Articles, Blog

The destruction of the Amazon, explained

The destruction of the Amazon, explained

“And in South America tonight, an environmental problem of a much greater magnitude.” “The destruction of the Amazon rainforest.” “A worldwide disaster.” In the 1980s, the world learned that the Amazon was in danger. “Trees are falling at a startling rate…” “77,000 square miles…” “… an area twice the size of Belgium…” “…the size of New York State…” “…the size of California, disappears.” And why it was so important to save it. “One-fifth of the oxygen we breathe.” “20% of the world’s fresh water.” “Half of the species of life on earth is in these forests.” “…An ecosystem the entire world needs for its survival.” By the 1990s, it seemed like it was too late. “The destruction accelerates.” “More than twice as fast as previously believed.” “Virtually impossible to control.” “Once it is gone, it is gone forever.” Then, something changed: “The annual destruction rate of the Amazon rainforest has dropped… …by 70%.” “The lowest rate of deforestation since records began.” “The Amazon could achieve the end of deforestation. A huge accomplishment.” But in order to keep it safe, there
was one condition: “Protecting the forest is a continual process.” “Brazil will need to stay vigilant.” But it didn’t. “The Amazon is burning.” “Consumed by fire.” “Fires have been raging.” “Thousands of fires are blazing…” “…as more and more trees are cut down.” “Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest hit its highest rate in a decade.” Today, the Amazon is being destroyed, all over again. The question is: Can it be saved this time? The first wave of deforestation started in
the 1970s. That’s when Brazil’s military regime saw
the potential for profit deep in the Amazon. There were almost 5 million square kilometers
of rainforest filled with natural resources. “Amazonia’s ores and minerals, food, fiber, and forest resources are vast.” But most of it was inaccessible. So the government started building the Trans-Amazonian Highway an ambitious project that would run for 3200 kilometers connecting remote
parts of the rainforest. At the time, most of Brazil’s population lived in the southeast; in cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. And the government wanted to move people out
here – to cultivate the land and grow the economy. So they offered free land along the highway
and paid Brazilians to settle deeper in the rainforest. And they sparked a land rush. As the road advanced, settlers followed, rapidly clearing the forest around it. Most of them turned the land into pasture,
where they raised cows to sell as beef. And when these ranchers needed more land,
they seized another plot, cleared it, and moved their cattle in. This expansion deeper into the Amazon drove up deforestation. Between 1978 and 1988, an average of over 20,000
square kilometers were cut down each year. Over time this area became known as the Arc
of Deforestation. And soon, a different product pushed this
even further. People around the world were eating more meat, decade after decade. That trend raised the need for more soybeans; which served as high-protein feed for farmed animals. This created a huge opportunity
for countries most suitable for growing soybeans, and Brazil cashed in. Soybean exports from Brazil shot up in the
mid ’90s, boosting the economy. By the early 2000s, farmers took over these
pastures and turned them into massive soy farms. Like this one, in Acre state. And the ranchers who sold their pastures,
moved their cattle further into the rainforest, clearing more of the Amazon, often illegally. This aggressive expansion created a profitable
pattern in the Amazon. But it came at the cost of the rainforest. By the early 2000s, Brazil’s beef and soy
industries were driving a booming economy, as well as unprecedented rates of deforestation… Which caused this arc to expand further north. The staggering deforestation in the Amazon
attracted fierce resistance from environmental groups. “An area of ancient forest, the size of a football field is destroyed every two seconds.” The Brazilian government, under president
Lula da Silva, finally stepped in. This is Marina Silva. She was Brazil’s Environment Minister in 2003,
when she helped craft a plan to stop deforestation. It started with the government expanding the amount of rainforest under protection. At the time, only about 28% was protected, and there was very little oversight. But this new plan added more reserves, where business activities were strictly banned, and also created more sustainable-use reserves,
where some businesses, like Brazillian nut harvesting and rubber-tapping, which didn’t destroy the rainforest, were allowed. More land was also demarcated for indigenous
people, who preserved the forest. Over time, hundreds of new protected lands
were added, transforming the Amazon into a shared and sustainable space. Eventually, almost half the Amazon would be
put under some form of protection, while the rest of it remained a mix of pasture,
farms and rainforest. To prevent further deforestation here, the government strengthened the Forest Code: which said landowners could
only clear 20% of their private land. This law was monitored by the Forest Service,
which was part of the Environmental Ministry, which had jurisdiction over all of these protected lands. And the key to enforcing this entire plan
was strengthening IBAMA: a police agency that would track and fine people for illegal deforestation. And the plan showed results: with deforestation rates falling by more than half in 2006. At the same time, an activist movement was
forcing the agricultural industry to make a change. Major food companies started feeling pressure
from consumers for participating in deforestation. So several got together, and in 2006, signed a Soy Moratorium: which meant they could continue to operate within existing farms, but they wouldn’t buy
soy from any newly deforested land in the Amazon. Three years later, beef companies signed a
similar agreement. Other countries also gave Brazil money to
help it protect the Amazon. Under all this protection, deforestation rates
plummeted to historic lows. And yet, Brazil’s soy and beef industries
continued to grow, thanks to more efficient techniques: Ranchers started growing crops on their existing
pastures. And farmers planted two crops a year on their
land instead of one. Brazil had found a way make to Amazon both
productive, and protected. But there were some who still wanted it to
be a more profitable place. The ruralistas, a group of conservative politicians who represent the interests of the agricultural industry, including farmers and ranchers, started gaining influence in Brazil. In the early 2000s they had about 17% of the
seats in congress. But by 2012 they had about 30%… Enough power to push President Dilma Rousseff
to weaken the Forest Code, which allowed landowners to get away with clearing more land. In 2016, they pushed President Michel Temer
to slash IBAMA’s budget. They also helped him pass a law that made
it easier for people who illegally seized land in the Amazon, to keep it. These changes emboldened some people to seize and clear the rainforest again. And that led to a rise in deforestation rates. In 2018, as the ruralistas controlled 44%
of Congress, Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing congressman and ally to the ruralistas, was elected president. On his second day in office, he transferred
the forest service, which monitors the forest code, to the agricultural ministry
– led by a ruralista. He’s also worked to systematically weaken
the Environmental Ministry. Under Bolsonaro, deforestation has increased
significantly in 2019, most of it taking place in these protected
areas. Setting fires is a common way to clear land… And in August 2019, over 30,000 fires were
burning in the Amazon: Three times as many as in August 2018. Many set illegally by ranchers, farmers, and
landowners, emboldened by the government’s new stance on the Amazon. But this time, the Amazon is unlikely to survive
another wave of deforestation. In the last 50 years, it’s estimated that about 17% of the Amazon has been deforested. A 2018 report estimated that, if it reaches
20-25%, the whole rainforest could start to collapse. It wouldn’t be enough to cycle all the
water it needs, causing trees to die. And that would release a huge amount of carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere, further warming the planet. But in Brazil, many politicians and agricultural
businesses continue to ignore the science for the sake of profit. Clearing the Amazon for short-term gains overlooks the fact that the planet as we know it wouldn’t exist without this rainforest. It’s why this place was saved
once before. Thanks for watching this special edition of Vox Atlas. This is one of three that we produced on the Amazon. And this one was about the drivers of deforestation and and some of the Brazilian politics surrounding the current crisis today. In the next one we’re going to take a step back in the history We’re going to meet a man named Chico Mendes who led the original fight to save the Amazon, back in the 1980s. His story is super interesting and very relevant to today. So make sure to come back and watch more Vox Atlas in the Amazon.


