ccording to preliminary data published by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) on Friday, satellite data obtained via its Real Time Deforestation Detection System (DETER) shows that, as of February 17, 209 square kilometers (80.6 square miles) of forest had been deforested, with the states of Mato Grosso and Pará the most affected.
The preliminary February 2023 data exceeds the registered 199 square kilometers (77 square miles) deforested during the entirety of February 2022 under the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, who was heavily criticized and accused of endorsing the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest by Hollywood celebrities and French President Emmanuel Macron, among others.
Lula, who began his third presidential term on January 1 after narrowly defeating Bolsonaro in the highly contested October 2022 presidential election, made the protection of the Amazon one of his key presidential campaign promises, announcing that he intended to reach zero deforestation rates by 2030.
Reports published in February prior to the release of the INPE data indicated that deforestation during January 2023 had dropped a significant 61 percent during Lula’s first month in office compared to January 2022 under Bolsonaro. However, experts warned that it was premature to talk of a reversal of deforestation, as some forest loss may have gone unobserved due to heavy cloud cover.
During his presidency, international leftists heavily criticized — sometimes using incorrect or irrelevant information — Jair Bolsonaro for his handling of the Amazon rainforest. Bolsonaro faced particular global environmentalist outrage during the 2019 wildfire season, which saw a surge in year-to-year fires in the rainforest during its dry season.
In 2019, Bolsonaro was also the target of a disinformation campaign exacerbated by celebrities and French President Emmanuel Macron, who directly accused Bolsonaro of destroying the Amazon rainforest.
Macron, alongside a group of international celebrities, shared years-old pictures of the Amazon rainforest and photos taken elsewhere, attributing them to the then-current wildfire emergency while claiming that Bolsonaro’s policies were the cause of the fires. The most-shared undated picture was taken by a photographer who died in 2003, at a time when Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was president of Brazil.
The incident sparked tensions between the former Brazilian president and his French counterpart. Bolsonaro urged Macron to “keep his nose out” of Brazil’s affairs, demanding the French president — who at the time was leading an international pressure campaign against Bolsonaro — “withdraw” his insults against him as a condition to accept a $20 million donation organized by Macron to combat fires in the Amazon.
Tensions between Bolsonaro and Macron continued to escalate into the 74th Session of the U.N. General Assembly held in September 2019. Bolsonaro used the platform to ask U.N. member states to help Brazil fight the “colonialist” Macron and denounced pressure from European nations to violate the South American nation’s sovereignty.
Similar to Macron’s campaign, international celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Fonda, Alec Baldwin, Katy Perry, and Mark Ruffalo, among others, spearheaded a pressure campaign against Bolsonaro in 2021, urging President Joe Biden via an open letter to not engage in any kind of environment-related cooperation with Bolsonaro’s Administration.
In 2022, Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo urged President Joe Biden not to meet with Bolsonaro in a scheduled encounter within the framework of the IX Summit of the Americas. After the meeting was concluded, Bolsonaro mocked Ruffalo on his Twitter account, calling him “Mark Ruffles,” in reference to the American brand of potato chips, and telling him to calm down.
The same celebrities have not condemned Lula da Silva at press time in response to the latest INPE data. ✪