Brazil Destroyed almost 90% of The Atlantic Forest and 20% of The Amazon after Its Independence

Country dilapidates unique natural heritage and ignores climate crisis emergencies

São Paulo

In 1822, the environmental heritage of the territory that became the Empire of Brazil did not differ much from what the Portuguese had found three centuries earlier. The devastation of the Atlantic Forest, the first natural victim of colonization, continued with iron and fire but concentrated in the surroundings of few urban centers, many sugarcane plantations, livestock areas, and the incipient coffee plantation.

The same cannot be said of indigenous peoples. In the 16th century, there were somewhere between 2 and 8 million individuals. Those who lived in the backlands of the caatinga, the cerrado and the Amazon forest survived the colonial front, leaving the coast to the dominion of the white people and the toil of the enslaved in Africa. There are currently 305 indigenous ethnic groups remaining, according to the IBGE. In the 2010 Census, they totaled 897 thousand people, less than 0.5% of the population.

In the same census, more than 82 million inhabitants declared themselves brown (43.1% of the total). Another 15 million identified themselves as black (7.6%), thus making up most Brazilians descended from the 4.8 million blacks kidnapped in Africa.

The decimation of indigenous peoples accompanied the predatory march westward in the 20th century.

At the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, it is estimated that the Atlantic Forest still had about 90% of its original cover standing, even after four centuries of predation. Today, 130 years later, only 12.4% of the biome's vegetation remains. At the beginning of the last century, the Amazon, cerrado, and caatinga were almost untouched.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

Read the article in the original language