Thanks for watching Vox Atlas in the Amazon. This is episode 1 of a 3-part series all about the world's largest rainforest, why it's in jeopardy, and the people trying to save it. Make sure to come back tomorrow for Episode 2! -Sam

Recently in Brazil, a much worse environmental disaster has occurred, but the whole world is concerned about the Amazon, whose deforestation by burning this year was slightly above average. Deforestation in the Amazon needs to be combated, but not with sensationalism and ignorance!

As brazilian I must reckon that this is a problem. I must also say that it is kinda funny to see people from all over the world pointing their fingers to us as if they had not destroyed their own forests or nature. I don’t you come here and help? Send money to improve our efforts?

'It's okay to destroy the forest guy, god will take care of if'

Heaven helps thoes who helps themselves if you know destroying the forest is a bad thing but do it anyway don't expect god to save you from anything

As much we know about forest and its benefits, by inducing political & diplomatic pressure we can easily declare rain forest as world property ! don't know why they still aren't doing it. maybe because we peoples aren't united enough to force them to do this. i'm leaving this place anyway so not my problem but i'm still worried about future generation !

Only needs to take a look over Doha or Riyadh… Same length as Sao Paulo and Rio. What makes the massive difference – no way this is the rainforest next to it… 😀 😀


I think one important thing is to actually try make preserving the forest more economically viable then destroying it. This likely means a lot of subsidies and needs to be well regulated so it does not created unintended effects. Of course I do believe that the negative externalities offset any benefits these farmers and ranchers gain as a whole. But it externalities so they do not pay for it. They just benefit from the positive side. But if we can bring this burden over to ranchers and farmers as well as opening up new opportunities then maybe we can create a more sustainable way to stop this.

Of course a very ridged mindset that some of these farms and ranchers have it may be had to make them change there ways even if you offer them a better opportunity with the other hand. Simply because some people just hate to change. And that sadly sometimes requires a generational shift, which we do not really have the time of waiting for. And that also hoping that that generation has not inherited the same thinking as there older generation, which happens quite often to.

“Only when the last tree is cut down and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish been caught we will realise that we cannot eat money” – Cree Indian Proverb

Mariana da Silva? Meu bruxo, se tu deixar o país na mão da Marina da Silva tudo vai virar floresta e o país não desenvolve. Então faz o seguinte: abre as porta dos USA pra nós se mudar pra aí e vocês vem pra cá. Vamo ver daí… Falar é fácil meu irmão… Vem ver a miséria que aqui!

