Friday, May 20, 2011

Amazon rainforest deforestation rises sharply

New satellite images suggest deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has increased almost sixfold.  Deforestation jumped from 103 square kilometers in March and April of last year to 583 square kilometers, or 228 square miles, in the same period of 2011, according to Brazil’s space research institute.
Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira characterized the figures as “alarming” and announced the formation of a “crisis cabinet” in response to the news. “Our objective is to reduce deforestation by July,” Teixeira said.

The new figures have taken the government by surprise, analysts say. A government report from December said Brazilian Amazon deforestation had fallen to its lowest rate in 22 years. But the new numbers show a 27 percent increase in deforestation from August 2010 to April 2011.

Some environmentalists are arguing that growing demand for soy and cattle is causing farmers to clear more land. Others say the easing of an existing law on forest production is causing it.

The Facts:

  • We are losing Earth's greatest biological treasures just as we are beginning to appreciate their true value. Rainforests once covered 14% of the earth's land surface; now they cover a mere 6% and experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years.

  • One and one-half acres of rainforest are lost every second with tragic consequences for both developing and industrial countries.

  • Rainforests are being destroyed because the value of rainforest land is perceived as only the value of its timber by short-sighted governments, multi-national logging companies, and land owners.

  • Nearly half of the world's species of plants, animals and microorganisms will be destroyed or severely threatened over the next quarter century due to rainforest deforestation.

  • Experts estimates that we are losing 137 plant, animal and insect species every single day due to rainforest deforestation. That equates to 50,000 species a year. As the rainforest species disappear, so do many possible cures for life-threatening diseases. Currently, 121 prescription drugs sold worldwide come from plant-derived sources. While 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, less that 1% of these tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists.

  • Most rainforests are cleared by chainsaws, bulldozers and fires for its timber value and then are followed by farming and ranching operations, even by world giants like Mitsubishi Corporation, Georgia Pacific, Texaco and Unocal.

  • There were an estimated ten million Indians living in the Amazonian Rainforest five centuries ago. Today there are less than 200,000.

  • In Brazil alone, European colonists have destroyed more than 90 indigenous tribes since the 1900's. With them have gone centuries of accumulated knowledge of the medicinal value of rainforest species. As their homelands continue to be destroyed by deforestation, rainforest peoples are also disappearing.

  • Most medicine men and shamans remaining in the Rainforests today are 70 years old or more. Each time a rainforest medicine man dies, it is as if a library has burned down.

  • When a medicine man dies without passing his arts on to the next generation, the tribe and the world loses thousands of years of irreplaceable knowledge about medicinal plants

    1. Shocking increase. I wonder if the sky high prices on commodities this past year encouraged people to increase the deforestation.

    2. Something similar is happening in Alaska and even amoung native Americans in the "Lower 48" -
      the tribal languages are disappearing as the elder members of the tribe pass...

      As to the environment - the only thing green that the companies and their lackeys in the legislatures, parliaments, and the Congress care about is money and more of it...

    3. illumination Guy's:

      You said, "...experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years."

      Wow! That's within the lifetime of most people living today.

    4. One more example of how we don't understand the life systems of the earth and how we have little regard for the same.......

    5. This has also been happening in Borneo, But it is deforestation for Palm oil production. Quickest way to stop it is not to by the products Palm oil Colgate Palmolive Palm Olive. We organize others to stop buy these products and can make an impact., Means reading labels and being infromed

    6. Don't buy girl scout cookies, and when the little girls come to the door, try very gently and simply to explain that this year the cookies have palm oil in them, and this is bad for the animals in the jungle to cut down their trees to put up trees for this oil, that your sorry you cannot buy them and please tell their scout leader to ask next year to use a corn oil, and to have them baked in the USA.

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    8. Skinny -

      The problem is that in Brazil no government has ever had a project of development reconciling economic activities and forest protection. The present government’s Plan for Accelerating Growth is antithetical to the goal of reducing deforestation.

    9. Sarge -

      When we lose the knowledge stored by those elders, who have learned how to live in harmony with the planet, we are all going to lose out.

    10. Whit -

      On the path we are on now, we are on pace to lose the remaining rainforests AND the polar ice cap in the next few decades. The ability for the planet to sustain human life will at that time be severely diminished. If it exists at all!

    11. TAB -

      The problem is we DO understand the life systems of the earth. The problem lies in understanding human nature......not mother nature!

    12. capananda -

      Palm oil plantations create deforestation and hurt biodiversity. Malaysia and Indonesia produce 87% of the world's palm oil, and the combined harvested area for oil palm has reached 12 million acres, up fourfold from 1990 levels.

      That's an environmental threat that has impacts both local and global. This deforestation leads to the loss of habitat for species that depend on the forest, and the cutting down and burning of those trees is responsible for some 15% of global carbon emissions.

      What can each one of us do? Stop buying Girl Scout cookies and other products that contain Palm Oil.

    13. fringe -

    14. An Amazon rainforest activist and his wife have been shot dead in northern Brazil as the country’s Congress debated a divisive land bill that threatens to increase deforestation.

      Federal authorities said a rubber tapper and leading forest conservationist, whom Brazil’s presidency identified as Joao Claudio Ribeiro da Silva, and his wife Maria do Espirito Santo were ambushed and killed in the Amazon state of Para.

      It was not immediately clear who shot the couple but Mr Da Silva had warned of death threats against him by loggers and cattle ranchers.

      Both victims were active in the same organization of forest workers that was founded by legendary conservationist Chico Mendes, who was assassinated by ranchers in 1988