Digital Democracy

Digitalization and the Public Sphere in Brazil

The Public Digital Debate and The Green Agenda

Emergent Topics in the Brazilian Environmental Debate

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This study analyzed publications on Facebook and Twitter regarding the environment by collecting approximately 12 million posts on these platforms between June and September, 2021. The analysis focused on a new dimension of the environmental debate, related to emergent topics of a new agenda regarding the subject: 1) technologies and the environment, 2) family farming, 3) water crisis and energy issues, 4) environmental fires and damage, and 4) government, public policies and the civil society. To that end, we employed a methodology of topic modeling in all the texts collected, seeking to make these topics emerge. Technologies and the environment had the highest number of publications among the five topics selected. However, all the topics shared the common characteristic of having a low level of polarization in the debate and dealing with transversal issues, such as discussions about indigenous populations, the water crisis and agricultural expansion.

Green agenda, environment, public digital debate, social networks.


  • In the five topics analyzed, the group formed by environmentalists and opposition profiles is far larger than the group of profiles aligned with the government’s environmental policies. The topics strengthen networks that reduce the level of polarization that is common if the environmental debate on digital platforms.
  • Posts about technologies and the environment were more numerous and reflected the transversal nature of the environmental theme, including several subtopics such as renewable energy sources, fashion, conscious consumerism, environmental education, bioeconomics, carbon emissions, and the national political agenda, as well as a large variety of actors involved in the debate.
  • Unlike debates marked by antagonistic views, the debate about family farming saw groups associated with the government and environmentalists both defending small producers. Posts about that topic were frequently associated with the debate about the water crisis.
  • The water crisis and energy issues demonstrated the different strategies employed by political groups in the digital debate. While the group connected to the government was more associated with the debate about technologies, seeking solutions for the scarcity of rain and its impacts, the environmental group was more associated with deforestation as the main cause of droughts and their ramifications.
  • The debate about forest fires was marked by the articulation of forest, social and urban consequences of the increase in fires.
  • We observed a higher level of polarization regarding pending bills in the national sphere among the posts about the government, public policies and the civil society. Debates connected to the state and municipal spheres had a more favorable tone regarding the environmental topics.
  • With a lower level of discursive belligerence, the debates analyzed allowed the development of less reactive strategies against environmental decline, enabling the creation of narratives and networks that mobilize more efficient sentiments and practices for expanding the environmental theme among the population.


1) Topic modeling on Twitter and Facebook

Based on the linguistic rule for the environment, we collected more than 10 million posts on Twitter and 1.6 million on Facebook between June 1st and September 20, 2021. September was the reference for the application of the topic modeling technique because, through the LDA algorithm, it formed sets of words used in association, enabling the identification of a significant volume of text inside groups of topics. In this sense, the topics were used as exploratory elements in order to expand the volume of the corpus beyond the publications with the most engagement.


Figure 1 – Twitter LDA
Analysis period: January 1st to September 17, 2021

. Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Ten topics stood out on Twitter, which were analyzed and served as references for the identification of the debates to be included in the study. Some highlights were topic two, which included terms associated with sustainability, recycling and environmental policies, and topic five, which touched on energy issues with terms such as “petroleum”, “emissions”, “gasoline” and “price”.

Figure 2 – Facebook LDA
Analysis period: June 1st to September 20, 2021

. Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

On Facebook, the target subjects were selected out of 28 topics. The water crisis was the main topic in the group of terms associated with topic 1, such as “water”, “rain”, “measure”, “region” and “dry”. Issues related to technologies and the environment were mentioned in the topics 4 and 17, with terms such as “produce”, “research”, “technology”, “sustainability”, “development”, “project” and “future”. The subject of fires and environmental and urban damage accounted for a large part of the terms inside topic 11, such as “burn”, “fire”, “operation”, “fires” and “municipality”. In turn, topic 14 included terms such as “municipality”, “project”, “family farming”, “community” and “department of agricuture”, which were grouped around the subject of family farming. Lastly, similar to topic 5 on Twitter, topic 26 on Facebook included terms related to energy issues, such as “value”, “energy”, “economy” and “gasoline”.
After applying topic modeling to select the topics, specific linguistic rules were created in order to aid the subsequent qualitative analyses.

2) Emerging topics

2.1 – Technologies and the environment

The debate about technologies and the environment on Facebook had 94,883 publications posted in 24,837 groups and public pages, attracting 6,835,399 interactions. The debate involved different profiles of actors, including companies and media outlets, politicians, governmental and non-governmental organizations, universities and other educational institutions, industries and brands of different sectors, and more.

