Global Environmental Health Threatened as Deforestation of the Amazon Continues to Rise

Climate change has in recent years become an issue that has demanded more and more attention and, more importantly, action in order to curb the habits of primarily industrializing states and large businesses to avoid in order to avoid irreversible effects in the global climate. However, these issues are often presented in a scientific focus to which the importance does not exactly translate to the general audience; what if you were told that Brazil deforested a portion of the Amazon rainforest that is the size of Connecticut in 2020 alone.

Reuters reports that the Bolsonaro administration in Brazil is responsible for the deforestation of 11,088 square kilometers of the Amazon this past calendar year. This is a 9.5% increase from the year before and violates their own laws of limiting this sort of action to just over 3,000 square miles annually, which is already more than should deforested. On top of this, the vice president of Brazil, Hamilton Mourão is being reported to have said that Brazil should be commended for decreasing the percentage increase from the last calendar, 34% increase down to 9.5% increase respectively. This destructive action done in the name of logging and other economic activity is negligent and dangerous and as such demands the attention of the international community before the aforementioned irreversible damage is caused.

The Amazon rainforest, apart from being a sanctuary to thousands of species, is also a mecca of transforming carbon dioxide back into oxygen and as such allows for the Earth to remain habitable. Should this action continue in the Amazon, and more broadly around the world, the impact would be catastrophic and as such demands proactive action and not reactive action. The primary reason cited by the Bolsonaro administration justifying this action is that the Amazonian region of Brazil is severely impoverished and that this economic activity would help uplift those communities out of said poverty and transform them into a more productive segment of the population, economically speaking. While I do not find that this justifies the mass deforestation, it is worsened by the fact that the primary burnings were executed by illegal groups of ranchers and farmers which in turn casts doubt onto the government’s ability to enforce their own will in the region.

Brazil is placed in a unique situation where the Amazon Rainforest is wholly located within in their sovereign borders, but damage done to the rainforest causes global damage. As such this ongoing crisis surrounding the Amazon is a crisis that requires the international community to step in and either punish Brazil for violating their own laws or extend them economic aid in an effort to stop the deforestation. Reuters continues on to report that the French government has been hyper-critical of the Bolsonaro administration citing their neglect of the Amazon and its ecological importance. While on the other hand, Ameican President-Elect Joe Biden is reported to have said that Brazil should receive economic aid in order to provide relief to impoverished areas as well as incentive to stop burning down the Amazon.

Should the international community choose to punish Brazil through sanctions or by other economic means, it could be disastrous for the country’s impoverished due to incompetence from the government. However, if Brazil is given economic aid on the grounds that the Amazon be deforested significantly less than it was this past year, the government could use the rainforest as a sort of hostage used to extort money. The nature of the forests importance to global environmental health creates risk in both of these plans and as such would require a hybrid approach that rewards the state for better environmental action but punishes them for lack of enforcement of their laws. Furthermore, the international organizations that focus on environmental preservation should be utilized to provide unbiased oversight of the situation. The Amazon is far more important to the health of the Earth than it is to propping up the Brazilian economy, so it is time for the international community to treat this type of action as an international problem.