Fires Destroy Amazon Rain Forest, Blanketing Brazilian Cities In Smog (#GotBitcoin?)
Criticism of President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policies widens; darkness descends two hours early in São Paulo. Fires Destroy Amazon Rain Forest, Blanketing Brazilian Cities In Smog (#GotBitcoin?)
Leonardo DiCaprio’s new environmental foundation, Earth Alliance, has made an initial pledge of $5 million to help fight the rainforest. The Oscar-winner’s organization, which made the announcement over the weekend, addresses urgent threats against the planet.
Rainforest Charity Launches Crypto Appeal To Help Protect Amazon
A veteran non-profit is embracing the crypto community to fight forest fires in the Amazon.
The Rain Forest Foundation, founded in 1987, announced today a campaign to fight the Brazilian forest fires with the help of the crypto community. Although the foundation has accepted crypto for years—and even developed their own, BitSeed, in 2014–the Brazilian fires has given the Foundation a new impetus for embracing the crypto community.
Deforestation is up 278% from a year ago last July with the number of forest fires doubling between January and August 2018 to 2019, according to the Rain Forest Foundation. The organization is seeking up to $100 million to combat the fires, but did not set a specific funding goal for the crypto appeal.
Speaking with CoinDesk, executive director Suzanne Pelletier said old school philanthropy isn’t making the cut, necessitating new donation and community activity methods. The crypto community’s ability to think outside the box spurred the new campaign.
“[Crypto is] filled with people that are thinking differently and trying to change the rules of the game. It’s so slow and so bureaucratic to raise support from foundations. It’s going to be too late. We don’t have enough time,” Pelletier said.
As of now, the foundation accepts donations in bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, and bitcoin cash. It’s also working with bitcoin donation firm The Giving Block on the project. The foundation is looking for crypto communities to sponsor projects and raise awareness, in addition to donating crypto.
Working with the crypto community isn’t all about the funds but the tech, Pelletier said. Smart contract systems, currently being developed with the Regen Network, are one such way the foundation is tracking the foundation’s physical work in the jungle. Pelletier said peer-to-peer payments are another innovation the foundation is looking into to bypass traditional banking hurdles.
Vast fires, many of them set by loggers, are ravaging the Amazon at a rate not seen in years, sending plumes of smoke that darken skies over Brazilian cities at a time when there is international pushback against President Jair Bolsonaro ’s environmental policies.
Smoke from the Amazon, as well as blazes across Brazil’s western savanna, has spread over swaths of the country, with darkness descending on São Paulo by mid-afternoon Monday, two hours earlier than normal. Residents posted photos on social media of blackened rainwater collecting in their backyards. Researchers said the forest fires, some more than 2,000 miles away, were partly to blame.
Thick smog continued to hang over Amazonian cities Wednesday, with local hospitals reporting an increase in respiratory problems.
“It suddenly got dark, I had no idea what was happening,” said Jailma Maria da Silva, a 49-year-old manicurist in São Paulo, about the early nightfall, which was also prompted by the sudden arrival of a cold weather front. “It’s getting serious. We see what is going on, but it’s so far away. On Monday, we saw it up close.”
Data from Brazil’s space research agency released Wednesday add to growing evidence of surging deforestation in Brazil, an issue that is emerging as an obstacle to the region’s recent landmark trade deal with the European Union. Mr. Bolsonaro, who has jokingly nicknamed himself “Captain Chainsaw,” favors loosening environmental protections to spur economic activity and has clashed with European governments and environmentalists over their concerns about the destruction.
The number of forest fires in Brazil, mainly across the Amazon, has soared 84% this year compared with the same period last year, the highest since records began in 2013, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, known as Inpe. On Tuesday, Inpe registered a new fire roughly every minute across the country. Environmental experts blame the rise this year largely on illegal loggers who have been burning newly cleared land for cattle ranching and agricultural use. The clouds of smoke are so large that a NASA satellite captured them from space.
“Mr. Bolsonaro carries the responsibility for this on his shoulders,” said Ane Alencar, director of science at IPAM, a nongovernmental environmental research institute in the Amazon. Since taking office in January, Mr. Bolsonaro has reduced funding for Brazil’s environmental protection agency, Ibama, and other environmental institutions, as well as made it harder for Ibama to hand out fines. This has given illegal loggers more confidence to operate, she said.
