• Brittany Evans

Deforestation In The Amazon


Deforestation is a phenomenon that is occurring on a global scale. One of the most notable cases of deforestation is in the Amazon Rainforest. The Amazon Rainforest is a 25 million-mile expanse of various ecosystems that play a large role in the global climate. The trees in the Amazon rainforest contain 90-140 billion metric tons of carbon, if even a portion of which was released would accelerate global warming significantly. When trees are cut down they begin to release CO2 into the atmosphere, and when they are burned the CO2 is immediately released. There are many causes of deforestation such as road or highway building, farmland, or urbanization. Deforestation also has several harmful environmental effects on the planet including climate change and habitat loss. Deforestation directly affects and reduces the forest natural resources and ecosystem services. Cutting down rainforests can damage habitat, diminish levels of biodiversity and food sources, degrade the soil, pollute rivers and lands, and cause areas to dry out affecting the overall productivity of the peoples and animals that live there.


Rainforests like the Amazon Rainforest can produce their own rainfall as weather patterns move from East to West. On a normal day, the Amazon releases 20 billion tons of moisture into the atmosphere seeding the clouds with rain. Deforestation is causing the forest to dry out and is increasing instances of drought and wildfires. The fires are destroying the homes of indigenous tribes, threatening millions of animals, and even darkening the skies over major cities. The Amazon rainforest is critical for global carbon storage. Its loss to fires diminishes that storage and adds carbon to the atmosphere. Continued fires could lead to significant landscape changes, turning rainforests into grasslands or savannas, with ripple effects into other parts of the planet.


Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing around the world. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that both absorbs and radiates heat into the atmosphere. Without greenhouse gases to heat the earth's atmosphere, the earth would stay at a temperature below freezing. The problem is that currently the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has gone out of balance trapping extra heat inside the earth's atmosphere raising the temperature. Additionally, carbon dioxide keeps the ocean's pH level at a sustainable level for sea life. With the current level of carbon dioxide rising every year, the pH level of the ocean is dropping creating a more acidic environment for all sea life. As the Amazon rainforest continues to be cleared and burned for grazing lands, highways, and other needs, more and more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.


In recent years, the Amazon has seen a sharp increase in slash and burn operations. In 2019 alone the Amazon fires released the equivalent of 228 megatons of carbon dioxide, driving climate change. They also released carbon monoxide and dangerous particulate matter, both of which have significant implications for human health. Smoke covers the sky for weeks during the dry fire season in Brazil. Indigenous people in Brazil are especially vulnerable to the health impacts of smoke due to a high prevalence of preventable respiratory diseases. In the long term, exposure to air pollution has also been linked to chronic disease and premature death. President Bolsonaro, Brazil's current head of state, has made it significantly easier for lawless criminals to destroy the Amazon. Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has aggressively weakened the country’s environmental enforcement agency, minimized consequences for those caught illegally logging, and weakened restrictions on protected areas of the forest. These actions by the current President have caused a sudden U-Turn in the integrity of the Amazon Rainforest. Without drastic action from the Brazilian government, we could see a drastic environmental change soon.


 

Speaking Plainly:

  • The Amazon Rainforest was once a protected carbon sink protecting the environment from climate change.

  • Deforestation is occurring in the Amazon Rainforest at rising rates. Under Brazil's current President, illegal logging companies have been able to expand their presence in the Amazon. This has caused a major spike in deforestation in recent years.

  • The slash and burn technique of illegal logging creates an unhealthy environment for indigenous locals. Many indigenous locals have developed chronic respiratory diseases and even died.