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The Challenge Presented by Deforestation

Pam Sornson

Posted on August 26, 2019 13:00

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One of the causes of the Amazon fires is drought, and drought conditions have escalated with higher than average temperatures. However, another, perhaps more significant causal factor, is deforestation -- the wholesale removal of trees to make way for agriculture or development.

Gerd Altmann

Brazil's newest government, led by Jair Bolsonaro, has made no secret of its intent to raze the Amazon jungle and replace it with industrial, agricultural, and urban developments. The 'policy' is a favorite of Brazil's 'environment' minister, Ricardo Salles, who asserts that protecting the Amazon forest 'holds up development' and interferes with commercial farming and mining opportunities. And it's no surprise that he feels that way; in 2017, while acting as the environment minister for the state of Sao Paulo, he was sued by that state's Attorney's office for altering the boundaries of protected areas to allow mining on the lands of constitutionally protected indigenous tribes. (That case is still in progress.)

With Salles in the national environment seat at the request of Bolsonaro, he is now free to wreak more havoc across the widest possible swath of the country - the entire Amazon basin. And his favorite tool to move his development ideology forward? Cut down all the trees. Brazil has some 72,000 fires burning today in areas that have been plowed down by industrialists looking for bigger profits. In fact, the ten towns or cities that are reporting the highest rate of fire activity are also those that have had the largest areas of deforestation so far this year. In many but not all cases, those fires are deliberately set to clear the land of the remains of thousands of trees, shrubs and other forest vegetation. And it's the abundance of all that burning biomass that's taking those fires beyond controllable sizes.

Neither Bolsonaro nor Salles is concerned about the consequence to the planet and its climate caused by burning off its main oxygen generator. In July of this year, the head of Brazil's National Institute for Space research (INPE), Ricardo Galvao, reported that the number of acres lost of deforestation was soaring, reaching 4200 square kilometers between January and July of 2017. Bolsonaro, who took office that same January, declared the facts regarding deforestation to be 'a lie' and has since ousted Glvao from his job

The Brazilian science community is aghast at these developments, as clear-cutting activities on the ground reflect the Bolsonaro's reckless rhetoric about needing more land to build Brazil's economy. The current fires are both legal and illegal, but the government had done nothing to contain either in the weeks since the burning began. It was only after an international outcry and countries threatening to withdraw from negotiations with Brazil that Bolsonaro agreed to send in Brazilian troops to help quell the flames.

Many Americans are also aghast to see the same level of ignorance and stupidity in Bolsonaro that they see in the current American administration. It, too, has rid its agencies of the scientists and experts who keep watch over environmental concerns. And the current American president is an eager and enthusiastic supporter of anyone and anything ignorant, so he's (probably) in agreement with Bolsonaro's deforestation policies.

God help us all with 'leadership' like this in the world. 

Pam Sornson

Posted on August 26, 2019 13:00

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Source: Reuters

OSLO (Reuters) - Forest fires in Brazil and Indonesia contributed to a record loss in global tree cover in 2016, equivalent...

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