Together, the seven most frequent categories represented 48.6% of profiles, and the content published by pages in those categories and attracting the most interactions talked about topics such as ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) in the corporate world, the agribusiness lobby in favor of the temporal mark, negotiations regarding the COP-26, biotechnology, renewable energy technologies, circular economy, economic development and the environmental protection of the Amazon, as well as criticism of the Bolsonaro administration.

The other half of the actors involved in the debate reflected the large diversity of viewpoints within environmental topics, frequently including people and organizations with different profiles and several sub-topics approached transversally. In addition to profiles identified as news producers and broadcasters, who approached the topic in a similar way as the first half, there was a large number of profiles associated with fashion and environmental education. Some highlights were mentions of conscious consumption, such as sustainable fashion, low-consumption home appliances and vehicles that do not use fossil fuels, as well as carbon emission/global warming, bioeconomy and ecotourism.

The profiles attracting the highest number of interactions included President Jair Bolsonaro (no party), the congressman Filipe Barros (PSL-PR), the minister of Infrastructure Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas, and the congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro (PSL-SP). There were also profiles associated with culture, such as Alok, Flávia Alessandra, Dinho Ouro Preto and Mayra Andrade, as well as the unofficial pages Maria Bethânia Essência e Música, and Tropicália Viva. The only opposition politician among those generating the most interactions was Lula.

On Twitter, indigenous rights became the center of the environmental debate in the period analyzed. The topic was prompted by the temporal mark vote at the Supreme Court and by an indigenous mobilization in Brazilian in September. The non-partisan left wing (orange), represented by several different people, organizations, groups and pages, led the debate both in terms of number of profiles and of interactions (Figure 3). The discussions around institutional politics focused on the Ministry of the Environment and the then minister Ricardo Salles. Although the pro-government group (blue) tried to oppose the narratives of the left-wing (orange), the media and opposition politicians (red), it was not able to mobilize as much popular participation as its critics, and was defeated. In turn, the pink group was formed mostly by ordinary people outside the mainstream and generated few interactions, largely mirroring the debate inside the orange group.

Figure 3 – Debate on Twitter about technologies and the environment
Analysis period: June 1st to September 17, 2021

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

. Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

The analysis of profiles attracting the most interactions reinforces the idea that the government was not able to revert the negative narrative around environmental issues in this period. President Jair Bolsonaro had the highest position in the pro-government group, but had a lower weighted indegree than profiles such as Mídia Ninja, ApibOficial and Fiscal do Ibama, which belong to the orange and red groups.

Among the 48 profiles with the highest weighted indegree, only nine belonged to the pro-government group. With the exception of Revista Oeste, all profiles are part of institutional politics and the pro-government group: President Jair Bolsonaro, the congress representatives Carla Zambelli (PSL-SP), Eduardo Bolsonaro (PSL-SP) and Bia Kicis (PSL-SP), the ministers Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas and Tereza Cristina (DEM-MS), the former alderman candidate Alan Lopes (PDS-RJ), and SecomVc. Meanwhile, the orange group had 14 of the most influential profiles, most of them indigenous representatives or indigenists, such as the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (@AbipOficial), the Indigenous Missionary Council (@ciminacional, an organization linked to the National Confederation of Brazilian Bishops), the São Paulo Pro-Indian Commission (@Proindio), the profile @TamoioArt, the indigenous journalists Karibuxi and Alice Pataxó, the congresswoman Joenia Wapishana (REDE-RR), and indigenous leader Sônia Guajajara, confirming the strong connection between the indigenous agenda and environmental issues in the public debate.

In addition to this historic relationship between indigenous peoples and the environment, the vote of the temporal mark at the Supreme Court and the strong mobilization in Brasília propelled profiles of indigenous influencers on social networks (CORREIO BRAZILIENSE, 2021; SILVEIRA, 2021), reinforcing their pace of speech within the debate. The data from the analysis of the topic of technology and the environment confirmed this trend, highlighting several indigenous profiles, particularly on Twitter.

The group comprised of media outlets and opposition profiles (red) had 21 profiles among the 48 with the highest relevance in the debate, including journalists such as André Trigueiro and Andréia Sadi, the influencer Lucas Neto, and politicians such as Marcelo Freixo, Lula, Marina Silva, Talíria Petrone and Randolfe Rodrigues. The pink group had four of the profiles among the most influential, such as the comedians @XIAOJIU and @giselabitch.

