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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.

Go deeper

Facebook to lift political ad ban imposed after November election

Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook will finally allow advertisers to resume running political and social issue ads in the U.S. on Thursday, according to a company update.

The big picture: Facebook and rival Google instituted political ad bans to slow the spread of misinformation and curb confusion around the presidential election and its aftermath.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
32 mins ago - Technology

AI is industrializing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Artificial intelligence is becoming a true industry, with all the pluses and minuses that entails, according to a sweeping new report.

Why it matters: AI is now in nearly every area of business, with the pandemic pushing even more investment in drug design and medicine. But as the technology matures, challenges around ethics and diversity grow.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

National Guard chief: Pentagon's "unusual" Jan. 6 restrictions led to 3-hour delay

William Walker, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, testified Wednesday that a three-hour delay in approval for National Guard assistance during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack was exacerbated by "unusual" restrictions on his authorities by Pentagon leadership.

Why it matters: Walker testified that if Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy had not prohibited him in a Jan. 5 memo from using the National Guard's "Quick Reaction Force" without authorization, he would have "immediately" sent troops to the Capitol after receiving a "frantic call" from then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund.