Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Good news from the Brazilian Amazon

Judging from recently released data, Brazil seems to be gaining a foothold in reducing deforestation in the Amazon (see chart below). Forest loss in the year-long period from August 2010 through July 2011 was the lowest since annual recordkeeping began in 1988. In the 2003-04 period, 27,772 sq. kilometers (10,722 sq. miles) were deforested. That’s an area about the size of Maryland. In the 2010-11 period, 6,238 sq. kilometers (2,409 sq. miles) were deforested. That’s an area closer to the size of Delaware. And if you were wondering just how big Brazil’s Amazon forest is overall, I can tell you: 3.4 million sq km (1.3 million sq mi), or roughly the size of five Texases, or two Alaskas and a California.

Last year’s relatively low rate of deforestation continues a trend that began in 2008. As reported by mongabay.com, “Analysts attribute the decline to macroeconomic factors — including interest rates and a strengthening Brazilian real — as well as private sector initiatives like the soy and cattle moratoriums and government action, including better enforcement of environmental laws and establishment of protected areas in key frontier regions.” If you'd like to read more, I discuss several of these factors in my article, Sustainable Consumption Governance in the Amazon, 38 Envtl. L. Rep. News & Analysis 10873 (2008).

Area of the Brazilian Amazon Deforested by Year, 1995-2011 (August 1 to July 31), sq. km. per year

Brazil deforestation 95-2011
Source: Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE), Ministry of Science and Technology. 

- Lesley McAllister


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