Considering all the profiles participating in the debate, 13.42% belonged to the government support group, which accounted for 16.6% of the interactions. The dominant groups were the non-partisan, left-wing group (orange), with 33.78% of the profiles and 31.16% of the interactions, and the group composed of the media and the opposition, with 27.91% of the profiles and 37.03% of the interactions. The group containing ordinary people (pink) was the least influential, with only 4.76% of the interactions, although it had more profiles (18.21%) than the government support group.

On the day with the highest peak of publications in the period analyzed, there were 234,440 tweets and retweets, many of which were prompted by the dismissal of the then minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles. Of the 25 posts with the highest number of retweets, 19 celebrated the dismissal of the minister, some of which associated the news with an alleged smokescreen organized to minimize the harmful effects of the Covaxin reports made by the covid inquiry. None of the most influential profiles on that day came from the government support group.

Figure 4 – Number of daily tweets about technologies and the environment
Analysis period: June 1st to September 17, 2021

. Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

The second highest peak of posts in the period analyzed, August 26, was marked by the indigenous mobilization in Brasília against the temporal mark. In addition to dominating the online debate, with 23 of the 25 posts with the highest number of retweets, the act mobilized publications even by the government. President Bolsonaro was the only person in the government group to publish a highlighted tweet, but also addressing the environmental issue related to indigenous peoples. The only other highlight besides Bolsonaro was the official profile @GovBR with a post attempting to minimize the environmental criticism against the government by publicizing the Operação Guardiões do Bioma to “fight forest fires and preserve the Brazilian biodiversity”.

2.2 – Nutrition and family farming

When talking about family farming in Brazil, the first picture we imagine is of small rural producers disconnected from the internet and far from the debates that happen on social networks. However, social networks have become great allies of family farmers, helping them market and sell their products. According to a 2020 report organized by the Institute of Geosciences at UNICAMP, the context of the novel coronavirus pandemic helped establish communications and marketing through digital platforms in a moment when the farmer’s markets and the direct content these producers had with consumers was blocked. Some strategies, such as virtual sales, were established.

When analyzing the most commented discussions on the networks about the environmental agenda, the issue of family farming has emerged as a new topic. Between June and September 2021, we extracted 2.645 posts about the topic on Facebook, which garnered 12,027,566 engagement actions. This period also had 348,512 posts on Twitter about the same topic. The appreciation of small producers compared to large exporters is connected to the issue of supply and consumerism of Brazilian families. This discussion permeates different political sides, and although their focus is different, they always touch on the issue of the provisioning of goods in Brazil. It is important to highlight that, on Facebook, the discussion about the topic focused on supply and consumerism, while on Twitter, it was permeated by concerns with utilizing soil that is considered infertile, such as in some parts of the Cerrado region, and by a strong association established between this topic and the water crisis, comparing family farming to export agribusiness.

The highlights on Facebook among the major actors in terms of engagement around this topic were the profiles @pecuariabrasil, the company @perdigaooficial, President Jair Bolsonaro, the politician Guilherme Boulos and the counselor Márcio Bosa de Oliveira (MDB-PR). A large part of the engagement was concentrated in June, prompted by news about the profits of agribusiness in Brazil and by information about the concession of more than 50,000 land titles to settled families and occupants of public lands in Pará by the federalgovernemnt.

In August and September, the debates were prompted by posts made by President Jair Bolsonaro and focused on a provisional presidential decree that helped small producers when purchasing corn. This decree would allegedly benefit breeders of pigs and other animals that eat corn-based rations, and could also affect the prices of meat that is sold to the general public.

On Twitter, the engagement on this topic was centered on cohesive profiles discussing specific subjects such as the news that a rural producer was killed after reporting land grabbing in their lands, public policies implemented by the federal government to benefit small producers, and debates around the exploitation of the Cerrado region and the impact extensive agriculture could have on the environment and on indigenous populations.

The following figure presents the interactions of these profiles, with a large confluence of the debate towards the red group (43.36% of the profiles), which is characterized by profiles allied with progressive debates and NGOs and represented a large part of the engagement (40.57% of the interactions). The discussion was mobilized by the account @fiscaldoibama, a collaborative profile dedicated to divulging and monitoring environmental administration of federal bodies which has more than 120 thousand followers on Twitter, attracting interactions with the account @MST_Oficial. The posts in this group focused on the news of the death of a farmer who reported land grabbing in his lands in Barreiras, Bahia, and the imprisonment of the suspects. There was also engagement on a post made by the Special Secretariat for Communication – Federal Government (Secom) commemorating Farmer’s Day, July 28, showing the image of an armed man. The discussions focused on the fact that the image was not representative of Brazilian farmers. Several left-wing politicians joined this debate.

Figure 5 – Debate on Twitter about family farming
Analysis period: June 1st to September 17, 2021

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

. Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

In contrast, conservative profiles centered their discussion on posts made by President Jair Bolsonaro about institutional measures focused on developing and benefiting agriculture and small producers, such releasing the water from the Juá dam, in Pernambuco, and distributing more 15 than thousand tons of food for indigenous populations in Brazil. These profiles were concentrated in the blue group (29.16% of the profiles), in Figure 5, and represented the second highest number of interactions about the topic (26.79%). This group also celebrated the inauguration o the minister of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina, who was elected to preside the Inter-American Board of Agriculture, and the concession of more than R$ 3 million for technical assistance to organic producers by the federal government.

In the case of the pink (3.30% of the profiles) and orange (9.19% of the profiles) groups, the posts had a transversal nature, since they discussed other issues in addition to family farming, such as indigenous issues, deforestation, the water crisis, the exploitation of the Cerrado region, and environmental crimes. In the orange group, the account @empatillada had the highest level of engagement due to a publication about the dispute between vegans and the indigenous population regarding killing animals for food. It is important to highlight that the orange group had the engagement of indigenous profiles and indigenists about the topic of agriculture and other transversal topics.

It is interesting that, on Facebook, the topic of family farming is more associated with economic than political and social opinions, while on Twitter there are intense political discussions around the topic, including other issues related to the environmental debate.

On Facebook, the concern with the supply chain for supermarkets and the general population stood out among the topics with the most engagement in the debate, as well as the measures taken by the federal government to benefit small farmers. Even left-wing posts focused on the food safety of society, mentioning the role of the MST and its solidarity kitchen in supplying food for people in vulnerable situations.

On Twitter, two large groups stood out: those debating the death of a farmer and those showing enthusiasm regarding the measures taken by the federal government, motivated by institutional posts. In addition, two other groups with a lower level of engagement mentioned important topics: indigenous issues and the need to protect their lands and culture despite the deforestation and the advance of extensive agriculture into these communities’ territories, and the association of a debate around family farming, particulary in small properties, with issues related to the water crisis, forest fires and deforestation.

2.3 – Energy and the water crisis

The debate on social networks regarding energy and water crisis in the country was mobilized by several profiles – political actors, media channels (traditional and alternative), and content portals about petroleum and fuels in general –, but the polarization between political fields stands out in this topic.
On Facebook, between June and the middle of September, 2021, this topic was the subject of approximately 2.25 thousand posts, which reached more than 15.7 thousand interactions, including reactions, comments and shares. The discussion focused mostly on fuel prices in Brazil, which have been increasing steadily in the past moths and has become the subject of a dispute of opinions on the platform (usually with a political bias).

On one side, profiles of government members and allied politicians – @jairmessias.bolsonaro, @ZambelliOficial, @biakicisoficial, @filipebarrosoficial and @carlosjordyoficial – insist on the idea that the federal government has taken measures to reduce taxes and, consequently, decrease the value of fuel. They attribute the price increases to taxes related to the state governments. Some of their posts shared information about the potential reduction in energy prices with the privatization of Eletrobras and published about agreements and policies developed for the program Biogas: transforming waste into energy, an initiative by the Ministry of the Environment – together with associations such as ABCP, ABETRE, ABRELPE e ABIOGAS – to reduce bureaucracy in the energy recovery of solid waste and solve an environmental problem related to energy in Brazil.

Another highlight both in terms of strong engagement and frequency was a post made in the context of the classic actors in institutional politics: the live broadcast made by President Jair Bolsonaro, in which he offered clarifications about the construction of the Ramal do Apodi in the state of Rio Grande do Norte. According to the broadcast, this infrastructure work is a part of the north axis of the Integration Project for the São Francisco River and will benefit several states in the Northeast. The broadcast emphasized the distance covered by the Ramal, 115.3 kilometers in range, and the amount invested in it by the federal government, around R$ 938.5 million.

Left-wing, center-left and center politicians came together to oppose and criticize the federal government. In this context, the highlights were @AndreJanones, @depmarcomaia and @gleisi.hoffmann, who emphasized the increase in electricity bills. Mentions to this increase made comparisons between the inflation and other aspects of the Brazilian economic situation, such as the end of the Emergency Aid, the lack of adjustments in the value of installments for the Bolsa Família Program, and the increase in the prices of products such as rice and meat.

