The Amazon in Brazil is known as the ‘lungs of the earth’ because it absorbs greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. But excessive deforestation is destroying these lungs of earth.
Deforestation usually slows down in January because the rainy season prevents loggers accessing the forest. But according to government satellite data, the number of trees cut down in January 2022 has exceeded deforestation for the same month last year. Deforestation totalled 430 square kilometres (166 square miles) in January – an area more than seven times the size of Manhattan, New York. The area destroyed was 5 times larger than 2021, the highest January total since records began in 2015.
There are a number of factors driving this level of deforestation. Strong global demand for agricultural commodities such as beef and soya beans is fuelling some of these illegal clearances – Another is the expectation that a new law will soon be passed in Brazil to legitimize and forgive land grabbing.
The area is home to communities who say they need to use the forest for mining and commercial farming in order to make a living. At the same time, indigenous communities living in the Amazon fight to protect the rainforest and their ways of life.
Environmentalists are not surprised and accuse Mr. Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president, of allowing deforestation to accelerate. They say that Mr. Bolsonaro has significantly weakened legal protections since he took office in 2019. At the climate change summit COP26 in Glasgow last year, more than 100 governments promised to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030. Mr. Bolsonaro was one of the world leaders who promised to halt and reverse deforestation by the end of this decade.
Political observers argue that despite this change in tone, the policies on the ground remain the same.
Down to Earth is Science and Environment fortnightly published by the Society for Environmental Communication, New Delhi. We publish news and analysis on issues that deal with sustainable development, which we scan through the eyes of science and environment.