From August 2020 to July 2021, the Amazon lost 5,100 square miles of tree cover. If this process continues, a body of research suggests the rainforest, the world’s greatest, could cross a tipping point and transform into a much drier version of itself. In its drier form, the Amazon would emit carbon instead of absorbing it, severely hampering efforts to mitigate climate change.
The Amazon is now on the brink. Deforestation there has surged in recent years, as land grabbers aggressively clear-cut and burn forests to replace them for cheap pasture that allow cattle ranchers such as Odilon Felipe to massively expand their herds with little investment. Beef and leather companies are failing to trace the animals they buy and block illegally deforested farms from their supply chains.
Felipe’s ranch sits inside a protected reserve called Jaci-Paraná that he illegally seized, slashing through the thick rainforest and burning what was left, to make way for the grass that feeds his roughly 3,000-strong herd — a track record that, under both Brazilian law and corporate pledges, would bar him from trading his cattle.
But intermediate traders like Mr. Castanheira help obscure the illicitly raised cattle’s origins, making this ranch, and hundreds of others like it, the starting point of a complex supply chain of beef and leather — one that links the Amazon, via slaughterhouses run by Brazil’s largest meatpackers, to an automotive supplier that makes leather seats for the largest automakers in the world, including General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen.
The photographer’s intention is to show the inner workings of this complex supply chain and the people both aiding it and being punished by it. He takes us, step by step, from the lush forest, to the flames, going through the pasture and ending at the industry that feeds off this cycle of destruction.

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