Deforestation in Brazil

Deforestation in Brazil has slowed a bit in the last few years, but the devastation that is currently taking place within the rainforest still threatens the well being of the native people, animals, and plant life living in the rainforest.

Deforestation also affects the whole economy of Brazil. Ironically, when areas of the rainforest are destroyed, it is typically so that the economy can grow stronger in some way, to make room for new businesses, ranches, or commercial ventures.

Only in recent years are people coming to understand the major global impact of destroying large areas of the world's forests, which house a huge number of precious species of animal and plant life.

There are so many medicinal herbs and plants in the rainforest that can be used to treat all manner of illness and disease, and that also have many other practical uses as foods and other items.

Gifts from the Rainforest

There are so many sustainable ways to benefit from the treasures of the Amazon without contributing to deforestation in Brazil.

Some of my favorite foods that are originally from the rainforest include:

  • Brazil nuts - yum!
  • Bananas
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Avocadoes
  • Yerba Mate tea - my favorite, it is energizing without giving you a caffeine buzz
  • Guaraná - don't drink too much of this or you might feel wired!
  • Açai - a healthy fruit that many Brazilians love

In some parts of the Amazon in Brazil, lemons and green peppers grow abundantly, providing health vitamin C in the local diet that what would otherwise be lacking in fruits and vegetables.

When I was visiting there, we ate mostly rice and beans and bananas. I really appreciated the lemons, also called limao which were small, round and with orange colored rinds.

There are also many other treasures from the rainforest that contribute to a healthy and sustainable econonmy.

For example, kapok is a fluffly white fiber that grows from the rainforest kapok tree nut, and can be used to create healthy, hypoallergenic pillows, matresses, upholstery and insulation. Natural rubber which is called Seringueira in Brazil, is used for many commercial purposes and is not being used for healthy latex mattresses.

Patauá palm provides a healthy, protein rich fruit, a delicious oil similar to olive oil, and fibers for weaving and for created thatched roofs in local buildings.

The Babassu palm provides a number of different resources to people in the amazon rainforest such as fruit, oil, flour and fibers for weaving.

Babassu trees are slow growing and they have the potential to help restore degrated rainforest lands, thus contributing to a sustainable and healthy rainforest.

Other products that are grown and harvested in the rainforest include luxurious nut butters that are used for cosmetic purposes such as:

  • Murumuru butter
  • Illipe Butter
  • Cocoa butter

As you can see, there are so many opportunities to find other ways to prosper economically without creating more deforestation in Brazil.

History of Deforestation in Brazil

1960s - The devastation of the natural habitat of the rainforest in Brazil began a little over 40 years ago. At that time, during the 1960s, ranchers were trying to make a go of it by clearing rainforest acreage to support cattle.

They raised the cattle and then sold it to make a profit. Also during that time, colonists were entering the rainforest with hopes of making a living with crop farming.

The colonists used the slash and burn method to clear the land and planted crops.

The government of Brazil actually helped the process of deforestation by passing a policy that stated if a person lives on and works a piece of land for a minimum of 366 days, he owns it after 5 years. Thousands of acres were given away to peasant farmers who continually cleared the land to plant crops.

Unfortunately, agriculture is not the most successful venture in the Amazon rainforest because the land will only support and encourage growth for a short time.

The farmers were forced to slash and burn more and more acreage just to have a place to plant their crops. The result of this was the elimination of many acres of rainforest and the destruction of all animal and plant life in these areas, further contributing to the deforestation in Brazil.

1970s - Construction began on the Trans-Amazon Highway, which was intended to connect several areas in Brazil and make getting from one location to another a lot easier.

The funds ran out before it was completed, so part of the highway is simply dirt which turns into a mud pit during the rainy season, ironically making travel more difficult, not easier.

Acres of rainforest were torn down so the road could go through resulting in more deforestation in Brazil.

In conjunction with the highway construction, timber and mining companies were entering the country to find ways of extracting Brazil's natural resources for profit.

Roads are one of the most destructive things to happen to the rainforest and these companies needed a lot of them to move in large equipment and personnel to do their jobs.

1980s - Brazil was in debt to other countries and needed a way to pay off that debt, so they allowed timber companies to come into the country and take timber from the rainforest.

The amount of timber and deforestation taking place during the decade between 1980 and 1990 was unbelievable. Rainforest acreage equal to the acreage found in Wales, Scotland, and England was removed each year!

Up to Current Day - within recent times, Brazil has become one of the largest contributors to the world in the way of soybean supply. The newest soybean to hit the market can flourish in the rainforest!

It is a new variety cleverly developed by scientists in Brazil who are always looking for new ways to boost the economy and take advantage of the opportunities around the country.

Brazil stands to become possibly the world leader in soybean export, but that also depends on how much of the rainforest will have to remain intact in order for these soybeans to grow.

The Irony of Developing the Resources of the Rainforest

It was mentioned previously that the deforestation in Brazil is rather an ironic situation. Why is that true? Take the soybean exporting for example.

The soybeans can thrive in a rainforest environment, so they must be grown in that environment. But, to plant the soybeans, the land must be cleared and cultivated and roads must be forged so that trucks and farming equipment can reach the fields for harvesting.

On one hand, the soybeans provide income for the country of Brazil, but on the other hand, the rainforest has to be destroyed in order to do that. Do you see the quandary?

It's the same for the other commercial ventures like mining, logging, and farming. It takes the deforestation of the rainforest in order to make money for the country.

Who Else is Affected by the Deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest?

The effects of the deforestation in Brazil reach beyond the country's economy. The effect on the animal and plant life in the rainforest is inescapable unless the devastation is stopped completely. Did you know the rainforest is home to tropical animals and plants that don't live anywhere else on the planet?

Nearly half of the country of Brazil is covered in rainforest, so you can imagine how detrimental the clearing and deforestation of the rainforest is to not only the people living in the rainforest, but to the plant life and animals who call the rainforest home as well.

According to an article published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, the clearing of the forest may be a factor directly affecting the increased number of malaria cases seen in Brazil in 2006.

For whatever reason, one particular species of mosquito frequently carries malaria and that species isn't found deep in the lush jungle of the rainforest, but rather in the cleared areas of the forest.

It's both interesting and scary to think that by taking away the natural habitat of the rainforest, human health could adversely be affected.

What Does the Future Hold for Brazil's Amazon Rainforest?

Deforestation in Brazil of the Amazon rainforest accounts for nearly 20% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. Brazil has taken steps in the last year or two to reduce that number and to have a positive impact on the environment.

Their efforts seem to be taking an effect! Again however, can that remain true for the years to come? Brazil still needs to boost the economy and keep the country moving forward...but is the only way to do that to devastate and destroy the rainforest in the name of progress?

That will be the quandary that Brazil's government will continually revisit until a better way of furthering the economy of the country while somehow preserving the integrity of the rainforest is discovered.

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