15th October 2014
"Brazil's success has shown that a large, rapid reduction in deforestation rates is possible", The Solutions magazine reports. "[Brazil] has cut deforestation in the Amazon by 70 percent, compared to the average level in 1995-2005, making zero deforestation by 2020 - or even sooner - a feasible goal." (1)
"Brazilian civil society, including indigenous groups, rubber tappers, labor unions and environmentalists [...] forced governments and businesses to act and thus made the success possible." (1)
The deforestation of the tropics became a global concern around 1950s, yet for decades 'saving the rainforest' pleas had no real effect. In the early part of the 21st Century a dramatic change took place as greenhouse emissions from land-use change fell rapidly. Almost all of these emissions had since 1961 come from tropical deforestation. The greatest decrease in deforestation since then has been in the Amazon, and specifically, in Brazil. (1)
"In a few short years, a large - indeed, historic - change has occurred. If Brazil's success can be duplicated elsewhere, most of us living today could witness the end of thousands of years of deforestation in our lifetimes." (1)
Creation of protected areas, recognition of indigenous people's lands, bans on the soy bean and beef farming industries, and enforcement actions against illegal logging have played important parts in the process. Civil action, central and local government policy changes, international support (notably from Norway) and international NGOs (non-governmental organizations) have been equally important. (1)
Although the yearly deforestation rate rose in 2013, the overall trend is still downward. At its peak, in the year 2004, the deforestation was at about 27,000 square kilometers per year, whereas the figure for 2013 was about 6,000 square kilometers. (1, 5)
In 2008 'Zero Deforestation' campaign was created as different organizations representing forest peoples and urban environmentalists began to work together. The group exerted strong pressure on the Federal Government. Later, the Amazon Fund was established. (1)
Amazonia is the world's largest tropical forest and currently about 80% of the basin's forest remains intact. Brazil contains about 60% of the entire Amazon's forests. Now just over half of the forest in the Brazilian Amazon is protected in some form. The protection of indigenous people's territories has played a critical role in conservation. (1)
Despite these successes, the challenges to saving the Amazon rainforest are still very real: Brazil still has the world's highest annual area of tropical deforestation, with cattle ranching being the highest driver. The consumption of Brazilian beef in both the domestic and international markets has steadily grown over the years. The temporary prohibitions (moratoria) that were put on place on the soy bean industry are also under threat. (1-4)
Thus the fight for saving the Amazon rainforest continues.
But the good news here is that rapid progress is possible through civilian action in collaboration with NGOs and governments.
"Ultimately, [...] it is the change in politics of the issue that has made progress possible, and for this, Brazilian civil society deserves most of the credit. the indigenous peoples, rubber tappers, labor organizers, environmentalists and other members of the broad social movement to end deforestation, made it possible and ultimately necessary for politicians and businesses to act. they have done a great service not only to their own country, but also to the climate and biodiversity of our entire planet." (1)
(1) Solutions Journal: "How Brazil Has Dramatically Reduced Tropical Deforestation"
(2) Mongabay.com: "Calculating Deforestation Figures for the Amazon"
(3) Tropical Conservation Science (journal): "From Amazon pasture to the high street: deforestation and the Brazilian cattle product supply chain" (pdf)
(4) The National Wildlife Federation: "The Amazon Soy Moratorium Is Under Threat!"
(5) The Telegraph: "Huge Increase in Amazon Deforestation Rate"
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