Ecological concerns related to the burning of the Amazon forest include: an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere the loss of species the reduction in biodiversity in one of the most biologically diverse parts of the world.
A new report by the Brazilian congressional committee investigating foreign logging companies estimates that the Amazon is being lost at a rate of 20,000 square miles a year, three times the previous estimate.
What is known from satellite analysis proves that deforestation is occurring over a larger area than previously estimated.
The next slide was taken from a satellite photograph over the region of Rhondonia, Brazil. The extensive logging operations can be seen, as well as cleared sections for crops, and smoke from slash and burn agricultural practices.
A more dramatic vision of the tremendous changes in Rhondonia can be seen by looking at false-color images from satellites. The following image is of the same region in the mid 1970s. The red color indicates heavy growth of rainforest vegetation, with a small road running along the rivers.
Less than 20 years later, the next false-color image of the same region shows logging damage and the establishment of a logging town. The acres of rainforest logged is equal to the size of the state of Connecticut!
The state of the world's rain forests is particularly distressing now that global warming has again become a major concern.
Growing forests help absorb the gases that warm the atmosphere. Burning those forests, of course, adds to the problem.
Fires are set in the Amazon to burn off primary forest and also to burn old cattle pastures.
Eco-tourism, logging, illegal mining and government inaction are also responsible for invasions of indigenous lands and a near doubling of diseases affecting Indians.
Increased fatalities from common diseases such as flu, colds, tuberculosis and measles are devastating indigenous tribes.
The government appears caught between international pressure to reduce the amount of burning and deforestation, and the influence of powerful domestic lobbies from the logging industry, farmers and large landholders.
Lacking enforcement muscle, the government environmental agency ultimately collects very few of the fines it imposes. In a recent interview, the President of Brazil acknowledged that the agency needed more money and muscle.
As part of the United States’ overall effort to reduce the threats of global climate change, the U.S. donated $30 million dollars to fund preservation of the Brazilian rainforest.
The money helped launch an international fund of seven industrialized countries, which is coordinated by the government of Brazil.
The Amazon, responsible for maintenance of global ecological systems, will be lost within 50 years if current trends continue.
CASE STUDY: The Shrinking Rainforests of Brazil
Source: U.S. Geological Survey, NASA Earth Observatory