The Economist: Less smoke, less ire
Brazil, long the world’s deforester-in-chief, is mending its ways.
THE Amazon’s dry season, from July to September, is when the grileiros cut and burn the rainforest. The smoke is so thick it can be seen from space. It also stops rainclouds forming, so the flames burn higher. But on a recent surveillance flight over the forest frontier in Brazil’s state of Pará, there was hardly a wisp of smoke in the sky. Even the people from Greenpeace, whose flight this was, were impressed.
They can take some credit, thanks to their Amazon beef campaign. But even before that Brazil’s deforestation rate had slumped. Between 1996 and 2005 some 19,500 sq km of the Brazilian Amazon were cleared each year. At that rate, a third would be gone by 2050 and the rest might wither. But the rate of clearance has been reduced drastically and in 2008-09 it was at its lowest level for two decades, at a mere 7,008 sq km. This is partly because of tumbling prices for agricultural commodities, the reason for previous downward blips in 2006 and 2008. But it is also because of government action. When soya and beef prices briefly began to climb at the end of 2007 there was a renewed spurt of hacking and burning. But it was swiftly quashed.What has changed? ...