RIO DE JANEIRO — Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon during the first half of 2022 has broken all records, a measure of the growing destruction taking place under President Jair Bolsonaro.
Satellite images taken between January and June show 1,500 square miles of forest destroyed, more than in any six-month period in the seven years of record keeping under the current methodology. The expanse is four times the size of New York.
What makes the statistic more remarkable is that the cutting of the forest takes place during the rainy season. Deforestation is historically highest in the drier second half of the year, when it is easier to access remote areas on the region’s unpaved roads.
Brazil will also hold presidential elections in October, which generally reduces law enforcement in the Amazon. Bolsonaro will run for a second 4-year term. He is currently trailing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the polls.
The area destroyed in the first half of 2022 is 80% larger than the same period in 2018, the year before Bolsonaro took office, according to an analysis by the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, a Brazilian nonprofit organization. lucrative.
About half of the fellings took place on public land, according to the organization’s analysis. The trend in Brazil is for criminals to grab public lands expecting the areas to be legalized for farming or cattle ranching in the future.
According to Ane Alencar, scientific director of the institute, other illegal real estate and forestry transactions as well as the lack of law enforcement contribute to the increase in deforestation rates.
“Those who control the Amazon don’t want it preserved,” Alencar told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “Standing forest has no value in today’s Amazon.”
The most aggressive cutting took place in the state of Amazonas, overtaking both Para and Mato Grosso, which historically record more tree losses.