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Amazon Deforestation

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    Deforestation, the destruction of natural rain forests, has been a major problem in the world today; caused primarily by human activities for development and population expansion. One of the main forests that have been affected is the Amazon Rainforest in South America. The main causes of deforestation in the Amazon are cattle ranching, subsistence and commercial agriculture, infrastructure, illegal and legal logging, and other minor factors such as fires, road construction, mining, and dams.

    Deforestation plays a negative toll on the world by killing millions of animals, plants, and insects each day and releasing greenhouse gases. Rainforests cover thirty percent of the world and each year 78,000 square miles are cleared for specific purposes. The Amazon Rainforest, in particular, has lost twenty percent of its forest. It is the world’s largest tropical rainforest. Another name for the Amazon is “Lungs of Our Planet” due to the fact that it produces twenty percent of our Earth’s oxygen.

    It also offers the world’s highest level of biodiversity, meaning that it has the largest variety of living and non-living organisms. The Amazon rainforest covers nine countries in South America including Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Today, the Amazon is being widely affected by deforestation and will never be able to retain its lost forests. Some of the main reasons of Amazonian deforestation are cattle ranching, subsistence and commercial agriculture, illegal and legal logging, and other minor factors such as fires, road construction, mining, and dams.

    Cattle ranching, a more extensive way of raising cattle, happens to be the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon. Due to the fact that cattle ranching requires thousands of acres of land, it heavily impacts the Amazon rainforest. Cattle expansion has nearly doubled since 1990. It went from 26 million in 1990 to 57 million in 2002. In the early 1980s, environmentalist, Norman Myers devised the saying “the hamburger connection” which described how the rapid growth of beef exports from Central America to fast food chains in the United States was driving deforestation.

    At the time “the hamburger connection” did not apply to Brazil or the Amazon, but now Brazil produces meat for the national market and 80 percent of all the growth for that production occurs in the Amazon forest. The Brazilian Amazon has more than 214,000 square miles of forestland that was cleared for an open space. Today, Brazil is the largest producer and exporter of beef, so they clear their forest for economic purposes and tend not to look at the harm that it is doing to the Earth.

    According to Brazilian ranchers it is an incentive to expand their cattle pasture at the expense of the Amazon due to the fact that the cost of Brazilian meat has nearly doubled since the 80s. Clearly, cattle ranching has been a big problem in the deforestation of the Amazon as an economic purpose, but the Brazilian ranchers have not thought so far ahead of the damage that it is doing to the Earth. Subsistence farming, farming that supplies the basic needs for the farmer, contributes a significant amount to Amazonian deforestation.

    Poor farmers are encouraged to settle on forestlands by government land policies, and their activities play a large role in the destruction of the Amazon. They tend to clear the forestland with fires. They clean the groundcover, cut the trees, let the land dry for a few months, and then burn it. They plant crops on the land, such as bananas, palms, manioc, maize, or rice, and after a few years, the soil declines and they are forced to go deeper into the forest and burn more forestland for more short-term agriculture.

    Between 1995 and 1998, the Brazilian government granted land to 150,000 families, and within that three-year time span all these families burned a large portion of the Amazonian lands. Each and every year satellite images pick up tens of thousands of fires burning across the Amazon, which clearly shows that these subsistence farmers are contributing to deforestation by burning the lands. Commercial agriculture, the intended production of crops for sale, also plays a great role in deforestation. Soybeans happen to flourish in rainforest climates, and Brazil is the United States’ leading exporter in soybeans.

    High soybean prices motivate farmers to expand soybean cultivation instead of cutting it down. Phillip Fearnside, member of Brazil’s National Institute for Amazonian Research, states, “Soybean farms cause some forest clearing directly. But they have a much greater impact on deforestation by consuming cleared land, savanna, and transitional forests, thereby pushing ranchers and slash-and-burn farmers ever deeper into the forest frontier. Soybean farming also provides a key economic and political impetus for new highways and infrastructure projects, which accelerate deforestation by other actors”.

    Soybeans are another example of how Brazil uses the Amazon for its economic purposes, but does not think about how deforestation affects the world. Infrastructure has greatly impacted deforestation in the Amazon, road construction, in particular. Roads in the Amazon open forestlands to logging and mining sites and also to exploitation by farmers. For instance, Brazil’s Trans-Amazonian Highway was supposed to better the economy, but instead make it worse and also destroyed the Amazon. The Amazon Basin flooded the highway during times of heavy rain, and left sediments on the road. This blocked traffic and caused crops to rot.

    After its construction, Amazonian deforestation accelerated and vast amounts of forest were cleared for subsistence farming and cattle-ranching schemes. Road construction is another economic factor to Brazil, but this time it backfired on them. Not only did it cause millions of people to go into debt, but it also caused higher levels of deforestation to occur. Logging, the activity of cutting trees and preparing the timber, contributes a moderate amount to deforestation. There are restrictions against logging in certain area; however illegal logging is quite widespread in Brazil.

    Studies show that logging is closely liked to road construction due to the fact that roads give access to forestlands that have not been touched yet. Despite the fact that these trees have been cut illegally, they are still bought and help the economy. This is another example of how Brazil does not think about the global effect that Amazon has. Minor factors such as hydroelectric projects, mining, and dams also contribute to deforestation. For instance, the Balbina dam flooded 2,400 square kilometers of rainforest by the time it was completed.

    Also, a mining project in the 1980s contributed to deforestation when gold was discovered, over 100,00 miners flooded the area looking for gold. Although not major factors, they contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon. Deforestation is not only bad for the health of the rainforest, but its also detrimental to the health of the world. Deforestation disrupts the water cycle in the area. Fewer plants are available to vent water, and therefore it reduces clouds and rainfall. Deforestation also contributes to long-term carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which causes global warming.

    As trees and plants are destroyed, they release carbon dioxide, and if there are not any trees or plants to absorb the gases, they are released into the atmosphere, increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. To conclude, the world’s largest tropical rainforest, The Amazon, has suffered a vast amount of deforestation. Factors such as cattle ranching, subsistence and commercial agriculture, infrastructure, logging, and other minor factors contribute to deforestation in the Amazon. Brazil tends to think about their economy before the damage that is being done to the earth. Deforestation contributes to global warming, which is happening at an accelerated rate.

    Works Cited

    “Amazon Rainforest. ” Blueplanetboimes. org. N. p. , 2003. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. Butler, Rhett A. “Deforestation in the Amazon. ” Mongabay. com. N. p. , 20 May 2012. Web. 22 Nov. 2012. David, Kaimowitz, Benoit Mertens, Sven Wunder, and Pablo Pacheco. “Hamburger Connection Fuels Amazon Destruction. ” Cifor. org. Cifor, 1993. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. “Why Is Deforestation Bad for the Earth. “Curiosity. discovery. com. Discovery, 2011. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

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