Alberto Setzer, a researcher in forest fires for Inpe, estimated that 99% of the fires were a result of human activity.
Mr. Bolsonaro said Wednesday that foreign-backed nonprofit groups may have started some of the fires as a way to attack him personally, without elaborating. The president has argued that excessive environmental controls introduced under his left-wing predecessors are crippling the nation’s development, saying that Brazil has a sovereign right to make its own decisions about the Amazon.
The presidential palace declined to comment further on Inpe’s forest fire data.
Last month, Inpe released preliminary data based on satellite images showing that 370 square miles of Amazonian forest were lost in June, an 88% annual increase from the same month a year earlier. The agency said April-to-June deforestation was 24.8% higher than the same period last year.
Mr. Bolsonaro called the figures “a lie” but didn’t elaborate. The government removed the chief of Inpe, physicist Ricardo Galvão, from his post earlier this month.
Germany and Norway this month suspended more than $70 million in financial aid to Brazil’s Amazon fund, a government preservation organization for the rain forest that Mr. Bolsonaro has largely dismantled by closing down the steering committee that selects new projects to support.
“I would like to give a message to the beloved Angela Merkel, ” Mr. Bolsonaro told reporters last week. “Take your money and reforest Germany, OK?” Germany’s embassy in Brazil responded with a video featuring the European country’s lush forests, noting they now covered a third of Germany, more than in the past.
Brazil’s president also took to Twitter to accuse Norway of slaughtering whales, posting a picture of a whale hunt that local media identified as actually having taken place in the Danish Faroe Islands.
Mr. Bolsonaro, a right-wing former army captain who enjoys strong support among Brazil’s farmers, accused foreign powers of trying to wrest control of the Amazon from Brazil. About 60% of the Amazon is in Brazil.
He has hit back at the media for criticism of his environmental policies, recently blaming print newspapers for increasing deforestation, and telling a reporter in a news conference that he should defecate less if he wants to reduce pollution. Brazilian states in the Amazon region say they want to bypass the president and negotiate directly with European nations for funding of projects to help curb deforestation.
The wrangling over the Amazon, which contains about 10% of the world’s plant and animal species, comes at a delicate moment for Brazil, which along with fellow members in the Mercosur customs union will eventually have to ratify the landmark trade deal that was clinched in June with the EU. European leaders made the pact contingent on implementing the Paris agreement to curb climate change, which includes a commitment by Brazil to halt illegal deforestation in the Amazon.
European leaders initially gave Mr. Bolsonaro’s new government the benefit of the doubt, waiting to see if the president’s radical rhetoric on the environment would translate to higher rates of deforestation, said Oliver Stuenkel, professor of international relations at Brazil’s Getulio Vargas Foundation.
“But now there seems to be a growing consensus among Europe’s green parties and civil society in Germany that Bolsonaro’s environmental policies are for real, and that it’s necessary to put more pressure on the country,” Mr. Stuenkel said.
‘Fire Begets More Fires’: Rainforests Slip Into Cycle of Destruction
Research shows the very nature of rainforests is changing as a result of clearing.
As large tracts of Indonesia’s forest land go up in flames for the second time in five years, scientists are warning that the world’s rainforests risk becoming caught in a reinforcing cycle of destruction that could make them difficult to save.
Research in recent years has shown that the very nature of rainforests — from Southeast Asia to the Amazon — is changing as a result of extensive clearing for farms, pastureland and other use, making them much more vulnerable to further destruction.
“All the mechanisms essentially feed into a positive feedback loop,” said William Laurance, a research professor at James Cook University in Australia. “More fire begets more fires, more degradation begets more degradation.”
Deforested land dries out quickly in the sun and wind. Fires, both naturally occurring and man-made, can spread more easily from this degraded landscape into adjoining forest.
How Rainforests Collapse
Deforestation in tropical forests decreases rainfall, making the area drier and more vulnerable to fires.
