By Alistair Jones

The border between Amazon rainforest and deforestation due to agricultural expansion in Brazil.

Rainforest Partnership is wary of Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s plans to open the Amazon rainforest for business. This move is a push for more jobs and economic production in the country through farming and industry, but it could lead to massive deforestation. A large uptick in deforestation would release copious amounts of greenhouse-gas emissions that could break the carbon budget to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees.

As Earth’s largest rainforest, the Amazon acts as a large carbon trap and is responsible for global weather patterns, from the Americas to Africa. This agribusiness could affect more than just those in the Brazilian Amazon. The Amazon produces 20% of the world’s oxygen and freshwater, yet nearly 20% of this rainforest has been cut down in the past 50 years. It is now being destroyed at the fastest rate in over a decade. The Amazon is also home roughly a million indigenous people, many of whose lives could be further disrupted. Some will lose the land that they have always called home for decades or even centuries, and some will even lose their lives.

Indigenous people from various tribes dancing as they wait to deliver a letter to Brazil’s then President-elect Jair Bolsonaro in December.

Despite these figures, Bolsonaro has planned to do away with the legislative protections set in place for environmental reserves and indigenous communities. They will encroach into previously protected lands to make way for farms and industry. Bolsonaro has put the Agriculture Department in charge of deciding which lands are protected, a role that was historically given to a government protection agency. This raises concerns for the further protection of these communities. Without official territorial boundaries to protect the land they live on, some indigenous groups are at risk of extinction.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

Many Brazilians believe that his push for industry and farming in the Amazon could, in fact, benefit the country. It has the potential to create job opportunities and grow Brazil’s economy, at least in the short term. But there remains a significant concern that economic development will not be executed sustainably — cut down too many trees, and the amount of rainfall will start to diminish as well.

There are some key players other than Bolsonaro in this push for agribusiness. American agribusiness companies, Bunge and ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) are the two largest soy traders in Brazil. Agribusiness activities are responsible for around 90% of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It is up to Bunge and ADM as well as other influential companies in the agribusiness industry to take a stand against Bolsonaro. These American companies must set a precedent that they value for the health of the Amazon and all who live in it.

It is now more important than ever to protect the Amazon rainforest in Peru and Ecuador, where progress for rainforest conservation is more achievable. Like those in Brazil, indigenous communities in Peru and Ecuador value their forests and want to protect them. Rainforest Partnership works alongside these communities to protect and preserve rainforests. By creating sustainable income sources as alternatives to deforestation, RP enables indigenous peoples to safeguard their land, livelihood, and culture.



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