Taking Aim at Misinformation in Amazon Fire Coverage


As word of the Amazon fires spread across social media and in news headlines, Forbes published an article on Aug. 26 that builds heavily on statements from EII Executive Director Daniel Nepstad. Many of those statements were taken out of context and have helped to spread misinformation about the extent and cause of the fires.

Mongabay founder Rhett Butler responded to the Forbes article with a commentary in which he seeks to set the record straight, clarifying statements from EII and highlighting areas in Forbes’ reporting that he describes as either “sloppy at best, and deceiving at worst.”

As Butler writes, Shellenberger diminishes both the very real threat of the Amazon reaching a tipping point whereby it transforms into a savanna-like ecosystem and the role that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is playing in that process.

“As I’ve written on extensively, the Amazon forest dieback—savannization, as it is sometimes called—is the biggest threat to the Amazon forest in my opinion,” Nepstad is quoted as saying.

Nepstad adds that global attention on the Amazon opens an opportunity to help drive long-term strategies to mitigate future destruction and protect the forest.

“In his eagerness to critique the media and lambast celebrities,” Butler notes, “Shellenberger effectively dismisses the broader concerns over recent developments in the Amazon.”