There is another problem too. Clearing foliage reduces evapotranspiration, the process by which the forest releases water vapor into the atmosphere—which accounts for around a third of the rainfall in a rainforest like the Amazon, according to Dominick Spracklen, a professor at the University of Leeds who studies the link between rainforest and rainfall.
The reduction in water vapor decreases rainfall and extends dry seasons, making the forest more vulnerable to fire—and the fires more difficult to control. Last year, Thomas Lovejoy, a professor at George Mason University, and Carlos Nobre, a Brazilian scientist, wrote in an editorial in academic journal Science Advances that parts of the Amazon system could hit a tipping point and “flip to non-forest ecosystems” when deforestation reaches around 20% to 25%, given the added challenge of climate change.
Around 17% of the Amazon rainforest has been lost over the past half-century, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
Indonesia’s rainforests, which are smaller than the Amazon, are already greatly diminished. Industrial agricultural expanded aggressively over the past few decades, making the country the world’s largest producer of palm oil. There is evidence that rainforest destruction have already changed weather patterns extensively.
Researchers found that by 2010, 70% of forest area on the Indonesian island of Sumatra has been converted for plantations and other purposes. Temperatures in the island’s Jambi province were nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher in 2015 than 2000, a study found—an increase researchers linked to heavy deforestation there. Forest fires were once rare in heavily forested parts of the island, such as Riau, near Singapore, but in recent years have occurred almost annually, say scientists.
On the nearby island of Borneo, mainly controlled by Indonesia and Malaysia, forestland declined by 30% in less than four decades leading up to 2010, making parts of the island hotter and more susceptible to fires. A recent study found that rainfall there had decreased by around 20% since the 1950s, and that deforested areas in the lowlands were around 3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than forested areas.
Scientists say climatic changes like these could have contributed to this year’s fires. A preliminary analysis by David Gaveau, a scientist who is an associate at Indonesia’s Center for International Forestry Research, found that many were started on degraded former forest land, now covered by fern and scrub, and spread from those dry areas into the rainforest.
“These fires today are legacy of past peat swamp forest destruction,” said Mr. Gaveau. “In a sense, you could say that tipping point has been reached.”
Concerns about Southeast Asia’s forests have spurred global campaigns against palm oil, found in products from soap and candy to biofuels and mainly produced in Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia. A European Union regulation published this year will phase out subsidies to palm-oil-derived fuels that aren’t certified as sustainable, beginning in 2024.
The governments of Indonesia and Malaysia have spoken out against the regulation, with Malaysia saying it will effectively ban palm-oil biofuel in the EU.
Jakarta says it is taking steps to improve forest conditions. In 2016 the government launched programs to restore peat swamp forests, which are naturally occurring waterlogged forests with spongy peat soil.
But that is a long, complex and costly process. The swamp forests of Borneo are crisscrossed by drainage canals to make it easier to burn and clear for agriculture. To restore their swampy nature requires backfilling the canals with compacted peat soil.
Nazir Foead, the head of Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency, said he was summoned to a meeting in August by the country’s president, Joko Widodo. The leader said local officials who failed to stop fires would be replaced.
Mr. Foead said Mr. Joko’s concerns were justified, but that during dry seasons as intense as the current one, it was a huge task to prevent fires from sparking and spreading.
“We fully realize that the weather can get more and more extreme and that the forest could be more and more vulnerable to fires,” he said.
The picture for the Amazon and the Congo Basin rainforests could be yet more dire. Indonesia’s rainforests are on islands and closer to the ocean than their counterparts in South America and Africa, which means they are less reliant on rainfall from evaporated forest moisture.
“You can say it’s the canary in the coal mine,” said Douglas Sheil, a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. “If this is happening in Borneo, that’s scary.”
The Brazilian government seems to underestimate the impact of its environmental policies on the viability of the trade deal, Mr. Stuenkel added, since the increased deforestation has given fresh ammunition to groups in Europe that oppose the pact. Fires Destroy Amazon Rain, Fires Destroy Amazon Rain,Fires Destroy Amazon Rain,Fires Destroy Amazon Rain,Fires Destroy Amazon Rain,Fires Destroy Amazon Rain,Fires Destroy Amazon Rain,Fires Destroy Amazon Rain,