Half of Amazon Could Be Gone in 20 Years

Lust for beef, ethanol drives deforestation; nations must act now
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2008 6:58 PM CDT
A burned area of the Amazon rain forest is seen in Para, Brazil.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – An "unprecedented" combination of ills is threatening the Amazon, and if nothing is done to ease the pressure on the world’s largest rainforest, more than half of it could be gone or withered in 20 years, Rhett Butler writes for Yale Environment 360. After a three-year decline, forest clearing doubled in the latter part of 2007 to help feed the insatiable demand of the growing economies in China, India, Russia, and elsewhere.

Though climate change is playing a role, much of the deforestation is done directly by man, for reasons as diverse as logging, cattle farming, and industrial agriculture. In particular, the recent rise in US corn planting for ethanol has led to a corresponding spike in Brazilian soy production, to supply the world’s need. All is not lost: if major powers band together, Butler thinks deforestation can be under control in 10 years.