On Friday, a Greenpeace team broadcast a live webcast from the heart of the Amazon rainforest, in an area which was still-smouldering after a recent forest fire. Even rainforests have dry seasons and during the current one, fires both natural and man-made are devastating huge areas.
It was an amazing technical achievement but that wasn't the reason they did it - they were there to show how the forest is being cleared for a variety of reasons (in this case, to open up areas for cattle).
The video below is in Portuguese but the images speak for themselves. For more details though, there's a rough translation below.
We are here in the municipality of Nova Bandeirantes, in the north of the state of Mato Grosso, where a Greenpeace team has come to transmit live, for the first time, images of the destruction of the world's largest tropical rainforest. These images you are seeing now are of a region that used to be forest and that was burned during this year's dry season.
Amazon forests fires are responsible for 75 per cent of the greenhouse gases emissions that Brazil emits every year into the atmosphere, making it the fourth largest climate polluter in the world.
The deforestation we are documenting today is forest conversion for pasture. The Amazon has already lost 17 per cent of its original forest cover, the equivalent to approximately 700,000 square kilometers, or 16 times the size of the state of Rio de Janeiro. Some 70 per cent of this destruction is currently occupied by pasture. Only last month, in June 2008, an area equivalent to approximately 1.5 football field were destroyed every minute.
The Amazon is very important to keep the climate in balance - in Brazil and globally. A great part of the rain that falls in cities like Sao Paulo and other regions of Brazil are formed in this region. The water supply in big cities and also for hydroelectric dams, which generates a big part of the power that feeds our country, comes from the rains formed in the Amazon. Also, Brazilian agriculture, which represented last year almost half of the national GDP, depends on the rains of the Amazon.
Behind the area you can see now is an area of forest which wasn't burned. Sadly, what we see is that every year areas of forest like these are being lost to give way to pasture. Forests fires don't happen only in this region: they also occur inside protected areas. Two days ago, a Greenpeace team went to a protected area at the margins of the BR-163 highway in the National Forest of Jamanxim in the state of Pará, and what we witnessed there is the same destruction scene that we are documenting here.
Protected areas should be places where demarcation ensures that the use of the natural resources in those areas is done in a responsible manner, with minimum impacts on the Amazon forest. Sadly, we documented intense illegal logging activities, the expansion of farms and the lack of governance inside these areas. In the municipalities of Novo Progresso and Castelo dos Sonhos, offices of IBAMA (the Brazilian Environmental Agency), opened under the Action Plan of the Brazilian Government to curb deforestation, were closed due to lack of infrastructure. When in operation, they also had the support of the Brazilian army.
Ending deforestation in the Amazon is the main contribution Brazil can give to fight global climate change and it is possible. Brazil can develop itself, Brazil can grow and expand its agriculture and, at the same time, end deforestation. It is necessary that Brazil adopt effective measures, invest in sustainable forest programmes and end the deforestation that does not make sense for Brazil and for the world.