In addition to political actors, traditional and alternative media profiles such as @quebrandootabu, @g1 and @MidiaNINJA emphasized the constant increase in electricity bills, cooking gas and fuel, blaming the federal administration and the policies of Economy Minister Paulo Guedes. On the other hand, communication channels more aligned with the federal government, such as @cpgbr, publish information on renewable energy and the potential for job creation with the development of new energy enterprises in the country.
It is important to highlight that the posts commented about how river droughts have affected the daily lives of locations that depend on the water channels for transportation, and demanded more accessible prices for cooking gas, considering that refineries follow the international levels of import prices, in addition to the transport and insurance costs.

In the same period on Twitter (between June and the middle of September, 2021), the debate about energy issues and the water crisis reached more than half a million posts. The moment with the most engagement in this period was June 17, when the topic reached around 37 thousand mentions on the platform. The publications highlighted the privatization of Eletrobras in a strongly polarized and politicized debate. On one hand, politicians aligned with left-wing and center-left ideologies stated that hydroelectric plants have a lower cost and, therefore, are more accessible than the gas-based thermoelectric plants, meaning that the departure of Eletrobras from Brazil will incur a higher cost and compromise the income of consumers even more. On the other hand, the allies of the federal government defend the privatization and consider it a positive measure that can have immediate consequences in the country’s economy, reducing electricity bills and intensifying the company’s recovery in terms of investments and energy transmission.

Figure 6 – Map of interactions in the debate about energy and the water crisis on Twitter
Analysis period: June 1st to September 17, 2021

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

. Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

In the map of interactions about energy and the water crisis (Figure 6), the blue group, which is composed of official federal government profiles and politicians, conservative content channels and official government communication channels, published about investments made by the federal government such as water works and projects, especially the Ramal do Apoid and the Ceará Water Belt in the Northeastern States, as well as desalination systems to ensure the water supply to the population. They also published about the participation of government leaders in international events, disseminating positive information about new energy technologies – wind, solar and biogas -, and mentioned the possibility of generating more jobs and bringing Brazil to the spotlight as a country with one of the cleanest energy infrastructures in the world.

The green group, which is led by profiles of ordinary users, students and university professors, criticized the federal government for blaming the governors for the issues around the Tax on Circulation of Goods and Services (ICMS), and commented about his disregard for the water crisis and the increase in electricity bills.

The red group was mobilized by traditional and alternative media outlets, left-wing politicians, indigenous and indigenist organizations and environmental activists, particularly the profile @fiscaldoibama. They consider the water scarcity a consequence of the replacement of Brazilian biomes for the purposes of agribusiness, with large soy plantations and stretches of land for pasture. Their posts also mentioned the constant increases in cooking gas and electricity bills, indicating the economic impact of these increases and the intensification of social inequality in the country, as well as criticizing the Brazilian president for defending the privatization of Eletrobras.

The orange group was mobilized by profiles criticizing the federal government in an ironic tone, commenting about the country’s crises (energy, health, water, political, environmental), blaming the current federal administration for favoring profits for companies, investors and entrepreneurs. In addition, the posts complained about the increases in electricity and fuel prices, the water and electricity rationing, the blackouts and hunger, emphasizing the impacts environmental problems can cause to Brazilian cities and families.
It is important to highlight that, on Facebook, the topic of energy and the water crisis is strongly mobilized by official profiles of the federal government and politicians who focus on bringing attentions to potential renewable and clean energy sources, particularly solar and biogas. According to these profiles, these sources could solve urban problems and help develop the country, since biogas will bring the possibility of reducing waste in big cities and the installation of solar panels will create more jobs.

On Twitter, the mobilization of the green and orange groups is not politicized, meaning those groups do not include classic actors in the context of politics. However, like the profiles in the opposition to the federal government, they shared information regarding the economic impact of the water crisis and complained about the increase in electricity bills and in services.

Therefore, the posts both on Facebook and Twitter extrapolate the specific association between energy/water crisis and the scarcity of water in the rivers. These posts indicate the impacts that energy and the water crisis may cause on the economy, on urban areas and on the living conditions of Brazilian families.

