June 5, 2013
Mac Margolis – Newsweek, 06/05/2013
As Brazil’s skyscrapers and silos rose, it seemed the most impressive quality of this 21st-century Latin American powerhouse was its ability to grow without trashing the environment. Just last year, Brasilia was boasting about a steep decline in deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, a feat that President Dilma Rousseff trumpeted as “impressive, the fruit of social change.” What would she say now?
After nearly a decade of steady decline, forest cutting has spiked again the world’s largest rainforest. The nonprofit Amazon watchdog organization, Imazon, released a study reporting that deforestation at the hands of farmers and ranchers jumped 90 percent in the 12 months since April of last year. And since burning always follows felling, another 88 million tons of carbon dioxide and other gases hit the atmosphere- a 62 percent increase on the year.
For decades, Brazilians were told that ruin in the Amazon was the price of development. But recent research has imploded that assumption. A paper published by the National Academy of Sciences shows that continued deforestation threatens not just the trees but the progress and riches their removal were though to guarantee. The paper bolsters an old theory by Brazilian climate scientist Eneas Salati, who argued that the Amazon actually produced half its own rainfall. The takeaway: remove too much of the forests and the Amazon could dry out. And more than the jungle is at stake. Reduced rainfall from forest cutting could dry up the water that powers hydroelectric dams, thus slashing Brazilian power-generating capacity by 40 percent by mid century. It could also rob the food larder, cutting soybean productivity by 28 percent and beef production by 34 percent.
March 26, 2013
BBC News, 03/25/2013
The main group representing supermarkets in Brazil says it will no longer sell meat from cattle raised in the rainforest.
The Brazilian Association of Supermarkets, which has 2,800 members, hopes the deal will cut down on the illegal use of rainforest for pasture.
Deforestation in the Amazon has slowed over the past years but invasion of public land continues to be a problem.
February 11, 2013
Channtal Fleischfresser – Smart Planet, 02/11/2013
Brazil is home to roughly 60 percent of the Amazon, about half of what remains of the world’s tropical rainforests. And now, the country has plans to count every one of its trees.
A vast undertaking, the new National Forest Inventory hopes to gain “a broad panorama of the quality and the conditions in the forest cover”, according to Brazil’s Forestry Minister Antonio Carlos Hummel.
The census, set to take place over the next four years, will scour 3,288,000 square miles, sampling 20,000 points at 20 kilometer intervals and registering the number, height, diameter, and species of the trees, among other data.
December 6, 2012
Associated Press/The Washington Post, 12/04/2012
Deforestation in the Amazon destroyed an area almost as big as the United Kingdom between 2000 and 2010, environmental watchdog agencies said Tuesday.
The study prepared by the Amazon Information Network was released in Bolivia. It showed that close to 93,000 square miles (240,000 square kilometers) of Amazon rainforest were devastated in the 10-year period, the network said in a statement.
The main culprits are illegal logging, the construction of highways, mining, farming and ranching, the construction of hydroelectric dams and oil and gas drilling and exploration.
Sixty-three percent of the rainforest’s 2.4 million square miles (6.1 million square kilometers) are in Brazil, and 80.4 percent of the 2000-2010 deforestation occurred in that country, the study said. Peru was responsible for 6.2 percent of the deforestation, and Colombia came in third with 5 percent.
The pace of Amazon deforestation in Brazil and the other countries, with the exception of Colombia and French Guiana, has slowed, the study said.
November 15, 2012
Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 11/14/2012
As his helicopter descends through the smoke towards an Amazonian inferno, Evandro Carlos Selva checks the co-ordinates via a global positioning satellite and radios back to base a witness testimony to deforestation.
Flames lick up from below the canopy, smoke billows across the horizon, and down below, the carbon that has been stored in the forest for hundreds of years is released into the atmosphere.
Skeletal trees are charred grey, others burnt black. Nearby, what was once forest is reduced to an expanse of ash, dust and embers. Trudging through the debris, Carlos Selva points to a soya farm: “They’ve been paid to do this. Forty per cent of next year’s harvest on this land has already been bought.”
The clearance is illegal and Carlos Selva – a ranger with Brazil‘s environmental protection agency, Ibama – sets in motion the process of levying fines, business embargos and other penalties that have helped to slow the pace of deforestation by almost 80% in the past eight years. This represents impressive progress, but it is at risk. The pressure to convert more Amazonian forest is growing stronger due to drought in the US, rising world food prices and a weakening of Brazilian laws.
May 17, 2012
Simon Romero – The New York Times, 05/16/2012
President Dilma Rousseff is facing one of the defining moments of her presidency as pressure builds on her to veto a bill that would open vast protected areas of forests to ranching and farming, potentially reversing Brazil’s major gains in slowing Amazon deforestation.
