In September 2009, then environment minister Carlos Minc declared that Brazil was experiencing the lowest deforestation rates in the Amazon in 21 years. Brazil, having come under increasing pressure from the global community to cut Amazon deforestation, and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, celebrated this environmental milestone. That the bulk of this deforestation is to clear land for cattle ranching and soy production, and that the decline in deforestation occurred at the height of the global recession, gave some environmentalists reason to pause. Paulo Moutinho, coordinator of the Amazon Institute for Environmental Research, warned that “we need to see this trend confirmed during an upswing in demand for commodities.”
Now, almost two years later, global economies are growing, and so too is Amazon deforestation. According to the BBC, Brazil’s latest data shows a 27% increase in deforestation from August 2010 to April 2011, with the greatest deforestation occurring in the state of Mato Grosso’an epicenter of Brazilian soy and cattle production. This alarming news comes as Brazil’s lower house of parliament just passed big changes in key provisions of the 1965 Forest Code, which limits the amount of land farmers can clear on their property. Many fear the worst: a new land rush to satisfy the demands of agribusiness.
For more on the environmental (and other) impacts of Brazil’s embrace of industrial animal agriculture, click here for a summary of Brighter Green’s Cattle, “Soyanization,” and Climate Change: Brazil’s Agricultural Revolution. The full-length policy paper is available in English, and policy briefs and accompanying short video documentaries on climate change and animal agriculture in Brazil produced by Brighter Green are available in both English and Portuguese.
Photo courtesy of Leonardo Freitas