Last month, the Brazilian government released its annual figures for deforestation in the Amazon. Interestingly, this one number, despite being a good new, generated a great number of negative headlines around the world. The likes of “Huge increase in Amazon deforestation rate” in the Telegraph, or “Amazon destruction on the rise again” in the Greenpeace, and “Amazon deforestation up by one-third” on a countless eco blogs spreaded around the web. None of them seems to take into account the whole historical series, and on doing that, they induce the reader to misinterpret the data as a calamitous number.
Let me make it clear.
The chart below shows the numbers since 1988, when mensurations began. You can see the ugly data from a decade ago and beyond, when no one was watching. Then, since 2004, after a series of government measures, rates have fallen drastically. The 2013 figure, 5.843km² is the second smallest deforested area ever in absolute terms. A 78% fall from the peak and just 2% points from the country’s commitment to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80% up to 2020.
Amazon deforestation rates since 1988 in square kilometers
A broader look and there is no huge increase or spike in 2013. The actual number indicates the estabilization of a long-term objective and it is where the rate will fluctuate for years to come. Brazil has now the most rigorous environmental legislation in the world. It requires that farms in the Amazon biome must preserve 80% of their arable land. The 20% left, is where deforestation happened this year, and where it will occur on the next. And because private properties comprehend a minority 24% of the Amazon territory, it means only 4,8% are legally suitable for agricultural use. An outrageous number in a world where we desperate need more food.
Anyway, outrageous or not, we can discuss that later. At this moment, what we can say about it, is that is already a great achievement. One that has not yet ceased as international NGOs, the environmental lobby and poor journalism, forces to highlight. What is even more intriguing though, it is that such requirements on private lands do not exist in any other country in the world. Argentina, Europe, Canada, and the United States, have already cleared most of their arable land. Yet, brazilian farmers and ranchers have been sold by environmentalists to the world public as villains of the environment.
Around here…We know we are doing our part. Better than your country, better than anyone else.