The Other Amazon Just Set a New Deforestation Record

Amazon deforestation in the first half of 2022 was 80% greater than in the first half of 2018.

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A burned section in the Amazon rainforest, in the municipality of Novo Progresso, in 2020.
A burned section in the Amazon rainforest, in the municipality of Novo Progresso, in 2020.
Photo: Fernando Souza / AGIF (AP)

The Amazon rainforest has reached a new record for deforestation for the first half of this year.

Satellite imagery of the rainforest taken from January to June show how 4,000 square kilometers (1,500 square miles) of forest was destroyed in the last six months, the Associated Press reports. This has been the fastest rate of deforestation to occur in half a year since recording of this began about seven years ago. This is an area about five times the size of NYC and is the largest loss of forest since 2016, according to YaleEnvironment360. The deforested area recorded for the first half of 2022 was about 80% larger than the destruction reported for the first half of 2018, according to an analysis from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM).

Two of the major causes of the Amazon’s destruction are logging and forest fires. June was an especially bad month for the forest because of the unusually high rate of firesmost of the fires peak later in the year, around August and September. Advocates say that elected officials are not doing their part to actively protect the rainforest from logging and burning.

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“Those who control the Amazon don’t want it preserved,” Ane Alencar, IPAM’s science director, told the AP. “The standing forest has no value in today’s Amazon.”

Dictatorship-celebrating Brazilian President Jair Boslonaro’s time in office has been especially disastrous for the rainforest. Under his tenure, millions of acres of the rainforest have been illegally cleared for cattle and crops, which are the top export products for the country. Indigenous communities and their allies have been displaced from the area and murdered to free up land for agricultural production. This has become such a problem during the Bolsonaro presidency that, in 2021, the Brazilian Senate committee created a draft accusing Bolsonaro of crimes against humanity.

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The Amazon rainforest is not only home to many Indigenous communities; it’s also full of complex ecosystems of endangered species. Because so much of the forest has been burned and logged, it may have transitioned from being a carbon-sequestering forest into a carbon emitter.