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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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Brazil, Pantanal, water lilies. Nat Photos / DigitalVision / Getty Images Plus

Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.

Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.

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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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The Dermophis donaldtrumpi was named in recognition of his namesake's climate change denial. MSNBC YouTube screenshot

By Abby Zimet

To those patriots who consider our Pretender-to-the-Throne a reptilian shape-shifter, mazel tov: Now he officially is one. A small, blind, shiny, worm-like amphibian newly discovered in Panama which buries its head in the ground will henceforth be named Dermophis donaldtrumpi in recognition of his namesake's climate change denial.

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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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