Statement by the International Society for Ecological Economics on Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon

August 28, 2019

En Español.

The International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE), a non-governmental scientific organization established in 1989, with affiliated regional societies on all continents, including Latin America, protests the recent increase in deforestation and burning in the Brazilian Amazon region! The Amazon rainforest is the most diverse biome on Earth. It provides essential ecosystem services to the region and to the entire planet. It is also the Earth’s largest terrestrial carbon sink and crucial for regional and global climate regulation.

Deforestation to expand cash crops and beef cattle is short sighted and undermines the ecosystem services that forests provide. It also undermines all agricultural production in the long run by disrupting water and soil management. Hundreds of thousands of indigenous and traditional forest peoples rely on the stability of the Amazon for their livelihoods, while over 30 million urban and rural residents in the region depend on the forest’s services for water and climate stability; today they are vulnerable to respiratory ailments from smoke and exposure to agrochemicals sprayed from the air on their communities as “externalities” of regional agribusiness. These issues provide tangible awareness of the adverse impact of reliance on market forces alone to attribute value to resources and people and highlight the need to incorporate a more holistic assessment of economic development which includes ecosystem balance and inter-temporal impacts on equíty.

ISEE joins the members and organizations within the global scientific community that have publicly voiced opposition to the destruction of the Amazon and the dismantling of science-based policies by President Bolsonaro. The spike in deforestation was exacerbated by the federal government’s disinvestment in environmental safeguards and removal of federal support to the control over illegal forest clearing and setting of fires in agricultural frontier areas.

The President publicly rebuked the director of the globally respected national space agency for having disseminated its regular early warning signals of forest degradation, saying its data were “lies”, then dismissed him for “insubordination”. The administration has generally undermined the country’s scientific and technical progress by budget cuts for scholarships and operating expenditures by federal universities and technical colleges.  These actions are both economically ill-advised and ecologically irresponsible. However, responsibility for deforestation also rests with agribusiness companies that import food and feed from deforested areas, consumers who purchase end-products, and the global community that has insufficiently regulated this supply chain.

Governments from around the globe recognize the importance of the Amazon and have contributed financial resources to assist in the protection of the remaining forests. However, these resources are insufficient. Global overseas development aid to protect biodiversity amounted to $8.7 bn in 2017; constituting only 0.001% of global GDP (1). While conserving the Amazon benefits both the region and the entire world, the opportunity costs of doing so fall to the region in large measure. Effective global mechanisms need to be established urgently to support conservation that brings benefits to the region (2), as well as to regulate domestic and international supply chains of Amazonian agriproduce.


  1. UNESC, 2019. Special edition: progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals: Report of the Secretary-General. United Nations Economic and Social Council.
  2. Droste, N., Farley, J., Ring, I., May, P. and Rickets, T. 2019. Designing a global mechanism for intergovernmental biodiversity financing, Conservation Letters