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Birds-eye view: How deforestation takes over in Brazil

An animation showing deforestation in the Amazon
A time-lapse satellite view of deforestation in Brazil from 1984 to 2016. Images via EarthTime.

As seen in the graphic above, based on EarthTime's deforestation data and story, Brazil's Rondônia state changed drastically over a 30-year period. It started as pristine forest in 1984, then came a single road the following year that exploded into a town of 20,000 people with tens of thousands of square kilometers of forest cut for crops and cattle.

Why this matters: Deforestation can create areas of extreme heat, make forests vulnerable to mega-fires, and lead to the loss of habitat for millions of species. Forests lock in carbon — and about 12% of man-made climate emissions today are linked to deforestation.

What's happening now: Brazil, which made great strides to combat illegal deforestation years ago, appears to have started slipping into cutting down more trees due to political and agriculture lobbying pressures, per the Financial Times.

  • For example, there was a surge in deforestation of 184 square km of Brazil's Amazon forest in December 2017 — 20 times more than the same month in the prior year, according to conservationist news service Mongabay.

Bright spot: Globally, forests are being replanted, particularly in western countries, and stronger protections have been issued by other Amazon countries like Colombia, whose higher court recently ordered the government to protect the forest. New technologies could also help — like drones that can plant 100,000 trees in a day.