The Forest Code, which Congress approved in April at the urging of powerful agricultural groups, is an effort to overhaul Brazil’s 47-year-old legislation providing forest protection. The bill has emerged as a very delicate issue for Ms. Rousseff ahead of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, scheduled to be held here next month.
The bill would effectively give amnesty to landowners who illegally deforested areas before 2008, drawing the ire of environmentalists. If the legislation goes into effect, it could allow landowners in the Amazon to reduce obligatory forest cover to 50 percent from 80 percent, and could lead to the loss of as much as 190 million acres of forest, according to the government’s Institute for Applied Economic Research.
May 15, 2012
Scott Wallace – National Geographic, 05/14/2012
*Scott Wallace was a Public Policy Scholar at the Wilson Center in 2009
As Brazil braces for president Dilma Rousseff’s forthcoming decision on whether to sign or veto recent legislation that would alter the country’s Forest Code, rights groups are decrying a surge in illegal land grabs that is wrecking environmental havoc and threatening vulnerable tribal populations.
According to the rights organization Survival International, a gold rush mentality seems to have taken hold of loggers, ranchers and settlers in the eastern Amazonian state of Maranhão, as intruders bore their way deeper into reserve areas set up to protect the forests of the Awá tribe. In addition to 355 contacted members of the tribe, about 100 Awá remain uncontacted, making them one of the very last groups of nomads still roaming the forests of the eastern Amazon. The majority of the 60 or more uncontacted tribes that still survive in the Amazon inhabit the more secluded and remote western regions on the vast Amazon Basin.
Survival has launched a public campaign in recent days that includes a video featuring British film star Colin Firth, best known for his portrayal of a stammering King George in the blockbuster hit “The King’s Speech.” Looking into the camera, an earnest Firth urges supporters to call on Brazil’s Justice Minister to send agents into Maranhåo to halt the destruction. “One man can stop this,” says Firth, “Brazil’s Minister of Justice. He can send in the Federal Police to catch the loggers and keep them out for good.”
April 27, 2012
Maria Carolina Marcello, Peter Murphy – Reuters, 04/26/2012
Brazil’s Congress passed a bill easing rules mandating the amount of forest that farmers must preserve, delivering a long-sought victory to the country’s powerful agriculture lobby and a political defeat for President Dilma Rousseff.
Though the bill will require millions of hectares of already cleared land to be replanted, environmentalists expect it will make it too easy for farmers, responsible for much of the deforestation of the Amazon and other swaths of environmentally sensitive land in recent decades, to comply with regulations that stipulate how much forest they must preserve or put back.
Rousseff still has the option of vetoing the bill, one of the most controversial to pass Brazil’s Congress in recent years. Several government sources told Reuters they expect her to do so because the approved text ditched a hard-bargained compromise deal the government took months to reach.
April 26, 2012
A member of Brazil's Congress protests against the adoption of the country's new Forest Code. The placard reads: 'Forest Code, Veto Dilma'. Photograph: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters
Brazil‘s congress voted late on Wednesday to ease rules mandating the amount of forest farmers must keep on their land, delivering a long-sought victory to the country’s powerful agriculture lobby and a political defeat for president Dilma Rousseff.
Though the bill will require millions of hectares of already cleared land to be replanted, environmentalists say it makes it too easy for farmers, responsible for much of the deforestation of the Amazon and other swaths of environmentally sensitive land in recent decades, to comply with regulations that stipulate how much forest they must preserve.
Rousseff still has the option to veto the bill, one of the most controversial to pass Brazil’s congress in recent years. The bill was supported by some of her party’s senators and members of its multi-party coalition, even though the president had previously said she would veto earlier versions of the law that contained provisions perceived as too lenient on farmers who have cleared woodlands for agriculture.
March 13, 2012
Kim Chipman, Sophia Yan – Bloomberg, 03/13/2012
As world political and business leaders ready for the Rio+20 U.N. sustainability conference in June, Brazil’s leaders are debating policy changes that could jeopardize the leadership it has earned from reducing Amazon deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.
Since hosting the 1992 “Earth Summit,” which produced the first international agreement on forest protection, Brazil has risen from the ninth- to sixth-largest economy, ahead of the U.K. and just behind France. Deforestation in the Amazon last year fell to the lowest rate since government began monitoring the world’s biggest rainforest in 1988. The rate is down almost 80 percent in six years.
“A decade ago, almost everyone would have said efforts to get Brazil to stop cutting down the Amazon were a total failure,” said Doug Boucher, head of the Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Thanks to a shift in political dynamics and rise of a strong environmental movement, it became a huge success story.”