“Man, I haven’t thought about the Amazon Rainforest in at least a couple weeks,” said Junior Jordan Hines.
Like Hines, it’s probably been a while since you thought about the fact that the Amazon Rainforest is on fire. After a weeklong burst of outrage at the Brazilian government’s blatant disregard for the environment, the world’s anger cooled down and it collectively decided to move on to the next big story.
Unlike the rage of the public, the fires have not died down; on the contrary, if Brazil’s recent environmental policy is any indication, the fires will only increase in scale and frequency. But why are these fires (which have been burning for decades) seeing a massive upswing in 2019?
For years, Brazil’s agricultural focus was on sugarcane, which is used to produce ethanol. However, recent developments in the fuel industry forced Brazil to change their crop of choice.
“They used to grow a lot of sugarcane,” said Environmental Science teacher Mr. Millar, “but fracking drove down gas prices and they had to convert the fields to soybeans,”
Then, in January 2019, President Jair Bolsonaro took office. He inherited a struggling economy with an unemployment rate of 12 percent (https://tradingeconomics.com/brazil/unemployment-rate), but he also inherited what he sees as a golden economic opportunity: Trump’s trade war on China. Facing heavy tariffs on imports of American goods, China wants to steer as far clear of American products as it can, including imports of soybeans. Bolsonaro’s government has been eager to meet this massive new demand.
Looking to decrease Brazil’s unemployment rate and to strengthen its economy, Bolsonaro weakened or dismantled government-run environmental protection agencies and lifted restrictions on the slashing and burning of the Amazon rainforest. He has ignored the global outrage at his policies and will continue to move forward with what he believes to be an economic boom.