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Brazilian Amazon Sees Record Deforestation in First Half of 2022

Brazil’s Amazon rainforest suffered record levels of deforestation in the first six months of 2022, as well as a record level of fires in June, says the country’s Space Research Institute (INPE).

“Data from INPE satellites shows that 3,750 square kilometres of the world´s largest rainforest were lost in Brazil between January 1 and June 24, the largest area since 2016, when the institute began this type of monitoring,” reports the Cable News Network.

While May and June do generally mark the beginning of “significant annual burning” in the Amazon with the onset of the dry season, June saw a record 2,287 fires in the rainforest.

CNN points to the notorious role of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in the accelerated destruction of the world’s largest rainforest. While his government “has passed several executive orders and laws to protect the rainforest, he has simultaneously slashed funding to government-run environmental protection and monitoring programs, and pushed to open Indigenous lands to commercial farming and mining.”

Bolsonaro’s pivotal role in the degradation and destruction of the Amazon is such that a group of climate lawyers, fronted by the Austrian NGO AllRise, have formally asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the president and his administration for fuelling “the mass destruction of the Amazon with eyes wide open and in full knowledge of the consequences”. The lawyers say those actions amount to crimes against humanity.

Bolsonaro rejects that claim, and has been sharply dismissive of international celebrity efforts calling attention to the increasingly ravaged state of the Amazon.

When American actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio took to Twitter last month, urging especially younger Brazilian voters to cast a vote for the Amazon in the upcoming presidential election October 2, Bolsonaro suggested that he had best “keep his mouth shut.”

The Amazon is likely to come under even greater threat as the country prepares to head to the polls, with election years typically bringing weaker environmental regulation to the country. Carlos Souza Jr., a researcher Brazil’s Imazon research institute, told CNN he anticipates a rush of criminal activity in the region, from illegal logging to illegal fishing, as those who have benefited from a lax regulatory regime under Bolsonaro rush to grab what they can before a new government takes office.