2.4 – Fires and environmental damage

The analysis of the topic of fires and environmental damage focused on the debate about the fires in Brazilian forests during the period analyzed, as well as their possible causes and potential effects on the wild life in the biomes and on the Brazilian population in general. In the environmental debate on Facebook between June and first half of September, 2021, approximately 1.83 thousand posts made by public pages and groups commented on the topic of fires and environmental damage in Brazil. Together, these posts reached more than 12.9 million interactions, including reactions, comments and shares. The most important profiles engaged in this debate were alternative media outlets such as Mídia Ninja e Quebrando o Tabu, as well as science or technology content portals such as Conexão Planeta and Olhar Digital, and left-wing politicians and bloggers criticizing the federal government, such as the senator Humberto Costa (PT-SP), the congressman Marco Maia (PT-RS) and the journalist Leonardo Sakamoto.

The most important topic raised by these actors was the participation of President Jair Bolsonaro at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) at the end of September, 2021, in New York. The most important posts about the visit highlighted that the president’s name was being mentioned inside the corridors in the even in ironic or irritated comments, remembering that Bolsonaro is the target of several national and international reports of human rights violations, including involving indigenous populations, sent to the UN and other international entities. Another subject mentioned by the profiles was the lack of rain and the fires in the South-Center region of the country at the end of July, 2021. The posts alerted about the impacts of the dry seasons for wild life in the Pantanal, commenting on the efforts of environmentalists to fight the fires and bring water to the animals in the region. Some posts commented even that specialists had already predicted the phenomenon and associated it with the effects of the global climate crisis.

In addition, this part of the debate had a less significant presence of profiles in the government support group, such as the congress representatives Filipe Barros (PSL-PR) and Carla Zambelli (PSL-SP) and the conservative content portal Brasil Paralelo. Their comments repudiated the attempts to blame the federal government for the dry weather or its subsequent forest fires in the Amazon during the dry season, since these phenomena are common at the end of July. They denied accusations that the Jair Bolsonaro administration has allowed an increase in deforestation and forest fires in the Amazon biome.

On Twitter, during the same period between June and the middle of September, 2021, around 2.56 million posts talked about fires and environmental damage. The first moment of higher engagement in the debate happened on June 23, when there were 87 thousand mentions to the topic. This day was marked by Ricardo Salles’ dismissal from the Ministry of th Environment, seen by the opposition to the federal government as one of the major actors responsible for the environmental dismantling policies in the current administration.
Another episode with strong mobilization regarding environmental damage on the platform was identified on August 9, when the debate registered 70.3 thousand posts. On that day, a climate change report was released by the UN, according to which global warming has reached an irreversible stage. This day of debate was also marked by the news of a dam collapsing in the state of Minas Gerais.

Figure 7 – Map of interactions in the debate about fires and environmental damage on Twitter
Analysis period: June 1st to September 17, 2021

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

. Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

In this map of interactions (Figure 7), the orange group is centered on alternative media outlets, social activists and artists, such as @TatiNefertari, @QuebrandoOTabu and @Anitta. The debate in that group focused on comparing the natural events happening during the period, such as extreme heat waves in Europe and North America on one hand, and unusual cold fronts and storms in Brazil, on the other hand, to attract attentions to the threat of climate change on the planet. Other topics mobilized by the profiles included campaigns against Bill No. 490, which is pending in the National Congress since 2007 and makes land demarcation more difficult in indigenous territories, and celebrations of Amazon Day on September 5, seeking to raise awareness about the importance of the biome.

The red group was composed of environmental activists and entities, left-wing politicians and alternative media outlets, and made a series of alerts regarding the advance of deforestation and forest fires in Brazilian biomes such as the Amazon and the Pantanal, particularly during the current administration, referencing studies and reports released by national and international research institutes. Many posts specifically blamed President Jair Bolsonaro and the former minister Ricado Salles (Environment) for this advance, and insisted on the severity of these issues due to their association with recent data on the increase in global warming. Profiles that stood out in this group included @andretrig, @BiodiversidadeB, @andrearoeirap and @Barbosa_Leandro.

Led by official profiles of the federal government and conservative politicians, bloggers and content channels such as @govbr, @CarlaZambelli38 and @revistaoeste, the blue group shared measures taken by the federal government to fight forest fires and environmental crimes, such as the mobilization of the Brazilian Army to control the river network and the intensification of environmental monitoring in the country. The posts also criticized the attempts to blame an alleged neglect by Jair Bolsonaro for the fires in the Amazon, stating that they were actually caused by the low humidity in the biome that is typical at this time of the year.

