It only gets worse

Amazon Deforestation: Earth’s Heart and Lungs Dismembered

Brazil has historically had the distinction of serving as the world’s leader of deforestation. … during the last three decades, an annual average of 6,500 square miles of the Brazilian Amazon — an area that is greater than the size of Connecticut — has been deforested.

Satellite data indicates that the rate of Amazonian deforestation is accelerating; in some areas, the rate increased by 50 percent since last year. And with over 20 million people and 70 million cattle now inhabiting the Amazon, about a 600 percent increase in the last 60 years, more trees are being razed to make room for cattle ranches

Hat Tip: Ana


  1. #1 Lilian Nattel
    February 2, 2009

    We’re vegetarians–I have thought of it in terms of animals & sustainability in terms of food. I hadn’t thought of the impact on breathable air. Maybe there needs to be a meat tax to be used to extend support to alternative economies in South America.

  2. #2 Elizabeth
    February 2, 2009

    This is simple: No beef across borders ever, anywhere. It would solve a lot of problems.

  3. #3 Itzac
    February 2, 2009

    I don’t disagree, but you’d also need to incentivize some other type of food production, both for the farmers’ livelihood and to replace the food. I suggest farming grasshoppers and other edible insects.

  4. #4 D. C. Sessions
    February 2, 2009

    This is one of the main criticisms I’ve had of the various carbon-emission protocols: they only focus on emissions, despite the fact that arguably Brazil has been responsible for more net carbon-balance change lately than the rest of the world combined.

  5. #5 Beowulff
    February 2, 2009

    The first thing I thought when reading that headline was “ can’t be that successful that its book selling activities are leading to deforestation…” Maybe I spend too much time online…

  6. #6 kasj
    February 3, 2009

    Superb point, D.C. If there was a carbon credits trade economy, brazil could make some serious cash *not* cutting down forests…. I think I read about that actually being done somewhere. They are paying farmers not to clear the land. Apparently it is actually very bad soil anyway, surprisingly enough.

  7. #7 Valis
    February 3, 2009

    Chico Mendez is my hero…

  8. #8 Veronica
    February 4, 2009

    I’m gonna start with an apology because this is gonna get ugly. I totally disagree with the article and most comments here.It is very easy for people outside Brazil to say that we (yes we, I happen to live here and know a thing or two that are not in your papers) destroy the forest, we are the number 1 destroyers and all. But think about it guys, the amazon was not the ONLY forest in the world, it is just the one that remained. And it remained for a lot of reasons, but basically because of our industrial late development. There used to be great forests in north america that are now reduced to parks. Another good point is: who is indeed destroying the beloved rain forest? I’ve been to different localities in the amazon and I can assure you that a lot of people there DO NOT speak portuguese. The problem is that we have very poor environmental laws in this country, which impedes supervision of deforestation. A lot of the forest is destroyed for cattle and sugarcane. But if you believe that stopping eating meat is gonna solve the problem you’re very very very naive, if not ignorant. What we need are incentives for the people living there. They are extremely poor, and do what they can to survive. If they don’t have their cattle, what are they gonna do? Crime? Or simply die? This is not as easy issue to solve and I wanted people to study a bit before lashing out on us here, trying to make a living and actually trying to solve the problem properly.
    And by the way, THE FOREST IS NOT THE PLANET’S LUNGS!!! Any basic biology class will teach you that!

  9. #9 Gabriel
    February 4, 2009

    Veronica my dear, you are being ignorant like most of your (and mine) right-wing brethren. The forest is not important only because of its allegedly performance as carbon sink, but mainly for preserving the natural habitat for numerous species that yielded and are still yielding important active principles in the research for new drugs. Also, you must remember the forest is hugely important in keeping the local microclimate or did you forget about the recent drought? Yes, chéri, the great Amazon River almost got empty.

    Your argument is also wrong on many levels: first, the Environmental Legislation of Brazil is robust and probably the most comprehensive in the world; the problem with it is the lack of proper fiscalization and legal hurdles coming from the sluggish machine of the judiciary. Second, our late industrialization had nothing to do with the gradual destruction of Amazonia; the land is not being seized by urban centres nor by industrial complexes, nor anything of the like; neither the land is used to subsistency farming. The ones responsible for expanding the agricultural frontier into the jungle are Big Soy’s farmers, interested in profitting from foreign markets. They push their limits into the traditional cattle pastures, the latter having no alternative then to advance onto rainforest land. The whole process is very simple: take over unclaimed forest patches, cut all the valuable wood to sell, burn the rest to the ground, allow the pasture to grow, raise cattle there for a while, have the lands bought by soy farmers, repeat the process. Strangely enough, this takes place inside our territory by our own people, not by “foreigners” as you implied. Actually, with this comes third: what do you mean by these “fancy people not speaking Portuguese”? Which language do they speak? English? Spanish? Local idioms? Are you trying to link these people to the destruction of the forest? Strangely, you answer your own question about who is destroying the rainforest and they don’t seem to be part of some international conspiracy unless we are allowing foreigners to buy patches of land around here, which is illegal. That being the case, it wouldn’t be a problem to expell these poor foreigners, would it? You bit your own tail on this one.

  10. #10 Veronica
    February 4, 2009

    Hey Gabriel. First of all, I’d like to say that I agree with most of the things you said, really. I’m just really really bad at expressing myself, problem I’m currently trying to address. I also got that some of the things I said were misinterpreted just because of it, so I’ll try to make it clearer. The legislation part you’re totally right. In most cases, and not only in environmental issues, the proper legislation exists, but in a somewhat arcaic form so it becomes difficult to be fiscalized. I believe that what happens in the forest right now is simple abandonment, not only by the government but also by us the people.I’m glad you could express a lot of my points of view in a simpler way..thx for that. When I talked about people not speaking portuguese, for instance, I did not mean it is fancy at all (I love my native language, this would be easier if I could write in Portuguese). I meant that we are not the sole culprits of the forest’s destruction and I believe it should be mentioned. The problem in not only environmental but also very political and I personally believe we need help to solve/control it.
    Another thing I noticed is that, for most people living there, there is no other option of how to make a living. As an example, most people don’t really understand why they shouldn’t set things on fire (they set everything on fire for some reason I really don’t know, sorry for that, but they seem to believe that once things are burned they disappear). They need education, incentives and jobs. And yes, they need land to work on, properly regulated land.
    I’m going to try to retreat here. I’m not looking for a fight or anything, just a productive discussion. I’m just trying to make it a bigger picture than the one set by the article.
    It would be a lot better if people started coming up with viable solutions instead of making us look like monsters.