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Amazon Deforestation

The Battle of the Amazon

April 22 2015

Over the past decade, despite much contradiction, Brazil has lowered its deforestation rate 75% below the average for 1996 – 2005, just shy of the country’s 80% reduction target by 2020.

Home to 60% of the Amazon Rainforest, Brazil has also lowered its carbon footprint more than any other country whilst managing to increase the amount of food it produces and exports – all within an economy struggling with world-wide commitments to lower CO2 emissions.

Brazil’s success thus far proves as a turning point for global deforestation. Federal governments are now helping to control agricultural expansion and preserve the planet’s most diverse ecosystems by designating specific areas in the Amazon basin for protection, cracking down on ranchers, farmers and land investors, and putting pressure on local governments to prevent companies from exporting beef, leather and soya beans from illegally cleared land.

Illegal deforestation in Brazil is being monitored by studying high-resolution satellite images of the forest cover each year and transmitting real-time information to the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA).

Although most culprits of illegal land clearing are small players, the government are cracking down on criminals higher up the chain. Officials say that deforestation in one particular region dropped by 65% since last August following the arrest of businessman Ezequiel Castanha who headed a 22 man syndicate and spent months on the run.

Marina Silva, lifelong environmentalist and candidate in last year’s presidential elections, successfully contributed to tackling deforestation by strengthening IBAMA and instituting a sophisticated system to root out corruption.

In addition, the environmental group Greenpeace increased public pressure on companies by documenting the link between soya-bean farming and deforestation in media campaigns in Brazil and internationally, which pushed supermarket chains and food companies such as McDonald’s to declare a boycott on the purchase of illegally farmed soya.

Despite these active changes, a fundamental challenge remains. It is cheaper for landowners — and more profitable for rogue speculators — to slash and burn forest than to rejuvenate soils and replant fallowed fields.

“Brazilians do not want deforestation,” climate scientist Carlos Nobre told Nature News, but clearing and planting new land remains the primary force for economic growth in the Amazon, he says. “We do not yet have an alternative model.”

Brazil has dispersed more than $150 million so far on projects such as agricultural productivity, biodiversity research and land-use planning. But relatively little money has gone to landowners or programmes that noticeably benefit them.

Despite a decade of progress, it is still uncertain as to the future of the Amazon. Lawmakers want to scale back protected areas and President Dilma Rousseff is encouraging investments in ports and hydroelectric dams which could inevitably trigger more deforestation.

One thing is for certain, if we don’t act now, then in years to come the world’s largest rainforest could become nothing more than a heaped wasteland.

Full article can be found on Nature News

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