Amazon Deforestation Intensifies in the Wake of COVID-19

Think last year’s fire season was bad? Rainforest satellite data suggests this year’s is already looking like it’s going to be much, much worse.

As many of us wait patiently indoors as a global pandemic continues to spread across the human population, you’d think some of our worst environmental destruction would be put on pause. Not in the Amazon, reports Mongabay, which released a report this week suggesting that threats to the Brazilian rainforest are going virtually unchecked as land grabbers and others rush to clear the forgotten land.

According to recent data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Brazil’s satellite surveillance system for the forest, 796 square kilometers of forest were cut down during the first three months of this year—a 51% increase from same time period last year. Local reporters say recent firings at Brazil’s environmental agency, continued pressure to keep the economy going by President Jair Bolsonaro, and a nationwide loosening of regulations for wood exports are also contributing to the potential crisis.

Aside from man-made forest loss, scientists on the ground say the Amazon has also experienced one of its driest rainy seasons in recent years. Soil is drier, temperatures are higher, creating ideal conditions for illegal fires to spread. If last year is any indication of how the rainforest might burn, it’s looking like we’re about to head into an even worse year for one of the world’s biggest CO2 capturing machines.

Interested in learning more about how the rainforest is faring, and how we can bring it back? Keep an eye out next week for the Dirt Issue, which *spoiler alert* has an entire long-form feature on the topic. Until then…

Read more on Mongabay.