The Amazon Rainforest has been a troubling topic for environmentalists ever since Brazil started to cut it down. The facts are well-known. This rainforest is considered to be the Earth’s lungs, and cutting it down means causing irreversible damage to the world’s biosphere. However, after decades of activism, not much has changed. The Amazon Jungle is still being slashed at an alarming rate and not much has been able to stop this destructive freight train.
Brazil is a leading force in destroying its forests, and to most of the world, this seems terribly counter-intuitive. But when you look at Brazil’s motives in exploiting their prized natural kingdom, it suddenly becomes clear. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro strives for his nation’s financial well-being. His rise to power came from the back of a terrible nationwide financial crisis. His winning ticket was telling his people that the Amazon Rainforest was a territory open for mining, agriculture, and, most importantly, cattle raising.
Nowadays, according to Time, 80% of the Amazon’s deforested land is used by the cattle industry. For Brazil, it is a $6 Billion industry, with their exported beef travelling all the way to Hong Kong and China, their top buyers. That is why Bolsonaro is not budging when it comes to protecting his rainforest. But by doing that, he is playing with the fire that is climate change and risking the safety of every living specie on Earth.
In addition to destroying one of the worlds most efficient greenhouse gas filter, Brazil is expanding into a very polluting industry. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, cattle raising contributes to 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, mainly generated by the cow’s digestion.
Eventually, the Amazon Jungle will reach a tipping point, and that eventuality is now dangerously close. According to Time, 17% of the jungle is now lost, and scientists believe that if we reach 20-25%, the rainforest will lose its equilibrium.
What does that mean? It means that the local region will become warmer. Droughts and floods will plague the landscape, disturbing the ecosystem. This will force the environment to regenerate itself, in a process called ecological succession. So, the ecosystem will adapt itself to a dryer landscape because the current landscape is not akin to a rainforest anymore. Smaller, low-lying shrubs resistant to droughts will slowly take over the tall tropical trees in a natural succession. Ultimately, this means that the jungle will naturally disappear.
At that point, solving climate change will not save the Amazon rainforest. After a 25% lost, the environmental feedback loop will work the ecosystem into a new equilibrium, adapted to a drier climate. If this ever happens, a new array of problems will arise. The Amazon Rainforest is home to an immense biodiversity, a major player in moderating rainfall in Southern America, and is one of Earth’s lungs. The consequences of its disappearances are yet to be known.
All in all, this can only mean one thing. Jair Bolsonaro and the Brazilian government must be held accountable for some of the most environmentally destructive practices the world has ever seen. All countries buying beef from Brazil need to boycott Brazilian importation to remove the monetary incentive to destroy the rainforest. At an individual level, people can abstain from eating beef every other day. Simply doing that will impact the cattle industry greatly and might be enough for it to make changes in their environmentally devastating methods.