- 30% of Brazilians are satisfied with efforts to preserve the environment
- Less than a majority in most Amazon countries are satisfied with environment
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Brazilians' satisfaction with efforts to preserve the environment dropped to a new low of 30% in 2018, long before they saw massive expanses of the Amazon rainforest consumed by flame and deforestation this year. But this percentage stands out for another reason -- it is also the lowest for any country that is home to the Amazon.
Brazil has historically been a leader in environmental protection, having been a long-time trailblazer in carbon emission reduction through the production and use of ethanol and other biofuels. However, Brazilians' displeasure with efforts to preserve the environment started to show after 2014, following sharp increases in deforestation rates across the country after years of decline. The new low in 2018 came on the news that annual deforestation rates that year were the worst in a decade.
The situation has only become more acute under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has long supported scaling back rainforest protections. Since the start of 2019, Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has reported over 72,843 fires in Brazil, more than half occurring in the Amazon rainforest. This is the highest number of fires reported since 2010. INPE has also reported an 83% increase in deforestation this year in comparison to 2018.
With international and domestic pressure mounting on the Brazilian government to act, Bolsonaro announced the deployment of troops on Monday to quench the blaze in the rainforest. South American countries will meet next week to discuss a coordinated response to the fires.
Brazilians' Dissatisfaction Runs Deep
Brazilians' satisfaction with their country's environmental preservation efforts falls along educational, economic and political divides. While few Brazilians are satisfied with efforts to preserve the environment, Brazilians with at least a high school education (23% satisfied) are significantly less satisfied than those with an elementary school level of education or less (42% satisfied).
As a note for political watchers, those who disapprove of Brazil's leadership are nearly three times less likely to be satisfied with preservation efforts (24% satisfied) than those who approve (64% satisfied). While environmental issues in the past haven't registered as a top concern among voters -- which is apparent given Bolsonaro's election -- other polling in the region suggests that Brazilians ultimately hold the government responsible for safeguarding the environment.
|Elementary school or less
|Less than tertiary education
|Approve of leadership
|Disapprove of leadership
|Gallup World Poll, 2018
Brazilian Satisfaction the Lowest in the Amazon
Residents in most countries with the Amazon rainforest within their borders are more dissatisfied than satisfied with efforts to preserve the environment in their countries. In fact, satisfaction with efforts rises to a majority in only two countries -- Ecuador and Bolivia -- although satisfaction there has been trending downward in the past several years. However, Brazilians stand out as the least satisfied of their regional neighbors.
|Gallup World Poll, 2018
The recent fires are not just a problem for Brazil's Amazon. While the fires in Brazil have garnered more news coverage, fires are also raging in Bolivia, where more than 1.8 million acres have burned so far. The INPE estimates that between July and August, there has been a 422% increase in the number of fires in Bolivia.
Before the blazes in Brazil made headlines, the burning issue was a potential trade deal between the EU and the Mercosur bloc countries, which includes Brazil. While the deal is yet to be ratified by EU member states, the agreement between the two blocs would secure adherence to the Paris climate accord for nations like Brazil, whose climate-skeptic leadership has voiced strong opposition to the accord, citing it to be an economic stranglehold on their nation.
French President Emmanuel Macron's intent to block the EU-Mercosur deal unless Bolsonaro shows he is taking environmental preservation more seriously has pitted the two nations' leaders against each other. Like Brazilians, the majority of residents in other Mercosur bloc countries --Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay -- are dissatisfied with their country's efforts toward environmental preservation.
With the world watching how Brazil responds to the fire in its backyard, it is crucial for Bolsonaro, and his government, to find a resolution that is in the best interests of Brazilians and the rainforest they steward.
While the immediate economic growth from clearing forests for farmland may be an incentive for some, the negative effect of continued deforestation may be felt through trade sanctions by partner countries whose leaderships are more focused on environmental protection.
For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.