The Amazon is the world’s largest rain forest and is known as “The Lungs of the World.” It provides 20 percent of the world’s oxygen and is home to nearly half of all the species of animals on earth. It’s a pretty important piece of this little planet.
Unfortunately, over the years, people have become accustomed to hearing bad news about the Amazon. News about clear cutting and deforestation and endangered animals.
However, now there’s reason to feel hopeful about the rain forest. Since 2004, deforestation has been reduced by around 80 percent. During 2004 alone, 27,400 square kilometers of rainforest were cleared. Last year, only 4,800 square kilometers were cleared.
A pretty dramatic drop, huh?
The progress is almost entirely the result of Brazil’s measures to curb deforestation. First, the country increased the number of protected rain forest areas. They were mostly designated as national parks or indigenous lands.
Businesses also had a lot to do with the turnaround.
Cattle ranching and soybean farming were two of the biggest clear-cutting culprits. After years of negative press about the practice and its effects, Cargill and McDonald’s (the two biggest buyers of Brazilian soybeans) refused to purchase any soybeans that were grown on cleared Amazon land. In 2006, that led to a countrywide moratorium of the practice.
Protected lands and moratoriums are nothing without oversight, though. That’s why the Brazilian Space Agency launched a satellite in 2004 to ensure protected areas were staying protected and lands weren’t being cleared for farming. The satellite is able to track changes in forest cover in real time, which allows authorities to identify areas where illegal logging or farming is taking place.
Speaking of enforcement…
The government also raised fines for violators and started heavily patrolling roads that lead into the rain forest. These measures have allowed authorities to effectively police an area that’s more than 5 million square kilometers.
Deforestation is still happening in the Amazon but, at the very least, Brazil has been a shining example of what a government can accomplish with real political will and resources.