A year after reporting the lowest rates of Amazon deforestation since monitoring began, Brazil has noted a big change this time around: a 28% surge in deforestation from August 2012 to this July. During that period, 2,255 square miles were destroyed, compared with 1,765 square miles during the same period a year before, the BBC reports. It's still the second-lowest figure since 1988, but after four years of decline, Brazil's environment minister has called it "unacceptable" and a "crime," and many are pointing a finger at the loosening of the country's forest protection laws.
After demands from farmers, Brazil changed those laws last year, reducing protected areas in farms and extending an amnesty to those who felled areas before 2008. "The change in the Forest Code and the resulting amnesty for those who illegally felled the forest sent the message that such crimes have no consequences," coordinator of Greenpeace's Amazon campaign told the AP. "The government can't be surprised by this increase in deforestation, given that their own action is what's pushing it." (Meanwhile, check out some staggering new maps that show deforestation around the world between 2000 and 2012 here.)