The Amazon rainforest is a humid broadleaf forest that stretches over 5,000,000 square kilometers in the Amazon Basin of South America. Representing more than half of the planet’s remaining rainforests, it is home to 10% of all Earth’s biodiversity and comprises of nearly 390 billion individual trees that make up 16,000 species in the rainforest.
Unfortunately, the market forces of globalization are invading the Amazon and disaster seems inevitable. In the past 40 years, around 20% of the Amazon jungle has been wiped out – a destruction rate much higher than all the previous 450 years since European colonization began. Scientists estimate that another 20% of the trees will disappear over the next 20 years. If that takes place, the forest’s ecosystem will turn off-balance.
As it is now, the Amazon brings half of its own rainfall from the humidity it releases into the atmosphere. When deforestation happens, the amount of rain decreases and the remaining trees dry out. Also, taking into account that global warming is still on the rise, severe droughts will trigger wildfires that could destroy the forest on an massive scale.
The most significant sources of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest are human settlement and conversion of land for agriculture and livestock.
The current scale of Amazon deforestation
Between 1991 and 2000, an area the size of Spain was cleared out. Most of the land was converted into pasture for cattle. In 2007, in just five months more than 3,200 square kilometers of forest were cut down. Even though deforestation rate has been decreasing in the last few years, it increased again in 2013 with 28% more compared to 2012.
With 60% of the Amazon rainforest located in Brazil, the country has a tough challenge to decrease deforestation. Because of its need of economic development and international debt payments, compensating the loggers in order to preserve the Amazon rainforest would require a large amount of money and also a radical change in the world’s market system.
On top of that illegal logging makes all these environmental efforts even harder to achieve. In 2014, Brazilian authorities announced the arrest of a criminal network considered to be responsible for most of the illegal deforestation in the Amazon. In the first week of the following month after the arrests, the deforestation rate in the region has dropped from 34 square kilometers per week to zero.
To stop the destruction of the Amazon and improve the standard of life for those who live there, we need to adopt at individual level a wide range of sustainable initiatives and control the consumption beast inside of us.