Saturday, December 11, 2021

A COVID survivor tells us what may await if we don’t take care

Some people continue to be complacent about becoming infected by COVID-19 even with the uncertainties posed by the latest variant in the run-up to the normally busy festive season.  

One thing virtually all medical experts agree on is that as many people as possible should get fully vaccinated, yet some people are still refusing to do so despite the current widespread surge in infection and death rates.

In recent days we spoke to a resident in the Algarve who is suffering from post-COVID condition, otherwise known as long COVID. He wished to remain anonymous, but wanted to encourage those refusing vaccines to change their minds and get the jabs as soon as possible. Those refusing because of complacency “are stark, staring mad!” he said.

He has had personal experiences he would not want anyone else to go through. Indeed, he feels very fortunate to have survived.

How he contracted the virus almost a year ago remains something of a mystery. He was living alone in a relatively isolated home and had stopped mixing with almost everyone except when he went shopping no more than once a week in the nearest supermarket.

Did he wear a facemask and adhere to the social distancing rules when he went shopping? “Absolutely!” he said. “Like everyone else I was being cautious about my movements.” However, he had not been vaccinated when he contracted the virus because the slow-starting vaccination programme in Portugal had barely begun.

His first reaction to feeling COVID symptoms was one of shock. “I felt hot, feverish and weak. An ambulance took me to the hospital in Portimão where I was diagnosed and admitted to intensive care. It all happened rather fast and I didn’t really have time to take it in.

“After two weeks on forced oxygen, my kidneys started to pack up and I needed dialysis. I had the two weeks hooked up to all those hospital machines, staring at strip lights in the ceiling that are never turned off, and occasionally getting a glimpse of someone who hadn’t made it.

“I had four days of paranoia and was convinced the hospital staff were out to kill me. I reacted violently to their ministrations.

All in all, not a good experience. Does someone refusing to be vaccinated want to go through that?”

He continued: “Now, almost a year on, I struggle with energy levels and feel tired most of the time. I have great difficulty sleeping and constant flash-backs.”

Much remains unknown about long COVID. Thus, since his release from hospital he has had numerous tests and is not expecting to have his last one until next February.

The longer the virus circulates, the more dangerous its variants may become here in Portugal as across the world, but vaccination reluctance continues.

Complacency is not the only reason. Lack of confidence is another, even though the data shows that the benefits of all the well-known vaccines vastly outweigh the risks. Full vaccinations have so far proved to be at least 90% efficient in giving protection. The reason for having them is self-evident.

Few can use the excuse that getting a jab is inconvenient. The programme in Portugal is efficient and the percentage of the population with at least double jabs (88%) is one of highest in the world.

Psychologists say that fear of needles causes some vaccine reluctance. Other more complex psychological reasons exist too and misinformation has played a significant part in the problem. 

Somehow complacency and unreasonable concerns must be overcome if possible, all the more so because the Omicron variant is extraordinarily transmissible. It has convinced many scientists that COVID will be rampant for at least another one or two years and booster jabs may be recommended annually. 

Meanwhile, the plea from our Portimão Hospital survivor:  “Get vaccinated and take all the proper precautions!”

Saturday, December 4, 2021

More clarity needed before euthanasia IS legalised


At some stage after the election on 30th January, the Portuguese parliament will probably want to update the previous parliament’s plan to legalise euthanasia.

 A complex and controversial subject sometimes difficult to cope with by those directly involved, euthanasia must have well-defined legal and medical parameters for physicians, just as it requires a profound personal decision by those facing death, and maybe their families too.

In general terms, euthanasia and assisted suicide mean the deliberate ending of a person’s life to relieve unmanageable suffering. It is often carried out at the voluntary request of a patient of sound mind by doctors painlessly administering, or withholding, a vital drug. Assisted suicide under the supervision of a doctor in accordance with strict conditions usually allows a patient to personally use a drug to end their own life, or insist that all life support should be stopped.

