RIO DE JANEIRO–After three years of declining deforestation, the Amazon is being cut down more than twice as fast as it was last year, Brazilian officials reported today.
Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc said upcoming elections are partly to blame, with mayors in the Amazon region turning a blind eye to illegal logging in hopes of gaining local votes.
Non-governmental environmentalists blame the global spike in food prices for encouraging soy farmers and cattle ranchers to clear more land for crops and grazing.
Elections no doubt play a part, but “the tendency of deforestation rising is deeply related to the fact that food prices are going up,” said Paulo Adario, who coordinates Greenpeace’s Amazon campaign.
“When you have elections, the appetite of authorities to enforce laws is reduced,” Adario said. “But the federal government has to step in and do its job.”
According to a report from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, Amazon deforestation jumped 228 per cent in August when compared to the same month last year. Some 756 square kilometres of Amazon were destroyed last month, compared to 230 square kilometres in August 2007.
The institute, which uses satellite imagery to track illegal logging, said rainforest destruction is likely even worse than its figures show, since no information has been available for about 26 per cent of the Amazon which is covered by clouds.