As The World Focuses On Coronavirus, Amazon Deforestation Is Worse Than Ever
Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest hit a record high in the first quarter of the year as the world’s attention was drawn towards the coronavirus crisis.
According to data released yesterday, May 8, by Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE), a total of 1,202 square kilometres of forest – an area more than 20 times the size of Manhattan – was wiped out between January and April.
The space research agency, which uses satellite images to track the destruction, said the area destroyed in April was 64% bigger than in the same period last year.
The agency also found destruction of the forest by illegal loggers and ranchers rose by 55% in the first four months of 2020, as per BBC News – the highest figure for the first four months of the year since monthly records began in August 2015.
The rainforest – which covers northwestern Brazil and extends into Colombia, Peru and other South American countries – is a vital carbon store that helps slow down the pace of global warming, so its destruction is a cause for concern not only among environmentalists but among the general public.
Deforestation in the region has soared since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office last year, with environmentalists saying his policies and rhetoric encourage illegal activity. He denies this, although he has argued in the past that more farming and mining in protected areas of the forest are the only way to lift the region out of poverty.
The problem only seems to be getting worse though, with conservation groups saying fewer government enforcement agents had been deployed to the area since the coronavirus outbreak began.
Paulo Barreto, senior researcher for the non-profit conservation group Imazon, said:
The pandemic has not helped because there are apparently less agents out there and illegal loggers obviously don’t care about the virus in remote areas of the Amazon.
The trend that can be seen so far in 2020 is a cause for particular concern given that the usual high season for deforestation typically only starts towards the end of May.
Erika Berenguer, an ecologist at Oxford and Lancaster Universities, said the beginning of the year ‘is not the time where deforestation normally happens because it’s raining, and it’s raining a lot’.
She added, as per Phys.org: ‘In the past, when we see deforestation increase in the beginning of the year, it’s an indicator that when deforestation season starts… you’re going to see an increase, as well.’
Hopefully changes will be put in place soon and the devastating trend will start to turn in the other direction.
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