The Amazon rainforest has been under threat for decades now—losing close to 20 percent in the past 40 years. Deforestation for the sake of so-called development in the Brazilian part of the Amazon has been rampant again since 2012, as a Yale article pointed out, with a sharp increase of 29 percent last year.
But finally, the region might be catching a much-needed break. Brazil's Ministry of the Environment has promised to restore almost 30,000 hectares—or 73 million trees—of the rainforest by 2023 in an $8 million joint initiative with international agencies like the World Bank and Conservation International.
"The Amazon plays a critical role in global climate regulation as well as in the region's environmental and economic prosperity, and is the larger biodiversity repository on the planet," said Naoko Ishii, the CEO of the Global Environment Facility, one of the initiative partners, in a statement.
It's true that what happens with the Amazon will play a large part in determining the environmental health of the entire region, not just the rainforest. The rainforest soaks up 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. And the water released into the atmosphere through the plants in the rainforest, as well into the rivers and eventually oceans, is crucial to regulating the weather patterns, like seasonal rain. Scientists have said deforestation practices, like logging and burning, could worsen droughts in nearby cities like Sao Paolo.
There is also the economic cost of a poor ecosystem. While much of the deforestation has been done in the name of building and expanding, the short-lived economic boom from this development is often followed by economic depression. Farming becomes more difficult because of poor soil quality, and local communities lose their land and livelihoods.
It's hard to say if the Brazilian government's project will be carried out as planned, given that it would take not only the financial resources, but a long-term commitment. International aid groups and lenders like the World Bank are notorious for good intentions and poor implementation. And Brazil's latest administration has given more leeway to miners and loggers to chip away at protected swaths of rainforest.
But here's hoping that the initiative will be able to put the threat of climate change, and its impact on our lives and ecosystem, ahead of short-term gains.
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