Election, environment and the future of the Amazon

Election, environment and the future of the Amazon

  • Prior to the Oct. 2 Brazilian election, Mongabay aims to ensure the public has access to factual information on environmental issues in the country.
  • Mongabay’s efforts include a year long joint investigation with Earthsight, which has uncovered new evidence of corruption and illegality used by Brazil’s largest flooring exporter, Indusparquet, and its suppliers.
  • Mongabay has also produced a collection of Twitter threads that examine the interplay between Brazil’s elected officials — mainly the Bolsonaro administration — the environment and Indigenous peoples.

As Mongabay contributor Aldem Bourscheit indicated in a previous article, during the Brazil presidential elections on Oct. 2, incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva may very well square off for the future of the Amazon rainforest.

In the lead-up to the election, Mongabay aims to ensure the public has access to factual information on environmental issues in Brazil, and how the upcoming vote may affect globally significant ecosystems like the Amazon and Cerrado, as well as many socio-environmental issues in South America’s largest country.

As such, Mongabay recently published a joint, year long investigation with Earthsight, The Fixers: Top U.S. flooring retailers linked to Brazilian firm probed for corruption, which has uncovered new evidence of corrupt deals and illegal practices used by Brazil’s largest flooring exporter, Indusparquet, and its suppliers.

Additionally, Mongabay’s international news team has been reporting on the interplay between Brazil’s elected officials — mainly the Bolsonaro Administration — and the environment, as well as the rights and safety of Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs). Mongabay published the following Twitter threads covering four focus areas:

Vigil for Dom Phillips and Bruno Araújo Pereira at the Brazilian Embassy in London. Image courtesy of Chris J. Ratcliffe/Greenpeace.

Exposing corruption and illegality by Brazil’s largest flooring exporter

In Mongabay’s recent joint investigation with Earthsight, English Editor (Brazil) Karla Mendes reported that Indusparquet was charged in two corruption lawsuits in Brazil over its use of public officials to gain access to timber supplies. Mongabay and Earthsight gained access to dozens of hours of wiretaps and video footage, along with thousands of pages of court records, revealing how the alleged bribery schemes were carried out.

“This investigation is extremely important because it exposes the modus operandi of several environmental offenders,” said Mendes. “Despite the existence of environmental laws and sanctions — and their widespread visibility — what we see is that the companies continue to commit the same ‘errors’ and buyers keep buying their products. The key question is: Why? Are the sanctions ‘too cheap’ for them?”

One of the court cases showed the company used a local official to secure the supply of bracatinga, a tree species native to the Atlantic Forest, for an unnamed “U.S. client.” Mongabay also discovered indications that the American client was Floor & Decor, America’s largest flooring retail chain, previously involved in illegal timber scandals with Indusparquet. Furthermore, national chain LL Flooring, fined for breaching the Lacey Act (a law that prohibits trafficking illegally caught wild species) in 2013 over its illegal timber exports, is also an Indusparquet client.

“Mongabay and Earthsight’s collaboration reveals that crime is worth the risk for some big corporations,” said Mendes.

Read full article: The Fixers: Top U.S. flooring retailers linked to Brazilian firm probed for corruption

deforestation on Ituna Itatá indigenous land.
Image still from Greenpeace footage showing deforestation on Ituna Itatá Indigenous land, one of the places Indusparquet sourced timber from. Image © Greenpeace.

Twitter threads on environmental issues in Brazil

As mentioned, the Indusparquet investigation is part of a larger effort by Mongabay to bring greater awareness to the socio-environmental situation in Brazil. It also includes four original Twitter threads that examine the interplay between the country’s elected officials, the environment and issues affecting IPLCs.

Deforestation

As deforestation has risen in recent years worldwide, Brazil has proven to be a hotspot for this environmental threat. In just two decades, the Brazilian Amazon has been transformed from a carbon dioxide sink to a source for new emissions of this greenhouse gas. Loosening environmental policies and budget cuts are not helping either, with nearly 98% of deforestation alerts not being investigated.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of Amazon deforestation, the Bolsonaro government has resorted to accusing government agencies of manipulating data, conspiring with international NGOs and even firing Ricardo Magnus Osório Galvão, the head of the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), a world-renowned satellite monitoring system.

Read the full thread on deforestation at Mongabay’s Twitter account in English or Portuguese.

Forest fires

In 2019, enormous forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon captured the world’s attention. Was this occurrence an outlier, or does it reveal a greater environmental pattern?

As São Paulo’s skies turned black with smoke on August 19, 2019, President Jair Bolsonaro suggested NGO members could be behind the forest fires. A report the same year by Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) revealed an overlap between intentionally deforested areas and fire alerts. In fact, 125,000 ha (310,000 acres) of the Brazilian Amazon – the equivalent to 172,000 soccer fields – were cleared through 2019 and then burned in August. In 2022, the Brazilian Amazon saw the highest number of fires for June in 15 years, with more than 2,500 major fires detected, an increase of 11.14% over 2021.

Fires also threaten Brazil’s biodiversity. For example, thousands of fires spread throughout the Cerrado savanna, endangering rare and threatened species such as jaguars, maned wolves and Brazilian mergansers.

Read the full thread on forest fires via Mongabay’s Twitter account in English or Portuguese.

Indigenous rights

Brazil is home to 900,000 Indigenous people who speak 274 languages. Many Indigenous territories overlap with ecologically important areas.

The Bolsonaro administration has made several political moves that threaten the rights of Indigenous peoples, such as shifting decision-making power regarding Indigenous reserve demarcations from Funai, Brazil’s Indigenous agency, to the Ministry of Agriculture, attempting to legalize agribusiness leasing on Indigenous lands and mining, and being accused of acting to intimidate Indigenous leaders. Groups, such as the Karipuna, have also sued the government for complicity in invasion and theft of their land.

These actions have led to several protests, with thousands of Indigenous leaders and communities marching on the Supreme Court in 2019 and 2021, which is believed to be the largest mobilization of Indigenous activists in more than three decades.

Read the full thread on Indigenous rights on the Mongabay Twitter in English and Portuguese.

Violence against Indigenous peoples, journalists and activists

The last four years have seen a surge in violence against environmental activists and Indigenous peoples.

Shortly after Bolsonaro was elected in October 2018, Brazil saw an increase in threats toward Indigenous peoples and land grabbing of reserves. Land invasions more than doubled in 2020, with 81,255 families seeing their territories encroached on. Indigenous peoples represented nearly 72% of the total.

However, the violence expanded from illegal miners slashing the tires of Indigenous buses for demonstrations, police firing rubber bullets and stun grenades at protesters, to the murder of Indigenous leader Paulo Paulino Guajajara in 2019.

A similar trend continues in 2022. In June, the bodies of Indigenous defender Bruno Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips were found in the Amazon.

Read the full thread on violence against Indigenous peoples, journalists and activists on the Mongabay Twitter in English and Portuguese.

Learn more about Brazil

If you want to read more coverage on Brazil, please check out this page.

Also, subscribe to Mongabay’s weekly newsletter to get the latest environmental news delivered right to your inbox.

Related audio from Mongabay’s podcast: In a new dialogue with Mongabay’s top tropical forest news commentator (and CEO), Rhett A. Butler, we catch up on the biggest trends and news, starting with the upcoming Brazilian presidential election’s possible ramifications for Amazon forest conservation, listen here:

See related coverage about Brazil’s 2022 election, here:

Brazil faces two contrasting legacies for the Amazon in October’s elections

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This story first appeared on Mongabay

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