Businesses fight back over Amazon forest fires

World Today

As the Amazon rain forest continues to burn the full impact of the devastation is still unclear.

Experts said some areas could take centuries to fully recover.

And then’s there’s the economic impact.

CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports.

Brazil is one of the world’s biggest food suppliers, a top exporter of agricultural commodities like grains and beef. But at what environmental cost does this come. The recent fires in the Amazon brought this question to light globally.

In the international political arena, French President Emmanuel Macron sounded perhaps the loudest alarm, adding the fires as an emergency topic to a G7 summit meeting in France. While Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro took offense to what he called Macron’s “colonialist mentality” and remained defiant.

“The wildfires in the Amazon, in my understanding, may be partially due to the action of NGOS that did it just to create problems for Brazil, because they have been losing money,” Bolsonaro said.

As pressure mounted, Brazilian authorities softened their rhetoric and pledged to protect the Amazon but allies of Bolsonaro, like this Sao Paulo state deputy and vice-president of the Brazilian Association of Soy Producers said that will happen on Brazil’s terms and not due to foreign pressure.

“What we have seen is that a spotlight was thrown on something that is usual, that happens every year. Our problem in Brazil are the environmental groups that manipulate people just to create a smokescreen to hide the true commercial interests behind all this,” said Frederico D’Avilla a Sao Paulo State Deputy.

“It’s not yet clear what the impact in practice will be. None of Brazil’s really big buyers have stopped purchases. We cannot rule that out but it didn’t happen so far. And they would have had time to do so already, as it happened in the past after other allegations against Brazilian beef,” Felippe Serigati, Agribusiness professor at Getulio Vargas Foundation said.

Some farmers argue there’s been an overreaction in international public opinion in part thanks to Bolsonaro’s aggressive rhetoric that does not reflect what has been happening on the ground. But environmentalists argue it is precisely the government’s policies of pulling back protections of the Amazon that’s reflected in the fires and higher deforestation figures.

“Four or five years ago, Brazilians were convinced that finally we would stop deforestation, that we could even win. This has been undermined by the latest figures and the latest figures are consequence of a series of events, reduction of governance,” Paulo Adario, from Greenpeace Brazil said.

As the dry season continues wildfires are still raging in many parts of the Amazon. There’s some action being taken to control them, but as massive as they are, the reality is there’s not much more that can be done than wait for the rains to come in November.