Lastly, the green group was mobilized by profiles of Brazilian football teams and other sports entities and demonstrated their support for the environmental platform @MOSS.Earth in the fight against climate change. Messages we shared in this part of the debate to raise awareness about the importance of preserving the Brazilian forests and biodiversity, about the increase in the deforestation of the Amazon, and about the impact of carbon emissions be people and companies in the world. These posts encouraged daily behaviors that could help fight the effects of global warming on the planet, such as changing eating habits and consumerism and transportation practices.

In general, the analysis of the debate about forest fires on the social networks has shown the wide recognition by a portion of the users on the platforms that fires in Brazilian forests are happening and are urgent, although they attribute the causes and responsibilities for them to different agents and actors. The focus on this debate was first on the consequences of the fires for the wild animals and plants and the native populations living in these biomes, and, in a broader sense, on the long term damage caused by these incidents, associating them with the growing aggravation of the global climate crisis. In addition to the usual actors of the environmental debate on social networks, such as opposition politicians, environmental leaders and activists and alternative media outlets, it is important to highlight the participation of actors belonging to less evident spheres within this topic, such as sports entities, digital influencers and popular artists.

2.5 – Government, public policies and the civil society

The data collection on the topic of government, public policies and the civil society sought to map environmental actions organized by these sectors at the municipal, state and national levels. The linguistic ruled we used found terms associated with public policies, government plans, non-governmental organizations, the civil society, and the third sector. On Twitter, we collected 1.8 million tweets (out of which 1 million were retweets) from 534.3 different profiles. On Facebook, we collected 114.7 thousand posts from 32.8 thousand public pages and groups, accounting for more than 20.3 million interactions.

Figure 8 – Map of interactions in the debate about the government, public policies and the civil society on Twitter
Analysis period: June 1st to September 17, 2021

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

. Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

The debate about government, public policies and the civil society on Twitter was strongly associated with topics of national interest. The polarization that characterizes the environmental debate at large was also present in this specific topic (Figure 8), with extremes represented by actors related to the government (blue) and environmentalists (red) concentrating more than 60% of the profiles and interactions (Figure 5). However, it is important to highlight the large differences in profiles and interactions in these two groups, with a strong advantage of the environmentalist group (49.7% of the profiles and 46.8% of the interactions) over the government support group (16.2% of the profiles and 16.0% of the interactions).

The green and pink groups have profiles less connected to the environmental debate, with the presence of influencers and younger people. It is interesting to note that, unlike the red and blue groups, which articulate topics associated with national politics, the green and pink groups highlight actions of the civil society and the NGOs. The profiles that stood out include the singer Anitta, with tweets criticizing the government’s environmental policy, and pages of K-Pop fans, articulating conversations between activists and international celebrities, Brazilian environmental issues and mobilizations for specific campaigns. This group sees NGOs under a positive light, supporting their actions and associating them with ‘doing good’.

Public policies, decrees and laws signed at different spheres of power were important topics in this group. The legislative debate at the federal level was marked by the strong mobilization regarding Bill No. 490, which alters the rules for the demarcation of indigenous lands, and Bill No. 2633, known as the land grabbing bill, which increases the possibility of land tenure regularization of the Union’s lands through self-declaration.

Regarding decrees, there was a strong engagement against the Legislative Decree 338/21, which proposes a reduction of the protected area in the Chapada dos Veadeiros, in the state Goiás, and regarding actions by the federal government to send and extend the participation of the Armed Forces to fight environmental crimes.
The protagonism of profiles in the debate on legislative changes at the federal level was not the same for the topic of the government’s environmental programs. In general, publications related to programs such as VIGIA, Floresta + and Lixão Zero engaged profiles that are aligned with the government’s environmental policy. A general characteristic of publications related to the debate at the federal level is the reactive tone of posts made by profiles associated with the environmental cause and to decisions and bills proposed by the government.

This characteristic becomes less present when the debate is related to public policies and laws at the state and municipal level, with a higher presence of publications celebrating advances regarding environmental issues by city councilors, congressmen, mayors and governors. Some legislations at those spheres of power that stood out were bills related to urban recycling, plans to prevent and fight fires, basic sanitation, state policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, expansion of forest parks, in addition to issues related to environmental licensing. Regarding the latter, most of the publications disseminated reports of irregularities in occupations and invasions, but there were also posts criticizing a request for environmental documents in order to start businesses that operate virtually.

