SA-2.0)
One of the most important demands is the repeal of the “Marco Temporal” decree. According to this decree, indigenous peoples may only claim an area if they can prove that they lived there before the Brazilian constitution came into force in 1988. But such proof is de facto impossible. This is because if the indigenous peoples had already been evicted, they would have to prove that they had already submitted a claim to reoccupy the land at that time.
Until 1988, however, the indigenous population was under the guardianship of FUNAI. Thus, they had no legal means of appealing to the judiciary through their own representation. FUNAI (Fundação Nacional do Índio) ensures that the rights of indigenous populations. Since 2019, it has been under the authority of the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights.
In the past 2022 elections, Guajajara was elected to the National Congress in the state of São Paulo. She is now one of five indigenous deputies in Congress.
In early January, President Lula da Silva made her minister for the new Ministry of Indigenous Peoples. She is one of 37 ministers in the new government—only 11 of whom are women.
Bolsonaro prevented land restitution—Lula wants turnaround
The far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro blocked and delayed with the Marco Temporal any attempts by the indigenous population to protect or reclaim their rightful habitat. The government of Lula da Silva declares the inhumane policies of its predecessor to be over and wants to stand up for the rights of all Brazilians again in the future. This includes the indigenous peoples.
More than 1,000 territories are currently being reclaimed by indigenous peoples. 731 applications are currently being processed.
Never before have so many indigenous deputies entered the National Congress
Mario Juruna was the first indigenous deputy at the national level in 1983. It took another 35 years for Joênia Wapichana to become the first indigenous woman elected to Congress.
With the latest election, five deputies now enter the National Congress as representatives of the indigenous peoples. Among them are Sônia Guajajara and the human rights activist Célia Xakriabá. These are only a few, and yet they are more numerous than ever before. Läs mer…