As a reaction to Bolsonaro’s policies, we have committed to planting 1 million additional trees in Brazil. The trees will be planted over the course of the next 6 months along Brazil’s coastal strip, reconnecting the remaining forest patches.
Since Bolsonaro’s rise to power six months ago, deforestation in Brazil has increased by a staggering 84%. Supporting the country’s ruralistas, Brazil’s current government is strengthening the agricultural sector. Weak law enforcement allows the latter to expand its activities into previously protected areas.
In a worryingly short period of time, Bolsonaro’s presidency has become a threat to the environment, indigenous groups and human rights. Brazil’s current environmental agenda also poses a threat to Ecosia’s work in Brazil which focuses on reforesting the Atlantic Forest.
The Mata Atlântica (from its name in Portuguese) stretches across Brazil's coastal strip. Adjacent to its more famous neighbour, the Amazon, the Atlantic Forest is more ancient and no less threatened.
Only 8% of the forest remains. These patches are the last refuge for 60% of Brazil’s endemic species of flora and fauna: protecting the Mata Atlântica is, therefore, of vital importance.
That’s why we’ve committed to planting one million additional trees in Brazil, expanding our already successful partnership with PACTO Mata Atlântica.
Explained: Bolsonaro, Brazil and the environment
Over the past few decades, Brazil had developed a rich body of environmental policies. In 1992, the country hosted the first world climate conference, setting a sign for its leadership in environmental topics.
In September 2016, upon signing the Paris Agreement, Brazil even pledged to voluntarily reduce its CO2 emissions by 43% by the year 2030.
Since Bolsonaro took power, though, Brazil’s environmental position has radically changed.
By merging the Ministry of Agriculture with the Ministry of Environment, Bolsonaro is empowering both the agricultural and mining sectors. This puts the demarcation of protected and indigenous land under governmental control, instead of independent environmental agencies.
“The federal government is trying to annihilate the Brazilian Forest Code”, Severino Ribeiro, director of PACTO, told us. "Through a Provisional Measure [that will] amnesty deforestation”, previously protected rural areas will be left unprotected, which “could cause the deforestation of an area the size of Portugal”.
Why Bolsonaro’s policies are a threat to the climate
Clear land ownership in Brazil makes it easier for tree-planting organisations to trace their impact.
Landowners voluntarily make land available for tree-planting. They do this both for economic reasons and to comply with policies around minimum forest coverage on privately owned land.
But transparent land tenure means that farmers also make concessions to logging companies on other plots within their lands. As their soil becomes more and more barren through intensive agriculture, some farmers in the area often start fires to expand their pastures.
This was already an issue before Bolsonaro came to power, which is why many of Ecosia’s tree-planting partners work in close communication with farmers. Through direct contact and workshops, farmers in the project learn about the benefits of a healthy forest, keeping their soil fertile and why trees can be an alternative to soy production or cattle holding.
But under Bolsonaro, farmers now feel more empowered to clear land.
PACTO director Severino says that institutions like his can no longer contribute to Brazil’s environmental policies. “Bolsonaro has destroyed conversations with civil organisations”, he told us.
In the past, Brazil’s internationally admired environmental policies have been a result of the combined efforts of government officials and civic representatives.
One million trees for the Atlantic Forest
“I trust PACTO and all the organizations therein to continue doing great work”, says Pieter. More than 10 separate groups will come together to plant the million additional trees.
Preserving Brazil’s unique biodiversity has increasingly urgent implications beyond the country’s borders.
With the release of a UN report earlier this year stating that the world is facing an unprecedented environmental disaster, Ecosia and the international community as a whole is eyeing whether Bolsonaro follows through on his declared intentions to exploit his country’s forests.
“With these additional one million trees in Brazil, we are setting a sign: another world is possible and we will not back down in our efforts to make it a reality”, says our CEO at Ecosia, Christian Kroll.
What you can do to support Brazil’s forests
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