Thousands of protesters, holding a giant inflatable turtle, bird and other animals, came together in Brasilia on Wednesday, urging Congress to vote down a series of bills that activists say would be devastating for the Amazon rainforest.
Iconic Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso led the Act for the Earth protest against President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policy. The proposed bills would pardon illegal seizures of public land and open existing indigenous land to mining, among other measures.
Environmentalists say the bills would accelerate environmental destruction, especially in the Amazon.
The bills “would cause irreversible damage to the country and the planet, making it harder to stop deforestation and human rights abuses and cementing Brazil’s reputation as an enemy of Earth’s climate,” the 79-year-old Veloso wrote in a letter on behalf of the more than 200 organizations.
Animal farming and soy production are the main drivers of deforestation in agricultural powerhouse Brazil, the world’s biggest exporter of beef and soy.
Last year, deforestation in the Amazon reached a 15-year high; 13,235 square kilometers (5,110 square miles) from July 2020 to July 2021, according to government figures.
“They’re destroying Brazil in every possible way. I’m here for my daughters and all Brazilian children,” said 40-year-old nurse Michele Pereira, who attended the protest with her daughters.
Potassium from Russia
The president argued the conflict in Ukraine has made it crucial for Brazil to reduce its dependence on imported fertilizers, which it sources from Russia. He’s trying to get the bills passed under special emergency provisions, bypassing committee discussions.
“We must use our reserves of potassium [a key fertilizer ingredient] and guarantee enough fertilizer for our farmers,” said Ricardo Barros, the administration’s leader in the lower house.
Opposition lawmaker Rodrigo Agostinho said the administration was trying to use the Ukraine crisis as an excuse: “This bill will damage Brazil’s image, the environment and the health of those who live in the Amazon.”
Animals in Amazon
Around 2,300 animals and 8,000 endemic plants are at high risk of extinction due to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, according to a scientific report published in July last year.
Some of the animals that live in the Amazon Rainforest include jaguars, anteaters, sloths, river dolphins, macaws, anacondas, glass frogs, iguanas, harpy eagles, poison dart frogs, birds, reptiles and fish species.
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