Man… Just the fact you have given room for Marina’s speech shows that you know nothing about what is going on here. If you so concern you should move here for a couple of years and see how things are actually going down here.

Funny how people living in city’s are complaining what you think was there before your city .. we can’t demonise the loggers it’s our demand

Obviously we know it's BEING burned and not just burning. But what I want to know is what's actually being done to stop the fires and what the containments are

Most of the fires caused by terrorists in Brazil territory. Bolivians in the regime of Evo Morales set their part of the amazon on fire to plant coke

Hi @Vox

I'm not surprised in seeing such a disaster. In Sardinia, during the XIX century, the Savoy Kindom cutted down 500.000 out of 600.000 hectars of forest, causing a drammatic climate changes in my land.

They don't say sorry, they did not replanted one single tree, Italians have forgotten that, and now we live in the hottest place in Europe, with arsons during during the summer every year, as a process to clean the land and be ready to use.

People in Brazil is doing the same, that farmer is not so different than Bolsonaro. They are humans, believe or not humans do what ever they want if they have the power, the opportunity, the interest. Is it a global problem? they don't care. Savoy did the same, we were a colony and they just cut that beautiful Sardinian environmental heritage to make the railways in the Northern Italy. We are suffering now, cyclically, drought periods, floods, with an intense hydrogeological instability.

No Gods will save the world. No nature. We can do it.

I`m brazilian. My government is useless and full of corruption. I think that if Brazil can`t handle it, countries TRULY concerned about amazon protection should take control.

I made discussion on this topic in a conference a few days ago on which the professor replied that these forest fires are intentionally broken out by the people and nothing can be done to prevent it.
By the way we have to face a serious problem of temperature rise this summer and this goes on and on and continues till the earth will become a fireball.
Can you think a life of 2080 when no one wants to go outside and no life is possible without AC in every corner.

Sou brasileiro e digo que a imprensa de esquerda está fazendo campanha contra o presidente Jair Bolsonaro. Índios fazem queimadas e agricultores também por razões culturais. Mais da metade da Amazônia é de propriedade do Brasil e alguns paises passam a imagem errada como se tivessem algum direito sobre a Amazônia. O Brasil eh o único país do mundo que tem 64% de sua área preservada e muitos outros países como a França tem 0.3% de sua área preservada. NENHUM país tem moral pra abrir a boca pra ensinar o Brasil como se preserva o meio ambiente, enquanto não reflorestarem seus países aos níveis do Brasil. Ninguém preserva tanto o meio ambiente como nós. Cada um que fala mal do Brasil, plantou quantas árvores nesse ano? É fácil viver num país que destruiu toda sua natureza e começar a criticar os que mais preservaram? Chega. Nenhum país tem direito de falar nada. 64% da Amazônia é de propriedade do Brasil para fazermos o que bem entender

I know I'm dreaming, but what about some sort of Global Vote on a liquid asset tax on everyone who is above a certain tax bracket(or judge it by how much food each family is able to consume) ? The tax would go directly toward protecting and growing the world's rain forests. Punishing people for not helping causes animosity, while a voluntary movement, no matter how small or large, would cause people to feel good about it.

😌🌎🌏😏maybe someday if we're not too late…
it would be a miracle if we could get the entire world's population to actually group together in some kind of altruistic movement.

Capitalism and religion, the super drug of destruction and havoc.
I hope the new generations keep these Boomers out soon and take back control

Destroying God's Creation is certainly not something that God would want us to do. We must understand now, how crucial it is that we protect these recourses that we have on Earth, before they are gone, and it's too late! Anyone that uses God as an excuse for evil is no Christian.

The fact that more CO2 can be put BACK into the atmosphere from being trapped in the Amazon…further warming the planet, is a scary fact.

The REAL question is not whether it can be “saved”. It’s the same type of question, a tool, pitting you against you, and leaving those to blame, unblemished.

The international community should pay the Brazilian government some sort of annual foreign aid package to preserve the rain forest since we all rely on it. And the aid should come with guarantees on conservation. And then if they violate that the we take the aid away. We buy their rubber, lumber, and beef. All the incentives are to tear down the amazon. Why not flip the incentives?

As a brazilian, I just want to thank Vox for this video. There isn't much information out there about the amazon, nor in portuguese and, specially, english which makes the process to raise awareness even harder.

Since the Amazon rainforest was once in danger, perhaps the oversight should be given to a consortium of countries, rather than just Brazil. The Amazon Rainforest is way too important to our planet to be subjected to ONE country’s political whims. This is especially true since the Brazilian government almost destroyed it roughly thirty years ago.

To any Hindu that has mastered the mysteries of Yoga and has gained powers beyond our understanding. I know I am asking much but please help the amazon use your powers to stop the blatant violation of Dharma that many Brazilian ranchers are committing right now and just do something about this stop the fires, revive dead trees and animals, anything!!!!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *