With the fires in Brazil’s Amazon still raging, a select few world leaders at the G7 summit in France agreed to pledge €20 million ($22 million) in aid to help Brazil tackle the fires, primarily by sending in firefighting aircraft and supporting a reforestation plan.
However, Brazil has said it's not interested. The Bolsonaro administration has rejected the millions of dollars of aid and accused French President Emmanuel Macron, who helped spearhead the pledge, of having “colonialist” intentions.
“Thank you [for the offer], but perhaps these resources are more relevant to reforest Europe,” Onyx Lorenzoni, Brazil’s chief of staff, told Brazil's Globo broadcast network.
“Macron can not even prevent a fire in a church that’s a World Heritage Site,” he added, referring to the fire at Notre Dame in April this year. “And he wants to teach our country? He has a lot to look after at home and in the French colonies.
“Brazil is a democratic and free nation that has never had colonialist and imperialist practices, [which are] perhaps the intentions of the Frenchman Macron.“
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro personally dismissed the pledge as a thinly veiled attempt to control the Amazon by colonial powers, tweeting that President Macron “disguises his intentions behind the idea of an ‘alliance’ of the G7 countries to ‘save’ the Amazon, as if we were a colony or a no-man’s land.”
Over 41,850 fires have been recorded in the Amazon this year, according to data from Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) analyzed by Mongabay. That's almost double the number seen last year, however, it's considerably less than the levels seen between 2002 and 2010.
Faced with an unprecedented backlash from the international community, Brazil has taken some independent action to curb the fires. Over the past few days, it announced plans to put forward 700 military personnel and up to 28 billion Brazilian reais ($6.8 billion) to fight the fires. The military also deployed two C-130 Hercules aircraft to dump thousands of liters of water over the forest canopy to quell the blaze.
Even before this month’s fires, Brazil’s environmental policies under President Bolsonaro have come under a lot of heat. His administration, known to have close ties to agribusiness, has overseen a sharp spike in deforestation. Over 2,254 square kilometers (870 square miles) of Amazon rainforest were chopped down in Brazil during July 2019 alone, a 278 percent increase on the same period in 2018. Brazil has also approved over 1,000 new pesticide products since 2016.
President Bolsonaro regularly beats off criticism of his environmental policies using nationalistic and anti-colonialist rhetoric. Speaking to European journalists in July about deforestation, Bolsonaro said: “We understand the importance of the Amazon for the world – but the Amazon is ours, not yours.
“No country in the world has the moral right to talk about the Amazon,” he added. "You destroyed your own ecosystems.”