Greenpeace reacted with condemnation and outrage to the new Amazon deforestation figures released by the Brazilian government. The annual rate of Amazon deforestation for August 2003-August 2004 reached 26,130 square kilometers, the equivalent of six football fields destroyed every minute.
More than 70 percent of Amazon loss occurred between May and July 2004, after President Lula’s “Action Plan to Curb Deforestation” had been adopted.
The plan, which was presented in March 2004, took seven months of elaboration and had the participation of 13 ministries committing resources, defining responsibilities and setting a timetable.
“Clearly Lula’s administration has failed up to now to implement the Action Plan and to protect the Amazon,” said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon Campaign Coordinator.
“Although there have been positive measures taken by the government, such as the creation of protected areas and demarcation of Indigenous lands, the fact that the annual average of deforestation has been more than 23,000 square kilometers for the last three years is simply unacceptable. This is a national shame.”
During the same period, Lula’s Government has celebrated the rapid expansion in grain production and world leadership in meat exports, with the Minister of Treasury Antonio Palocci declaring, “Agribusiness is the best business of Brazil.”
Almost half (48 percent) of the deforestation occurred in the Amazon basin state of Mato Grosso, governed by the largest individual soy producer in the world, Blairo Maggi.
Of the 12,576 square kilometers lost in the State, 4,176 square kilometers were authorized by the government. The rest was illegal.
Maggi doesn’t hide his opinion about deforestation, “A 40 percent increase in deforestation doesn’t mean anything at all, and I don’t feel the slightest guilt over what we are doing here,” Maggi said in an interview to The New York Times in September 2003, referring to the Amazon deforestation rate of the previous year.
“Agribusiness and illegal logging are key culprits of deforestation,” said Adario. “Lula’s administration is facing a fundamental contradiction: to fight Amazon deforestation or to promote the expansion of agribusiness to pay the Brazilian external debt.
“To make a real difference on the ground, the government needs to restrict soy plantations to areas already deforested, combat illegal logging and effectively implement their own anti-deforestation plan.”
By allowing this level of Amazon destruction, the government is also contributing to the devastating impacts of global warming.
Carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and burning in the Amazon are the main Brazilian contributions to climate change and there is growing evidence that climate change is drying out the forests.