In Brazil, the rate of deforestation in the Amazon has spiked to its highest level in 11 years — and environmental justice activists are holding far-right President Jair Bolsonaro partly responsible.
According to data released Monday by the Brazilian government, about 9,762 square kilometers — or 3,769 square miles — of rainforest were lost from July 2018 to July 2019. With a 29.5% increase in deforestation from the year prior, the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) described it as the highest rate of loss since 2008.
“[The level of deforestation] is far from what we wanted, but it’s also far from the three digit numbers that had been reported,” Brazilian environment minister Ricardo Sales said at an INPE press conference in Sao Jose dos Campos, according to CNN.
While Sales asserts the rising levels of deforestation are being caused by unlawful acts like cattle grazing, wood extraction and illegal mining and trade, many activists consider the Bolsonaro administration as being another culprit.
Since the controversial leader became president in January 2019, he has been criticized for his failure to protect the Amazon. The politician has not only denied the severity of the deforestation in the rainforest but has also dismantled several of the country’s environmental protections and rejected $20 million in foreign aid to help fight fires during the G7 summit in France.
In a press release from the Climate Observatory, a Brazilian network of environmental advocacy organizations, activists said the loss is a “direct result of the strategy implemented by Bolsonaro to dismantle the Ministry of Environment.”
The data, generated by the Satellite Legal Amazon Deforestation Monitoring Project (PRODES), looked at rates for nine states of the Brazilian Legal Amazon, finding the highest number of fires in more than a decade.