Portugal’s parliament approved a euthanasia bill in January this year, but it was rejected in March by the country’s Constitutional Court to whom it had been referred by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. The court, the highest in the land, ruled that the proposed bill was too imprecise.

A revised version, which was backed by a large majority of parliamentarians last month, was again vetoed by the president on the same grounds. There was insufficient clarity in the wording. It has been pointed out, for example, that the degree of illness to justify euthanasia was variously referred to in the bill as “fatal”, “incurable” or just “serious.”

The composition of political parties in the next parliament may bring about a different attitude to the draft euthanasia proposal, but if and when it passes into law, Portugal will join a few other countries with legislation on euthanasia, namely Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxemburg, Canada, Colombia and New Zealand. Physician-assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, the American states of Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. It is also legal in parts of Australia.

Many people in Portugal, where the predominant religion is Catholicism, firmly oppose euthanasia on the grounds that it is against “the word and will of God.”  President de Sousa is himself a staunch Catholic. Other reasons for opposing euthanasia in Portugal and elsewhere on religious or moral grounds include the belief that it disrespects the sanctity of life, that it underestimates the value of hospice care, that it can be abused for financial reasons, that it gives doctors too much power, that it may discourage research into the development of new cures.

 The view of some Christians and non-religious people, however, is that euthanasia carried out entirely legally and under proper conditions allows death with dignity and is fully justified as an act of love and compassion.

What do you think?  

Corrupt football clubs and officials still scoring own goals


After the English Football Association Cup Final in January 1884 between Preston North End and the London side, Upton Park, it was revealed that Preston was breaking the rules by paying its players and so their manager was duly expelled from the annual competition.

In 1885 the English FA decided to make it permissible for a club to pay players, but only if they were born or had lived for at least two years within a six mile radius of the club’s ground.

In 1901 the same FA imposed a maximum weekly wage of £4 per player in even the top football clubs.

Manchester City was involved in a scandal at the climax of the 1904-5 season when it needed to beat Aston Villa to top the First Division. Aston Villa won 3-1, meaning Manchester City finished two points behind Newcastle United in the championship.  Aston Villa’s captain said that, one of Manchester’s star players had offered him a £10 bribe to lose the game. The Manchester player was found guilty, fined and banned from playing for 18 months. As the club refused to help him financially, the Manchester player divulged publicly that his club had been paying players over the £4 a week legal limit. The outrage resulted in the dismissal or suspension of nine senior officials and a ban on 17 players for ever plating for the club again.

Since those harsh punishments more than a century ago, corruption has spread throughout the footballing world, including Portugal, and it has exploded into a quagmire of criminal activities involving vast amounts of money.  

Top Portuguese clubs have yet again been making headline news for the wrong reasons. Public prosecution officials last week made searches in premises closely associated with FC Porto and its chief executive, Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa.  Among other things they are investigating the payment of €9 million to two agents as part of the €50 million transfer deal for a Brazilian player from Porto to Real Madrid in 2019. The investigation is looking into suspected tax fraud, swindling, abuse of trust and money laundering connected with the transfer of players.

Investigators have long taken an interest in Pinto da Costa. In the so-called Golden Whistle scandal in 2004 and for several years after that he was suspected of corrupting or attempting to corrupt match referees. In 2008 the Portuguese Professional League suspended him for two years, relegated FC Porto and imposed a fine of €150,000.  Porto’s Boavista FC, was also relegated and fined €180,000.

‘Golden Whistle’ phone taps on Pinto da Costa conspiring in 2010  to offer not only cash but prostitutes to referees were leaked and published on YouTube, but not accepted as proof of wrong-doing  by the courts. The accusations, however, backed up opinions that he was not only one of the most successful executives in Portuguese football, but also one of the most corrupt.

Many other Portuguese football officials are said to have been involved in various kinds of deep-seated corruption, none more so than Luis Filipe Vieira president of Lisbon’s Benfica, the most popular of all football clubs in Portugal and FC Porto’s biggest rival. He too has long been suspected of tax fraud and money laundering on a grand scale. He is said to have been helped because he is on friendly terms with highly influential Benfica fans, including judges and leading politicians.

Vieira was detained and placed under house arrest in July this year while investigations continued into suspected tax fraud, money laundering and other crimes involving more than €100 million “that may have caused considerable damage to the state and several companies,” according to Portugal’s Central Department of Investigation and Criminal Action.

Vieira, who ran Benfica for 18 years, resigned and a court ordered him to hand over his passport and allowed him 20 days to pay bail of €3 million. Among three other people detained and released on bail was Vieira’s son, Tiago.   

The Portuguese whistle-blower, Rui Pinto, who grew up as an FC Porto fan, gathered millions of confidential documents and 3.4 terabytes of information that exposed corruption on a truly massive scale, not only in Portugal but across Europe and beyond. Among other things, the data indicated the role of offshore tax havens for huge transfer deals and club investments that were poorly policed.

Rui Pinto’s football leaks fed to a network of investigative journalists resulted in him being arrested, extradited from Hungary and eventually brought before the Lisbon Central Criminal Court to face scores of charges related to hacking.

But the cat was out of the bag. Judicial inquiries were launched in France, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland. Major clubs, transfer agents and top players were implicated.  Among the latter was the Portuguese international superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, who ended up in 2019 agreeing to pay €18.8 million in Spain for tax evasion.   

World football’s governing body, FIFA, has been steeped in corrupt practices dating back at least two decades with evidence of everything from ticket fiddling and awarding dodgy media contracts to vote rigging in Qatar's bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

FIFA has been in the spotlight again very recently as its former president, Sepp Blatter, ousted in an extraordinary fraud scandal in 2015, has now been indicted on fraud, criminal mismanagement and forgery charges in Switzerland for arranging a secret €2 million payment in 2011. Also charged is Michel Platini, who allegedly received the payment when he was the head of the much blighted European football union, UEFA.

On and on it goes.... Manchester City FC, which was up to those tricks more than a century ago, was last year banned by UEFA from competitions for two years and fined €30 million, but this decision was overturned on appeal because its alleged corruption activity dated back more than  the five-year statute of limitation. UEFA was left looking more shame-faced than Man City.

The latest news connected with corruption is that the British government has just endorsed in principle the setting up of an independent regulator for English football. Not a bad idea for other countries to consider, but, like the coronavirus pandemic, vile corruption in the world of football is not likely to go away any time soon. 


Sunday, November 7, 2021

The snap election: what to expect when voters next have their say


Portugal’s early general election could push the country in one of two very different directions. It could create greater national stability, or it could cause long-term political chaos.


The minority centre -left Socialist Party (PS) has been able to govern remarkably well since 2015, but the surprisingly durable alliance with the far-left has been finally shattered. When the alliance and parliament collapsed with the rejection by the Bloco de Esquerda (BE) and the Communist Party (PCP) of the draft budget bill for 2022, President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, was obliged to call for the snap election two years early. It will be held on January 30 next year.


Prime Minister António Costa has expressed determination to lead the Socialists to a “reinforced, stable and lasting majority”. He will be preparing for the election boosted by indications that his party has increased its popular support since the last general election in 2019.


Also encouraging will be the fact that Portugal's COVID-19 total vaccination rate at 87% is one of the highest in the world. It is conceivable that the Socialists could gain enough extra votes to establish a majority government.


The far-left have been shrinking in popularity and their budget rejection may have been somewhat suicidal in that they will no longer have the same influence in national affairs.


The centre-right Portuguese Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the much smaller CDS People’s Party are going through a period of disarray. The far-right Chega, formed just three years ago, is attracting more public support, but is still a long way behind the Socialists even though it could finish third in the January election.


A recent opinion poll put the public support for the PS at 38.5%, the  PSD at 24.2%, the BE at 8.8%, Chega at 7.7% and the Communists at 4.6%. The PAN “greens” and others are lower down.


In calling for the snap election, the first since democracy was established by the revolution in 1974, President de Sousa said, “in moments like this we need to find a solution without fear and without making a drama.” Many in Portugal’s population of 10.3 million are very worried that the January vote may lead to a political mess with no majority government or even some form of workable alliance.


The political crisis comes at a particularly vulnerable time as Portugal tries to emerge from the pandemic and focus the €45 billion in aid granted by the European Union on helping return to economic stability.  A new budget bill may not be presented before next April and whether it will be rejected again is anyone’s guess.


Confidence expressed by Portugal’s ministry of finance that growth in GDP will exceed the EU average in the coming years is now questionable. The hopeful expectation was that such growth would allow the level of well-being for Portuguese citizens to converge with that of people elsewhere in the EU.   


While the PS minority government has been a staunch supporter of the EU, the far-right surge in Portugal will be viewed in Brussels with the concerns it has about the boom in nationalism in many other member states, including the Balkans, Sweden, Italy, Germany and Spain.


The next couple of months could indeed see much political drama and fear.


Sunday, October 31, 2021

How Portugal is taking action to help avert a climate catastrophe


The success or failure of the COP26 climate summit may depend largely on reaching agreement on the transition from fossil fuels to renewables, a process Portugal is making considerable progress on while major polluting countries are lagging far behind.


The broadcaster France 24 has produced a series of special reports to coincide with the U.N. conference in Glasgow, including one depicting Portugal as “a country on the cutting edge of renewable energy technologies.” 


France 24 explains why Portugal is the EU country that has been most successful at cutting greenhouse gas emissions since 2005, partly through the use of floating wind turbines and solar platforms anchored by chains to the seabed off its west coast.


Three of the filmed wind generators are located 20 kilometres out to sea and one of them is 190 metres tall, the tallest wind turbine in the world. Today, 65% of all the electricity consumed in Portugal comes from renewable sources.





An analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA), indicates that Portugal was among the first countries in the world to set 2050 carbon neutrality goals. Portugal’s energy and climate policies push for carbon neutrality primarily through broad electrification of energy demand and a rapid expansion of renewable electricity generation, along with increased energy efficiency.


“There is a strong focus on reducing energy import dependency and maintaining affordable access to energy. These policy goals are supported through clear targets, detailed national strategies and a wide range of regulations, economy-wide programmes and sector-specific measures,” says the latest IEA study.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol notes that "Portugal has found a good balance of ambitious targets and competitive support measures needed to drive a cost-effective energy transition."


Portugal still remains reliant on imported fossil fuels, 43% of which in 2019 was oil, 24% natural gas and 6% coal.


As a result of increased economic activity and the high share of fossil fuels in its energy supply, Portugal’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 13% from 2014 to 2018. There have been notable annual variations driven by the seasonal availability of generation from Portugal’s large fleet of hydropower dams.


Since 2005, land use change and forestry has, on average, reduced Portugal’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. However, in 2017, extreme wildfires caused notable emissions, and Portugal is facing an increasing risk of wildfires, says the IEA.


A report by the International Trade Administration of the US Department of Commerce shows that Portugal has focused heavily on developing renewable energy over the last two decades and that it continues to be a global leader in renewable energy production. 


“A well-structured incentive mechanism and the adoption of ambitious targets helped this sector grow over the last couple of years,” says the trade association.


It continues: “Portugal’s new ambitious national energy and climate plan for 2030 and roadmap to carbon neutrality by 2050 targets at least 80% of electricity production coming from renewables and to further decarbonize the energy sector.


“The government is committed to a policy that will support the development of the market and ensure decarbonization goals are met in the most cost-effective manner.”


There is a strong focus in electricity and natural gas interconnection to unlock the potential of Portugal’s solar and wind resources and liquefied natural gas capacity to support local economic development and European energy security. 


To help achieve these ambitious goals, the association goes on to report that Portugal has announced the decommissioning of the country’s two coal-fired thermoelectric power plants.  The EDP coal-fired power plant located in Sines closed in January 2021. The Tejo Energia Pego power plant is expected to close by the end of this year.


The country has also developed a hydrogen strategy with the intent to decrease natural gas imports and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.


Meanwhile, the IEA points out that the Azores and Madeira autonomous regions set their own energy and climate policies and strategies. These islands still heavily rely on oil products, even for electricity generation. With the increasing introduction of renewable energy, oil demand is decreasing and some islands have already reached high shares of renewable electricity generation by leveraging a wide range of technologies (geothermal, wind, hydro, solar PV and energy storage).


The Azores and Madeira are testing different approaches to increase the share of renewables, boost the use of electric vehicles and improve the energy efficiency of residential and service sector buildings.


According to the IEA, the Azores’ and Madeira’s programmes to support the energy transition appear to be more ambitious than those for mainland Portugal, and these island regions can pioneer living labs to test innovative solutions, like storage, smart grids, electric mobility and integration of very high shares of renewables.


It’s clear that a small country like Portugal can set examples and make a contribution to avert the high risk of a climate catastrophe, but, of course, it’s up to major polluting nations - China, the United States India and Russia - to reach a workable solution at the COP26 summit.



Saturday, October 23, 2021

Top Cop26 climate advocates

 Antonio Guterres, former prime minister of Portugal, now secretary-general of the United Nations, is likely to be one of the most articulate and passionate advocates for urgent action at the gathering of world leaders in Glasgow for the COP26 summit on climate change.

In one of his many recent statements on the subject, Guterres called on world leaders to go for “decisive action now to avert climate catastrophe.” He totally sympathises with the mass of young climate activists who are desperately frustrated by the continuous platitudes expressed by politicians, especially in countries responsible for the greatest amount of greenhouse gas emissions.  

“Saving this and future generations is a common responsibility,” says Guterres.

He recently told world leaders at the UN General Assembly in New York: “I’m here to sound the alarm. The world must wake up!”

He warned, somewhat angrily: “This is a planetary emergency. We are on the wrong edge of an abyss and moving in the wrong direction.”  

It is a complicated situation, he added, because, “our world has never been more threatened or more divided. ....  the world is sleepwalking to disaster.”

Climate action has been at the top of Guterres’ agenda during this second term as secretary-general and the United National has recently issued a report saying that the world is on a catastrophic pathway with 2.7 degrees of heating, rather than the 1.5 degrees needed by 2030. The 1.5 target agreed upon by the Paris Climate Accord would require a 45% cut in present greenhouse emissions.

Key points in this U.N. report: “First, keep the 1.5 degrees goal within reach. Second, deliver on the $100 billion a year for climate action in developing countries. Third, scale up funding for adaptation to at least 50% of total public climate finance expenditure.”

 Guterres says decisive leadership must come from the finance ministers of the wealthier countries because their countries are responsible for 80% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The climate crisis is already severely impacting on many countries, especially poorer ones compounded by fragility and conflict. Just last year, wildfires, flooding, droughts and other extreme weather events displaced 30 million people.  Ninety percent of refugees come from countries least able to adapt to climate change.

“We simply cannot achieve our shared climate goals – nor our shared hope for lasting peace and security – if resilience and adaptation continue to be the forgotten half of the climate equation,” says Guterres.

Sir David Attenborough, who will address the world leaders in the early part of the summit, has been nominated the “People’s Advocate.” In a speech to the United Nations Security Council earlier this year, the renowned naturalist and broadcaster emphasised the importance of the COP26 summit as possibly “our last opportunity to make the necessary step change” to protect the planet.

Many activists seriously doubt that world leaders are collectively on the way to adequately solving the crisis, but Sir David Attenborough is cautiously optimistic. 

For the first time in history all nations should be on the same side in fighting climate change.  Modern communications mean that anyone anywhere can see the problems and take part in solving them, says Sir David.

 “The world is being destroyed. We are doing it, there is no doubt about that, so for the first time, issues for the world should not be argued.”

Sir David continued:  “For the first time people are able to speak today and be heard within minutes across the world.

“For the first time it is possible to see the dimensions of he problem, to see the pictures of devastation or of hope.

“For the first time people around the world can hear the arguments and the solutions. Those two things give some hope.”

The COP26 summit runs from Sunday October 31 to Friday November 12 and perhaps a day or two longer if some important details need finalising.


Saturday, October 9, 2021

Sourcing info about the cities


People living locally in Portuguese cities and towns from the far north to the Algarve region in the south are giving advice and tips to tourists and potential residents on a unique website constructed by


“The site is fairly new but it already covers more than 5,000 cities in 185 countries, so it’s very international and the team working on it is as well,” says Lana Bezmalinović, the project’s head of operations who lives in Croatia.


Lana went on to tell us: “With local knowledge shared through comments on the site, we want to provide a platform for people all over the world to tell what those moving to or visiting to their cities should know – and for virtual travellers to see what locals think makes their cities special.

We want to give every community a voice, especially those overlooked by tour operators.”  


The Portuguese section of the website is here:   

Here are some examples of the information contributed by local residents.


“Lisbon is getting a lot of buzz lately thanks to its economic revival and its growing creative and start-up scene,” says Daniel who lives in the capital. “The Portuguese are excellent English speakers, so you’ll rarely have any trouble communicating, especially with the younger generations who learned English from an early age. Movies and TV shows are subtitled instead of dubbed. A huge number of  Portuguese have worked abroad, especially in the UK and in Luxembourg. It’s often these international Portuguese you’ll be first to meet as they like to mix with other cultures in the same way they did when living abroad themselves.”


Debbie, another Lisbon local says:  “someone who is interested in living in my city should know the majority of it is not actually a cycling-friendly city. However, the most important monuments and historical buildings are all concentrated in a specific part of the city and all within a walkable distance. It is a tourist city and it is worth the visit.”


There are three things someone moving to Porto should focus on to get the most out of the city,” says Eoin. “One: coffee culture is a thing. The coffee shop is a place you can meet new people, drink coffee, work, you will spend hours there! Two: the Porto football club (FCP) is the best and you should not root for Benfica (SLB), the Lisbon team. Three: try the francesinha, a very meaty sandwich that you will simply love! Have fun getting acquainted with the streets and people of Porto.


Rocio warns: “If you’re moving to Coimbra, the main thing to know is that it’s primarily a student city, well known for the University. In fact, the University bell tower is the official symbol of Coimbra, and can be seen on the large majority of its merchandise! The city is also incredibly old, and as such was built on large hills and mountains. Walking anywhere is sure to prove to be a challenge to anyone not prepared for it!”


Elsewhere on the website, Carol comments: “Setúbal is a city near the sea. There are lots of restaurants which serve grilled fish and fried cuttlefish. It has sunny weather, and Setúbal is a pleasant city. There are lots of wonderful people. It is a very tourist town. There are lots of beaches and there is also a fort, called Fort of São Filipe. Enjoy this sunny city and I will be waiting to see you around.”


From the northeast of the country, Catia writes: “Someone moving to Braga should learn about its history. Braga has a number of museums that showcase its past, from the Roman era, to the Middle Ages, to now. Monuments, old buildings and ancient ruins are sprinkled around the city center, giving it a historic ambience and making it wonderful for sightseeing.”

On the far northwest region, Katya offers a positive but cautious comment about Valença in the district of Viana do Castelo "Anyone who might be moving here should know that, although very peaceful, it is fairly isolated. That means that it isn’t always easy to access to certain services or products. My city is, however, a relatively safe place for families with kids and/or pets, with numerous green sites where they can spend time outdoors.”


Several places in the Algarve are featured including Olhão, which João knows well. “Since it’s a pretty small town, everyone here knows each other and is not afraid to talk bad about you, either in your face or behind your back. Regardless of that, we are quite known for our beautiful beaches, so it will be great if they want to spend the holidays here, in complete relaxation.”


Tavira is Madalena’s number one choice. “A person who comes to Tavira has to know how to respect nature because Tavira is protected by the Ria Formosa agreement. Tavira also has beautiful beaches, mountains. Tavira also has a historic culture with a castle and vestiges of Romans, it also has many churches and a beautiful lough. Tavira is a great city.”


And this is a great website for thoughts on cities and towns almost everywhere. Help for visitors or newcomers can be posted here: 

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Deforestation must be stopped!


Portugal has had a shared language and close social ties with Brazil since it discovered and started colonising this huge South American country five centuries ago, but it now finds itself in danger of suffering an environmental catastrophe, partly because of the on-going destruction of the Amazon rainforest more than 4,500 kilometres away.  


Since 1970, more than 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 square miles) of the rainforest have been destroyed. That’s about six and a half times the total area of Portugal. The forest desecration is not only endangering Portugal’s well-being but that of the entire planet because of its contribution to climate change.


As the Rainforest Alliance explains, the relationship between deforestation and climate change is simple but highly significant. “Trees capture greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide, preventing them from accumulating in the atmosphere and warming our planet. 


“When we clear forests, we’re not only knocking out our best ally in capturing the staggering amount of greenhouse gasses we humans create (which we do primarily by burning fossil fuels at energy facilities, and of course in cars, planes and trains). We’re also creating emissions by cutting down trees. When trees are felled, they release into the atmosphere all the carbon they’ve been storing.  What the deforesters do with the felled trees – either leaving them to rot on the forest floor or burning them – creates further emissions.”


The Amazon rainforest “has reached the point of no return,” wrote an environmental activist in Newsweek magazine. It’s an opinion shared by many others.


According to Bloomberg, the perpetrators of its demise aren’t just government officials doing the bidding of Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro or the industrial farmers profiting from tree-cutting. “It’s all about demand, and voracious consumers the world over are also fuelling the frenzy that is killing the “lungs of the Earth.” 


While the Amazon has been a vital carbon store slowing the pace of global warming, researchers say it has suffered losses at an accelerated rate since Jair Bolsanaro took office in January 2019.


“The Brazilian president has encouraged agriculture and mining activities in the world’s largest rainforest,” in the words of the BBC.


The destruction is widely recognized as accounting for 10% to 13%   of global CO2 emissions. These emissions are strongly associated with the conversion of the rainforest into cattle ranching and agricultural land. Helped by the rampant deforestation, Brazil is the single biggest exporter of agricultural products to the EU among other places. Many of these products, such as beef, veal, coffee, sugar, soya beans, cereals and rice, are produced on deliberately burnt forest terrain after valuable timber trees are felled and also exported.


If global warming continues as feared, Portugal’s biodiversity will be massively impacted. In Brazil itself, an estimated 100,000 species have been made extinct in recent years and a great many others endangered by the deforestation.


There are about 600 Portuguese companies represented in Brazil. Last year, Portugal imported from its former colony €1.5 billion worth of goods according to the United Nations COMTRADE data base on international trade. Much of this was likely to have been produced on deforested land.


Meanwhile, scientists keep reminding us that these tropical rainforests constitute the main land carbon sink on Earth and are fundamental in mitigating the effects of climate change and even reducing those effects.


In July this year it was reported that vast areas of the Amazon are emitting more carbon than they absorb. According to Greenpeace, the burning of the rainforest is now releasing huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, and what remains is drying out. This is the tipping point scientists have been warning us about -  beyond which the rainforests will no longer be able to sustain themselves and will collapse, say Greenpeace.


The World Wild Life Fund (WWF) explains that the Amazon rainforests have long been recognized as a repository of ecological services for the rest of the world, but are also the only rainforests that we have left in terms of size and diversity.


“As forests burn and global warming worsens, the impact of Amazon deforestation continues to gradually undo the fragile ecological processes that have been refined over millions of years,” says the WWF.

The United Nations Cop-26 climate change summit in Glasgow starting 1st November would offer a good opportunity for world leaders to combine and ban importing to their countries any products linked to Amazon deforestation.