Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has reportedly reached the highest rate seen in 10 years.
Data shows this disturbing escalation is due to illegal logging as well as the encroachment of agriculture on the rainforest, as advised by Brazil’s Environment Minister Edson Duarte.
Satellite pictures taken from the 12 months leading up to the end of July 2018 have revealed how 7,900 square kilometers (3,050 square miles) of the forest has been cleared, equivalent to approximately five times the area of the city of London.
The data shows a disturbing increase of 13.7 per cent from the same time period in the previous year, with the majority of deforestation taking place in the states of Pará and Mato Grosso, Brazil’s top grains producer.
According to Greenpeace Brazil, the figures mean around 1.185 billion trees have been brought down.
As reported by The Guardian, Greenpeace Brasil’s public policy coordinator, Marcio Astrini, said:
It is a lot of destroyed forest, The situation is very worrying… what is bad will get worse.
A moment will arrive in which the accumulation of this deforestation will cause an effect in which the forest will stop being a forest,
The scientists calculate this is between 20-30%. We are very close to the 20%.
In a statement, Duarte has called upon the Brazilian government to improve policing in regards to the Amazon rainforest:
We need to increase the mobilisation at all levels of government, of society, and of the productive sector to combat illicit environmental activities.
These figures come as Brazilian activists raise concerns about the environmental policies of newly elected far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who is due to take office as of January 1, 2019.
During his 2018 election campaign, Bolsonaro pledged to limit fines for damaging forestry and promised to decrease the environmental agency’s powers. The administration have also announced plans to merge the agriculture and environment ministries.
Bolsonaro has previously spoken out against Brazil’s environmental protection agency, and is known to be strongly in favour of Brazil’s agriculture sector.
Brazil expert at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, Scott Mainwaring, told National Geographic:
Bolsonaro has a very strong anti-environmental discourse, and I have zero doubt that his discourse will direct policy,
I don’t see that this government is going to want to tell landowners not to chop down this part of the forest because it’s on indigenous land. It doesn’t seem there will be any major effort to protect the Amazon.
Soya Bean and palm Oil production, boycott the products, apply trade sanctions on Brazil until this stops. We are custodians of this planet and as such we have a duty of care to it, you can't grow rain forest over night,
— Re Cycled (@Recycled21) November 24, 2018
Ought to stop deforestation in Brazil & respect the sovereignty of indigenous people and their land. Brazil ought to protect them, not exploit them.
— Mirka (@M_Sighil) November 24, 2018
We really have to stop pillaging the environment now! Our ruthless consumption and development is sabotaging the life of future generations.
— SFU江澄練 (@SFU28950636) November 24, 2018
Deforestation is one of the primary causes of global warming, accounting for over 15 per cent of yearly emissions of heat-trapping gases, including carbon dioxide.
Despite this recent escalation, deforestation still remains notably lower than levels recorded during the early 2000s, before the Brazilian government had launched a strategy to tackle deforestation.
For example, over 27,000 square km were cleared back in 2004, an area the approximate size of Haiti.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.