Rainforest Deforestation Reaches Highest Levels

The Amazon rainforest is one of the most diverse biomes on our planet. It is also disappearing at an alarming rate. Recent fires have furthered this issue, with the G7 offering $20 million to help put out the flames. 

That figure might seem like a lot, but it is only a small portion of what is necessary to stop the deforestation process.

Politics plays a prominent role. Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro initially said that he’d reject the offered funds, then walked the comment back by saying he’d take the money if French President Emmanuel Macron would apologize for criticizing his handling of the Amazon fires.

Exploiting the Amazon Is Very Profitable for Brazil

About 60% of the Amazon rainforest biome is within Brazil’s borders. That means there are about 2.1 million square miles of undeveloped land. It might be a massive carbon dioxide reservoir, but it also creates opportunities for profit.

After several years of decline, fires and deforestation rates surged to their highest levels ever in 2019. Much of the activity occurred after Bolsonaro took office.

Scientists are still learning how the rainforest impacts the global climate system. Removing this biome not only removes one of the most biodiverse concentrations of life on our planet, but it could also change weather patterns in dramatic and unpredictable ways.

Several researchers are now raising the alarm about reaching a dieback scenario in the Amazon. If enough of the forest is lost, the entire ecosystem could collapse. 

What Drives the Rainforest Deforestation Process?

Ranching is the primary driver of deforestation in Brazil. The country is now the largest beef exporter in the world, generating almost $7 billion for the economy each year.

Brazil is also the second-largest producer of soybeans worldwide, with almost 80% of what is grown domestically being used for animal feed. Since China placed tariffs on American agricultural products, more orders for Brazilian crops are causing a surge in new farming opportunities.

The Amazon also contains rich deposits of oil, aluminum, and gold. Illegal mining efforts are at unprecedented levels, and the demand for timber is equally high.

Bolsonaro campaigned for the presidency by saying that he would exploit the rainforest. The country’s agricultural lobby endorsed this approach. In the short time he’s been in office, the enforcement arm of the environment ministry has issued 30% fewer fines than in 2018 despite the increases in illegal activity.

These efforts include a reduction for indigenous protections, with a call to integrate the remaining tribes into modern Brazilian life. By facilitating construction projects for roads, bridges, and dams, it will become easier to exploit what the rainforest biome offers.

Deforestation increased by 88% in 2019, with the number of fires in the Amazon rising by 84% at the same time. That information comes directly from Brazil’s government.

The G7 providing $20 million in aid seems like a helpful first step, but those governments control an economic system with a cap of at least $300 trillion. We must do more if we’re going to save our rainforests.