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Illegal deforestation in Pirititi indigenous land, Roraima, Brazil on May 8, 2018. Felipe Werneck / Ibama / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Robert T. Walker

Over the past 25 years that I have been conducting environmental research in the Amazon, I have witnessed the the ongoing destruction of the world's biggest rainforest. Twenty percent of it has been deforested by now—an area larger than Texas.

I therefore grew hopeful when environmental policies began to take effect at the turn of the millennium, and the rate of deforestation dropped from nearly 11,000 square miles per year to less than 2,000 over the decade following 2004.

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Special address by Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil. World Economic Forum / YouTube

In his first major international speech, Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro told the politicians and business leaders gathered in Davos this week that he's opening up his country and its natural resources to foreign investment, all while—somehow—preserving the nation's environment and biodiversity.

"It is now our mission to make progress in harmonizing environmental preservation and biodiversity on the one hand, with much-needed economic development, while bearing in mind that these are interdependent, inseparable pillars of our society," he said Tuesday at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting.

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A man photographing a landscape in Brazil, where environmental journalism is under pressure. Cesar Okada / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Kaamil Ahmed

A pair of "French spies" had infiltrated India by sea to commit a "treasonous conspiracy," an Indian minister claimed in late November. In reality, they were two visiting journalists, and their mission was an investigation into allegations of illegal sand mining in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. They had merely tried and failed to visit the site of a major mining company through legal means.

Their presence set off alarm bells among some connected to the industry, and the fallout has been significant. It's included a police investigation, a politically fueled propaganda campaign and the arrests of two local translators who had been working for them.

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Alan Morici / Picture Alliance / Getty Images

In his first day in office, right wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro realized the fears of environmentalists and Indigenous communities. They knew he would use his time in office to increase the access of extractive industries in the Amazon Rainforest. Within hours of taking power Tuesday, Bolsonaro transferred responsibility for recognizing Indigenous lands to the ministry of agriculture, The New York Times reported.

The agriculture ministry has ties to the agribusiness lobby and other industries that would like to gain access to Indigenous lands, The Guardian and The New York Times reported.

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An especially sanguine view of the Amazon jungle in Peru on Oct. 12, 2018. Kjell Eson / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Genevieve Belmaker and Joseph Charpentier

Throughout 2018, forests continued to be threatened and destroyed. From the Amazon, to the Congo Basin, to the Mekong Delta and scores of places in between—journalists reporting for Mongabay filed hundreds of stories about the world's forests.

Although the significance of any one story is difficult to gauge in the short-term, several Mongabay reports from 2018 stood out. These pieces dealt with illegal timber trafficking, advances in technology-based environmental protections and human rights protections for the people doing environment-defense work—formal and informal.

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Swen Pförtner / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

A small group of Amazon workers is receiving big praise for their efforts to force their employer to be a better steward of the planet.

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The illegal La Pampa gold mine, seen here in 2017, has devastated the Peruvian Amazon and spread poisonous mercury. Planet Labs

A first-of-its-kind map has unveiled widespread environmental damage and contamination of the Amazon rainforest caused by the rise illegal mining.

The survey, released Monday by the Amazon Socio-Environmental Geo-Referenced Information Project (RAISG), identifies at least 2,312 sites and 245 areas of prospecting or extraction of minerals such as gold, diamonds and coltan in six Amazonian countries—Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. It also identified 30 rivers affected by mining and related activities.

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Amazon rainforest cleared for cattle raising; green groups are concerned Brazil's new environment minister will prioritize agriculture over conservation. Luiz Claudio Marigo / Nature Picture Library / Getty Images

When right-wing Congressman Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil in October, environmental groups raised concerns about what his presidency could mean for the future of the Amazon rainforest and the global fight against climate change.

Now, Bolsonaro's choice for environment minister appears to justify those concerns. In a tweet Sunday, Bolsonaro announced he would appoint pro-business lawyer Ricardo de Aquino Salles to the role, Reuters reported.

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Environmental activist group protests outside the headquarters of the Peruvian Petroleum Company Petroperu in Lima, Peru. Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Approximately 8,000 barrels (336,000 gallons) of crude oil spilled from a severed pipeline into the Peruvian Amazon on Tuesday night, according to state-owned oil company Petroperu.

In a press release, Petroperu said its Norperuano pipeline was cut by members of the Mayuriaga indigenous community in the Loreto region in an act of "sabotage" and prevented technicians from repairing the pipe and containing the release.

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Deforestation in the Amazon. luoman / Getty Images

About 7,900 square kilometers (3,050 square miles) of forest was cleared in the Brazilian Amazon between August 2017 and July 2018, the worst annual deforestation rate in a decade, according to government data. That's a 13.7 percent jump from the same period last year.

As Greenpeace Brazil noted, approximately 1.185 billion trees cut down in an area equivalent to the size of 987,500 soccer fields.

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Brazil, home to the Amazon, is one of five countries that control 70 percent of the world's remaining wilderness. Danita Delimont / Getty Images

This week began with the disturbing news that human activity has caused a 60 percent decline in wildlife since 1970.

Now, a group of researchers from the University of Queensland and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have released a stunning map showing that just five countries are home to more than 70 percent of the world's last, undisturbed wilderness areas.

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