Brazil’s environment minister just said the solution to wildfires — and possible climate catastrophe — is to ‘monetize’ the Amazon

Brazil's environment minister Ricardo Salles, right, speaks in the ear of Jair Bolsonaro, the country's president.

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Brazil’s environment minister Ricardo Salles, right, speaks in the ear of Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s president.
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ADRIANO MACHADO / REUTERS

  • The Amazon is burning at an extreme rate. There have already been 74,000 fires this year, nearly double last year’s total of 40,000.
  • Brazil’s environment minister, Ricardo Salles, told the Financial Times that the solution was to “monetize” the rain forest.
  • “The fact is that laws and regulations that were enacted and used for the past 10 or 20 years were too restrictive to the development of Amazon areas,” he said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Amazon is in flames.

São Paulo, Brazil’s financial capital and the largest city in the Western Hemisphere, went dark midday Monday because of fires from the rainforest, some 2,000 miles away.

Meanwhile, when the Financial Times spoke with the country’s environment minister, Ricardo Salles, he said the solution was to “monetize” the rainforest.


“The fact is that laws and regulations that were enacted and used for the past 10 or 20 years were too restrictive to the development of Amazon areas,” Salles added. “That is why people go over to the illegal activities, to the criminal activities, because they don’t have a space to do something within the law.”

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NACHO DOCE / REUTERS

Salles serves as the environment minister for Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s populist president, who recently suggested that nonprofit groups could be behind the fires.

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ADRIANO MACHADO / REUTERS

Bolsonaro made the assertion without evidence.


Meanwhile, smoke is filling the rainforest, which is frequently called “the lungs of the world.”

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Smoke from a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Humaitá, Amazonas, on August 14.
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Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

São Paulo’s skies were darkened earlier this week.

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The darkened sky in São Paulo, Brazil, on Monday. Residents of the metropolis of millions recently reported black rain.
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Andre Lucas/Getty

“We want to show that, if investments come, and if we distribute those investments to the people who live there, they will keep the rainforest,” Salles, a former attorney, told the FT. “What we want to do is a zoning regulation for the Amazon, saying that such area can be used in this way, for such activity.”

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NACHO DOCE / Reuters

Losing 20% of the Amazon’s trees could lead to “dieback,” a feedback loop of drying out of the forest that could accelerate climate change.

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This map shows every fire that has started burning since August 13 across central South America.
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Courtesy of Global Fire Watch

There have been 70,000 fires recorded this year in the Amazon, a rain forest that produces more than 20% of the world’s crucial oxygen supply.

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s populist president, has accused the country’s National Institute for Space Research, which tracks deforestation data, of falsifying numbers. He’s said the stats were “mauled for the purpose, it seems, to strike at the name of the government and Brazil.”

The agency’s director, Ricardo Galvão, was soon fired.