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Amazon deforestation in the past 9 months, the wet season, has already exceeded last year's destruction, despoiling an area larger than Delaware. With cloud cover now clearing more deforestation will be revealed and the fire season will begin. The Brazilian government has proven impotent to stop rainforest destruction in the face of spiraling food prices.

Brazil's DETER real-time monitoring system found that more than 430 square miles of forest, an area a bit smaller than the city of Los Angeles, vanished in the month of April, while about 2,300 square miles, larger than the state of Delaware, were destroyed between last August and April.

Deforestation releases massive amounts of CO2, increasing global warming, drought and climate change.

Brazil's efforts to protect the Amazon have failed as ranchers have cut hundreds of square miles of forest for cattle and farmers have opened up fields for soybean production. Skyrocketing grain prices, driven up by drought and biofuels production have encouraged development of the Amazon. Corn-based ethanol production in the United States is inadvertently contributing to the destruction of the Amazon by diverting soybean producing land to corn production.

A spiral of climate change induced drought driving deforestation, causing more warming and drought, may be beginning.

The Amazon's dry season, when farmers do most of their burning and clearing, starts this month. That means the 12-month total ending in August will surely climb, said Marcelo Marquesini, a Brazil-based forests expert with the international environmental group Greenpeace.

Marquesini said that rising prices for soybeans, beef and other commodities are pushing farmers to clear more land in the sprawling rainforest, which is about the size of the western United States.

Brazil had made progress, reducing deforestation by half, for the 3 years up to July 2007, but environmental laws and forest reserves have proven unenforceable as food prices have skyrocketed. Increased food production is a rational response to food shortages, but deforestation will only make  food supply worse over the long run because climate change is reducing global water supplies for agriculture.

This deforestation crisis in the Amazon has roots in the failed energy and agriculture policies in the United States which have contributed to rapid global fuel and food price increases. Brazil cannot successfully protect the Amazon rain forest in the absence of an effective global effort to stop global warming and increase the efficiency of transportation fuel use. We cannot divert crop land to biofuel production without suffering disastrous consequences. Corn-based ethanol in the U.S. is killing the Amazon.

Originally posted to FishOutofWater on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 06:29 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you for posting this (4+ / 0-)

    Deforstation for food is becoming a huge issue and will only become worse as populations expand.

    One of the areas that we need Obama's leadership quickly.

    "...hope can find its way back to the darkest of corners" -- Barack Obama, May 6, 2008

    by SnowItch on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 06:33:21 AM PDT

  •  as a Brazilian-American, i hate US hypocrisy (5+ / 0-)

    re the environment.  Which people is it again, who are most responsible for global warming? That's right; the people of the USA.

    Senator McCain // from Switzerland to homeless

    by distraught on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 06:39:54 AM PDT

  •  Stop the crap! (0+ / 0-)

    This deforestation crisis in the Amazon has roots in the failed energy and agriculture policies in the United States which have contributed to rapid global fuel and food price increases. Brazil cannot successfully protect the Amazon rain forest in the absence of an effective global effort to stop global warming and increase the efficiency of transportation fuel use. We cannot divert crop land to biofuel production without suffering disastrous consequences. Corn-based ethanol in the U.S. is killing the Amazon.

    Deforestation in Brazil has been under way for the past 25 years, long before the U.S. enacted subsidies for corn ethanol. Brazil's sugar cane ethanol subsidy and the unequal distribution of income in Brazil forced people into the Amazon basin to rape the land just to find some means of survival.

    Deforesting the Amazon basin, and Mato Grosso, for cattle ranching, mining, timber harvesting, and other agricultural and extractive pursuits has been under way for a generation or more on a grand scale, and it long predates the widespread consciousness of global warming.

    I make no excuses for these despoilers of the Amazon, and energy policies here aren't helping the situation there. I don't quarrel with your contention that U.S. energy policies have exacerbated the situation.

    But don't tell me this deforestation "has its roots" in U.S. energy policy. That's just bullshit. Brazil's entire history has as one of its main currents the hunger for land, and shooting, killing, raping, and burning wars over that land. Brazilians don't need to take lessons in greed, depravity, and land hunger from the U.S. or anywhere else, when the prize is land. We're not to blame for that.

    I love Brazil and the Brazilian people. But every society has its greedheads, and Brazil is no exception.

    "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

    by Ivan on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 06:49:38 AM PDT

    •  Read the source article. You're wrong. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      weasel, Abra Crabcakeya, RJP9999

      Brazil had cut the deforestation of the Amazon in half before rising food prices made environmental laws ineffective.

      I am in no way asserting that there hasn't been a long-term problem of deforestation in Brazil that's unrelated to the present explosion of deforestation. I am showing that there is a connection between U.S. energy and agricultural policies and this episode of rapid Amazon deforestation, without absolving Brazil for its role in the crisis.

      "It's the planet, stupid."

      by FishOutofWater on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 06:56:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I still don't agree entirely (4+ / 0-)

        Exploitation of the environment is hard-wired into the Brazilian national consciousness, and there's no easy answer for it.

        Ethanol production is just another boom in a long history of Brazilian boom and bust, and neither you nor McClatchy's reporters can separate out the "present situation" from 500 years of history.

        When it wasn't ethanol, it was gold, or iron, or cacao, or rubber, or coffee. The scale is different in each case, but the mentality is the same, and the effects are just as devastating.

        We can agree that the situation is intolerable, and I don't disagree that there is a connection between U.S. policies and "this episode" of deforestation.

        I quarrel, however, with where you appear to be assigning the blame. I contend that if automotive engineers were to come up with a miracle battery that would enable all-electric vehicles and render the internal combustion engine obsolete, Brazilians would still find some excuse to exploit the Amazon.

        I don't know that there is an "international solution" for this question. I hope that there is some solution. I have traveled in the Amazon basin and I fear for its future just as you do.

        Dedicated people have been working toward population control in Brazil for years. Long-term, that is the only sure answer to Amazon deforestation. Ethanol is a blip compared to that.

        Ethanol is renewable and has its uses as a transitional fuel in niche markets. I am guessing that this boom will not continue unabated for very much longer.

        "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

        by Ivan on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 07:24:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for the excellent comment (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ivan, EdlinUser, RJP9999

          Your points about Brazil are spot on here.

          Unfortunately, we have the same general mentality towards the environment as Brazilians. In Alaska, we are cutting virgin timber in the Tongass for road subsidies that cost more than the pulped (wasted) timber is worth. We are cowardly slaughtering wolves by shooting them from planes.

          Closer to DC, we have pretty much killed the Chesapeake bay by overharvesting and pollution.

          And our massive consumption rates export environmental damage globally.

          I talk about us not because I "blame America first" but because we can do something about ourselves, but we cannot force Brazil to change.

          "It's the planet, stupid."

          by FishOutofWater on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 07:43:28 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Speaking of deforestation... I was looking at (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FishOutofWater

    Oregon satellite photos on Microsoft's mapping service (like Google Earth) the other day and was surprised how much forest has been cut down around Mt. Hood, a large mountain about 1.5 hours from Portland.

    I've been meaning to have a look at the Amazon to see what it looks like.

    It's so short-sighted to cut it down.

    American overseas? Register to vote at www.VoteFromAbroad.org

    by YoyogiBear on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 08:56:57 PM PDT

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