Huge swathes of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest are ablaze this month, with Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) recording over 26,000 individual fires. Natural fires are rare in the region, and the periphery of the Amazon regularly sees man-made burnings at this time of the year as rural farmers burn their pastures to clean them for the following years’ harvest. The scale of the fires is, however, up 79 percent from the same time last year, according to the INPE. The INPE’s head Ricardo Galvão was dismissed from his post after the institute released figures showing a 278 percent increase in monthly deforestation compared to the previous year and Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro publicly referred to the findings as “lies.”
Since Bolsonaro’s administration began at the beginning of the year, Brazil has loosened environmental regulations and decreased funding to agencies in charge of monitoring compliance with environmental and indigenous protection laws. We’ll talk about the links between state policy and environmental collapse in Brazil with Chris Feliciano Arnold, a journalist who has reported from the Brazilian Amazon and wrote The Third Bank of the River: Power and Survival in the Twenty-First Century Amazon.