New policies in Brazil began to bear fruit this April as the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest fell by 68% compared to the same month last year, Reuters reports.
The current Brazilian president has made it his mission to stop the destruction of the Amazon. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, also called Lula, won his election in 2022, in part, on the strength of those promises.
Lula inherited a difficult situation, as former president Jair Bolsonaro favored cutting down the rainforest to make way for cattle and other profitable industries. Under Bolsonaro’s leadership, the rate of deforestation increased by 72%, Axios reported, and he also gutted the agencies responsible for protecting the environment.
Because of the damage to not only the forest but also policy and the agencies enforcing it, Lula could not immediately end to the ongoing damage. However, his decisive efforts have reduced deforestation by more than 40% so far this year, Reuters reported, and experts predict that it will keep decreasing.
A win for the Amazon is a win for the Earth. The world’s largest rainforest has been called the “lungs of the planet” because of the key role the Amazon plays in cycling clean air and water into the atmosphere. Every year, it removes over 660 million tons of carbon pollution from the air, generating breathable oxygen in its place, Science reports.
That number has fallen over the years, as about 18% of the Amazon has been cut down for lumber or to clear land. Worse, continuing to clear even small parts of the Amazon could have a devastating effect on the whole.
As the Washington Post recently reported, much of the rain that waters the Amazon actually comes from the forest itself, as ancient, deep-rooted trees draw up water from deep underground and release it through their leaves. If too much of the forest is cleared, the rest will stop being able to sustain itself and be destroyed by drought — and experts estimate that we are drawing close to that point.
Lula’s administration is the best defense the world has against that disaster. Reuters reports that the new president has established a fund for fighting deforestation and has received contributions from Britain, Norway, Germany, and the U.S.
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