Worldwide deforestation has drastically changed our planet since the 1980s, with increased damage over the last ten years. Particularly in Brazil, mainly due to economic woes, deforestation has affected thousands of plant and animal species in the Amazon rainforest. Despite climate change efforts worldwide, deforestation in Brazil has worsened over the past two years after a consistent drop years prior. These are the five things you need to know about deforestation in Brazil.
- Deforestation has grown over the past two years.
A survey conducted annually by the Brazilian government showed that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon had increased for the 12-month period ending in August 2016 and again for the 12-month period before that.
The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest, but for the second year in a row deforestation in Brazil has been allowed to continue. During 2015, the survey showed that deforestation growth was 24 percent. In 2016 the growth of deforestation was 30 percent.
- Food exports are the cause of the high demand for deforestation.
From July 2015 to August 2016, 3,100 square miles of forest had reportedly disappeared. The occurred due to the increased exportation of meat and soy in the region. Brazil is the world’s top exporter of meat. Brazil needs to needs to remain the top exporter of meat to prevent its economy from falling into further disrepair, as the country has been struggling for the last few years.
Along with the need for space to accommodate cattle, the amount of soy produced has increased, affecting deforestation in Brazil. In rural areas, farmers buy plots of land with permits from the government with the intent to sell products to larger companies, like U.S. company Cargill. As reported by the New York Times, “One of those farmers, Heinrich Janzen, was clearing woodland from a 37-acre plot he bought late last year, hustling to get soy in the ground in time for a May harvest. ‘Cargill wants to buy from us,’ said Mr. Janzen, 38, as bluish smoke drifted from heaps of smoldering vegetation.”
His soy is in demand as Cargill is one of several agricultural traders vying to buy from soy farmers in the region, he explained.
- Many species are affected by deforestation. Deforestation in Brazil has put the Amazon in a vulnerable position with certain plants and species becoming susceptible to extinction. Home to more than 2.5 million species of insects, 2,000 species of birds and 10,000 species of plants, the Amazon rainforest is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. When fires are used as a tactic to eliminate trees in order to make space, the emissions from the smoke release hazardous toxins into the environment. This space clearing also wipes away a number of rare ecosystems and displaces different communities of animals. Currently, only 15 percent of the world’s forests are still intact.
- Big companies are partly responsible.
Cargill and Bunge are two American food giants currently operating in Brazil. Both companies are known for pushing locals to buy soy in order to build ties with them. In 2014, Cargill was part of a worldwide deal in which the companies signed a pact to eliminate deforestation for the production of oil, soy and beef by 2020.
Despite the deal, in the two years following the signing, deforestation in Brazil increased, partially due to companies like Cargill. In order for real change to occur, more companies have to agree to curb deforestation.
- Efforts by the Brazilian government have decreased.
The Brazilian government had previously been known to acknowledge these pressing problem in the Amazon and had stepped up its efforts to combat deforestation. As of late, the government focus has shifted from the environment to its own interior issues.
Cuts to the budget for the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable National Resources, also known as IBAMA, have become detrimental to efforts to combat deforestation in Brazil. IBAMA’s focus on the Amazon is to prevent deforestation through surveillance of the Amazon. The budget has been cut from $25 million to $7 million.
According to NPR, the Brazilian newspaper Estadão reported that “the rise in deforestation is raising concerns about Brazil’s ability to meet its commitments as part of the International Paris Agreement on combating climate change.” With budget cuts and old technology, it has become harder for officers of the IBAMA to do their job. Their radios only reach a 1.3-mile range, and pickup trucks have become too visible to illegal deforesters.
On the bright side, National Geographic noted that the government has implemented new tactics to tackle the heightening of illegal deforestation. Proof of permits must be provided to IBAMA officers when in certain areas of the Amazon. Only time will tell if these efforts will positively impact the severe deforestation in Brazil, despite the drastic cuts in aid and budget.
– Maria Rodriguez