On Facebook, the debate about government, public policies and the civil society was marked by the predominance of pages of environmental organizations and activists. The highlights included the activist Sonia Guajajara, the alternative media vehicles Mídia Índia and Mídia Ninja, Greenpeace and indigenist organizations such as Apib and Cimi. Those pages made more than 1.9 thousand publications about the topic in the period analyzed, reaching more than 971.8 thousand interactions. The pages and profiles of influencers and members of the government participated in a distinct way during this period, with a much lower volume of posts but a high level of engagement. The congressmen Filipe Barros (PSL-PR) and Eduardo Bolsonaro (PSL-SP) and the congresswomen Carla Zambelli (PSL-SP) and Bia Kicis (PSL-DF) made only 75 publications and had more than 1 million interactions.

Public policies, decrees and laws signed at different spheres of power appeared in different forms in this group. The debate about bills had a strong participation of congress representatives aligned with the government and was marked by a higher diversity of projects in the agenda. This movement is related to the participation of Carla Zambelli, the current president of the Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development of the Chamber of Deputies, who used the network to publicize the proceedings and positions on bills such as Bill No. 6054/19, which provides for the legal nature of domestic and wild animals, and Bill No. 10.814/18, which allows the establishment of electronic police stations for records of environmental crimes.

The protagonism of actors associated with the government was lower in the debate about decrees and programs, which was marked by the presence of environmental and opposition profiles and pages. Particularly within the mentions to environmental programs, there was a large presence of social initiatives to preserve the environment, such as reforesting campaigns and recycling initiatives. The debate in the state and municipal spheres had a lower level of polarization within the context of the environmental agenda in general, with many publications made by official pages of states and cities announcing measures related to the environment.


The study aimed to explore topics related to the environmental debate that occupy an intermediate range of engagement in social media and, at the same time, are largely relevant to the daily lives of individuals and to the activities of organizations. Choosing this strategy does not mean reducing the importance of issues with greater visibility, but expanding the knowledge about areas that operate under a less polarized logic than debates with greater projection in the public sphere. Therefore, the goal is to clarify narratives, strategies and actors in line with the development of strategies that allow the strengthening of actions and campaigns aimed at increasing the population’s sensitivity to environmental issues.

In an integrated view, we identified that groups that defend agendas contrary to the environmental agenda occupy minority spaces in all the five topics analyzed. In other words, these are topics that tend to be more easily assimilated by the population, despite implying critical views. A lower level of polarization also enables the use of less reactive communication strategies, expanding the horizon of mobilization and engagement.

Another characteristic we observed was the co-occurrence of different thematic approaches, with perspectives that are not articulated in isolation in the publications on the two platforms. That was the case of posts that addressed, for example, the water crisis in association with technologies and applied to different subjects such as fashion, conscientious consumption, biogas, and solid waste treatment. Few topics are as transversal as the wide range of issues on the green agenda.

The study also reinforced the historical relationship of indigenous populations with the environmental agenda, portraying the rise of profiles of influencers representing different Brazilian ethnicities. Participating in topics such as technologies and the environment, the profiles of indigenous citizens were some of the major ones responsible for the predominance of the narrative in favor of the rights of Brazilian native populations, mobilizing strong levels of engagement of profiles of politicians, artists and ordinary citizens. The place of speech of indigenous populations seems to be undeniable in the environmental agenda, mobilizing reactions even of government profiles that are against much of the green agenda and in favor of the temporal mark.


SILVEIRA, I. Conheça influenciadores indígenas que usam o TikTok para enaltecer a cultura dos seus povos. Olhar Digital, 09/08/2021. Disponível em: Acesso em: 28 out. 2021.

CORREIO BRAZILIENSE. Indígenas se tornam influencers para lutar pelo reconhecimento das terras. Correio Braziliense, 02/09/2021. Disponível em: Acesso em: 28 out. 2021.

RUEDIGER, M.A. et al.. Nem tão #simples assim: o desafio de monitorar políticas públicas nas redes sociais. Rio de Janeiro: FGV DAPP, 2017. Disponível em:ão-simples-assim.pdf. Acesso em: 26 out. 2021.

SIEVERT, C.; SHIRLEY, K. LDAvis: A method for visualizing and interpreting topics. Proceedings of the Workshop on Interactive Language Learning, Visualization, and Interfaces, p. 63-70, 2014. Disponível em: Acesso em: 29 out. 2021.


Coordination of Research
Marco Aurelio Ruediger
Amaro Grassi

Dalby Dienstbach
Danielle Sanches
Lucas Roberto da Silva
Marcela Canavarro
Maria Sirleidy Cordeiro
Sabrina Almeida
Victor Piaia

Technical Review
Renata Tomaz

Graphic Project
Luis Gomes
Daniel Almada


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