Deforestation fires are surging in the Amazon, eliminating more square kilometers of rainforest this year than they have since 2009. In the Brazilian Amazon, fires are a common means of clearing the land — land that is worth five times more without the forest than with the forest — for cattle and soy fields. Brazil is the world’s leading exporter of beef and soy, but there’s also a high demand for these goods domestically.
There are preservation laws still on the books in Brazil, but Bolsonaro’s cut funding for their enforcement. Spending on forest inspection in 2020 is less than a third of what it was in 2019. Part of the Amazon can be reforested but time is critical: scientists estimate that once more than 20% of the rainforest is gone, recovery won’t be possible and the Amazon will go into a process of savanization.
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