Brazil’s rainforests are extraordinarily important for the health of our planet, and yet they are being destroyed. Parts of the Amazon Rainforest are now being sold illegally on Facebook Marketplace, and not very much is being done to stop it. (1)
Parts of The Amazon Rainforest Being Sold Illegally On Facebook Marketplace
When you think of Facebook Marketplace, you probably think of buying gently-used furniture, sports equipment, or technologies. You probably don’t think about purchasing large sections of land – particularly land that is apparently protected. Journalists from the BBC recently found that parts of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest are being sold illegally on the platform. (1)
Facebook says they are willing and ready to work with local authorities on the problem but are not going to be taking any independent action to stop the sales from happening. They claim that their policies require both buyers and sellers to comply with laws and regulations of the country they are in. (1)
The land areas being sold include indigenous land and “protected” national forests. Some of the plots are as large as “1,000 football pitches” (1,000 soccer fields). Indigenous communities and other activists are calling upon Facebook to do more to stop this from happening. (1)
“The land invaders feel very empowered to the point that they are not ashamed of going on Facebook to make illegal land deals,” said Ivaneide Bandeira, head of environmental NGO Kanindé. (1)
Buyers Don’t Even Own the Land
What makes this situation even more infuriating, is that those selling the land don’t actually own it in the first place. Most sellers admit that they do not have a land title. This is the proof-of-ownership certificate required by Brazilian law. (1)
How are they able to sell land that they don’t actually own? According to one seller, it’s because there is little risk of being caught or stopped by government agents. (1)
“There’s no risk of an inspection by state agents here,” seller Fabricio Guimarães said while being filmed on a hidden camera. (1)
Why Are They Selling The Land
Brazil’s cattle ranching industry is the main reason for the Amazon Rainforest being sold illegally. Sellers come in, burn down sections of the forest and turn it into land for raising cattle. They then sell it to people looking to break into the cattle ranching business or expand one they already have. (1)
Most of the advertisements are from the Rondonia State of Brazil. This is an area of the rainforest on the border of Brazil and Bolivia. Many of these areas are home to various groups of indigenous peoples. According to the Brazilian government, there are some groups living in these parts of the rainforest that have no contact with the outside world whatsoever. (1)
Though sellers claim no native peoples live in the areas they are selling, the indigenous leaders remind us that these are areas the tribes use for hunting, fishing, and collecting fruits. (1)
Community leader Bitaté Uru Eu Wau Wau says this is out-right disrespectful to his people. (1)
“I don’t know these people. I think their objective is to deforest the indigenous land, to deforest what is standing. To deforest our lives, you could say.” (1)
Corruption At Play
Some of the illegal sellers actually say that they are working together to lobby politicians to allow them to “own” the stolen land. Typically, they will burn down a section of the forest and then ask politicians to remove its title as “protected” because it doesn’t serve its intended purpose. (1)
What is that purpose? It provides food and habitat for the countless plant, animal, and insect species and helps provide oxygen for the entire planet. (1)
Once the land stealers can officially buy these areas from the government, then selling them to others is no longer illegal. (1)
The Curupira Association
The Curupira Association is an illegal land-grabbing organization in Brazil that invades indigenous territories and burns down the forest to sell plots of land. According to them, a few high-profile politicians are helping them with their cause. (1)
One of these people is congressman Colonel Chrisóstomo of the Social Liberal Party. He says that he did help them set up meetings with congress but didn’t know they were involved with illegal land invasions. Now that he knows, he says he will no longer be involved. He also said, however, that he did not regret helping them set up the meetings. (1)
Brazil’s environment minister said that President Jair Bolsonaro’s government has always had a zero-tolerance policy for crime, including environmental crimes. (1)
Despite this, the government cut the budget for the organization that regulates deforestation by 40% this year. (1)
“The situation is really desperate,” says federal prosecutor Raphael Bevilaquia. “The executive power is playing against us. It’s disheartening.” (1)
Facebook says that they can’t separate the legal sales from the illegal ones and that local authorities are in charge of controlling them. They do not feel the situation is serious enough to simply put a freeze on all land sales in the Amazon at this time. (1)
Many activists and indigenous leaders are losing hope that they will be able to save the rainforest. Despite decades of fighting to protect these areas, the Amazon is under more threat than ever before. (1)
- Remove certain products from your diet that often come from deforested land. These include beef, soybean, and palm oil.
- Buy responsibly sourced products.
- Buy less, but when you do, buy products from sustainable companies giving back to the environment and environmental causes.
- Support indigenous communities.
- Reduce your personal carbon footprint.
- Email your favorite or local news outlet to encourage them to publish stories on this topic.
- Share rainforest news and articles (like this one!) on your social media to get the conversation going and spread awareness.
- Reach out to your government representatives.
- Volunteer for environmental organizations.
- Host a fundraising event.
One person can’t stop the Amazon Rainforest from being sold illegally, but together we can make a big difference.