Deforestation

Don't Panic: Amazon Burning Is Mostly Farms, Not Forests

Problematic deforestation continues, but the "lungs of the earth" are still breathing.

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"A picture is worth a thousand words" is one of the dumbest aphorisms ever coined. Speaking as a former television producer, I'd say a picture takes a thousand words to explain. Take this much-circulated NASA satellite photo showing vast smoke plumes over the Amazon region:

Combined with a report from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research that says the agency had detected 39,194 fires in the region, a 77 percent jump up from the same period in 2018, that picture has launched alarmed headlines around the world.

"Amazon rainforest is burning at an unprecedented rate," declares CNN. The Daily Beast gives us "Record Number of Wildfires Burning in Amazon Rainforest." Here's NBC News: "Amazon wildfires could be 'game over' for climate change fight."

Interestingly, when NASA released the satellite image on August 21, it noted that "it is not unusual to see fires in Brazil at this time of year due to high temperatures and low humidity. Time will tell if this year is a record breaking or just within normal limits."

So why are there so many fires? "Natural fires in the Amazon are rare, and the majority of these fires were set by farmers preparing Amazon-adjacent farmland for next year's crops and pasture," soberly explains The New York Times. "Much of the land that is burning was not old-growth rain forest, but land that had already been cleared of trees and set for agricultural use."

It is routine for farmers and ranchers in tropical areas burn their fields to control pests and weeds and to encourage new growth in pastures.

What about deforestation trends?  Since the right-wing nationalist

Various researchers have noted a U-shaped relation between environmental degradation and economic growth. As development takes off, levels of pollution and land degradation rise, but they begin to improve once certain thresholds of per capita incomes are attained. A 2012 study found, after parsing data from 52 developing countries between 1972 and 2003, that deforestation increases until average income levels reach about $3,100 per capita. As it happens, Brazilian per capita incomes reached $3,600 per capita in 2004,which is when deforestation rates began trending decisively downward.

While problematic deforestation is still taking place in the Amazon region, a 2018 study in Nature reported that the global tree canopy cover had increased by 865,000 square miles from 1982 to 2016. As Brazilians become wealthier, the deforestation trend in the Amazon will likely turn around toward afforestation, as it already has done many other countries.

* As it happens, this post is only about 430 words.

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  1. Thanks, Ron. Was looking for something on this earlier today that actually just kinda of explained what was happening, other than “right wing nationist is trying to burn the world down” that I saw everywhere else.

    1. Most headlines I’ve seen have been some variation on “Climate Change: Amazon is Burning!!!”

      But then you click through and read the article and it says “farmers burning Amazon, like they always have. But probably because of right-wing president. Maybe.”

    2. Also Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019. The uptick from 2017 to 2018 was on Dilma Rousseff’s watch.

  2. So the fires are out? Did Sting and Bono put on a concert for the rainforest or something?

    1. Shouldn’t the woke be in favor of burning down the Amazon? It produces a ton of oxygen that it keeps all for itself which is produced by stealing African phosphorus.

    2. Why should Bono like forests? Look what a tree did to him!

  3. Hmm. But I read at CNN that it was the beginning of the end of the world as we know it, or at least they were trying to make it sound like it. Yet, it’s more like another catastrophic prediction which is perhaps better described as “much ado about nothing.” (or at least very little)

    If one wishes to do more than whine about Brazil, then one certainly has the option of not eating beef, of which Brazil is the world’s number one exporter.

    1. one certainly has the option of not eating beef, of which Brazil is the world’s number one exporter

      ^ This. Money. Your mouth. Put it there.

    2. After we round up all of the illegals working in the food processing industry we will all be eating Brazilian beef.

  4. About time we can finally get that super highway between Peru and Brazil!

  5. That doesn’t stop the alarmists at CNN claim that the reason the ‘Amazon is burning is because people eat a lot of meat’.

    No, really, that’s what they posted on their website today, right besides that note about King Trump The Dumb telling his white supremacist followers and adorers that he’s going to order──ORDER, I say!──that American companies find other sources besides China for goods. And he can say that because those racist homicidal and economically moronic maggots voted for him. But soon the day of reckoning will come, you ridiculous, ignorant, tikki-torch-carrying, knuckle-dragging racist motherfuckers. You WILL be replaced, by far better people. Oh, don’t dare say ‘oh, so you mean white people will be replaced’. NO, you idiots. JUST YOU! Morons.

    1. Witless Mexican has morphed into White Indian redux!

    2. You really need your meds adjusted.

    3. “Oh, don’t dare say ‘oh, so you mean white people will be replaced’. NO, you idiots. JUST YOU! Morons.”

      This fucking pathetic piece of shit was once sane.
      Fuck off, asshole.

  6. Yeah, Ron, we all saw the study, we know you’re a climate denier anyway so nobody’s going to believe a word you say.

    1. That study is science-y as fuck.

      1. As long as you accept that scientific truths are determined by a show of hands. Biden wasn’t misspeaking when he said “We choose truth over facts.” Facts are stubborn things, truth is simply a matter of opinion.

    2. Little Greta…is she a scientist or a contrarian? Because she seems to get a bit of press and airtime.

      1. Her resemblance to Himmler’s daughter Gudrun is powerful imagery. It impresses the heck out of Ecological National Socialists. Soviet Socialist posters, by contrast, exploited youth who in the main appear to have reached the age of consent. But are Voelkischer versions of apocalyptic Rapture any creepier than the pseudoscience Republican hangers-on are pushing?

        1. Hank, you need to learn to post in English.

          1. If this site actually got traffic I really would sell Hank decoder rings on Etsy, but you guys are a niche of a niche market.

            1. I wouldn’t bother to buy one; Hank has yet to offer more that that fucking trueman has, but with less cumulative bullshit.

            2. Some of the commentariat, I assume, are girls…

      2. She’s a little girl being used and abused by cultists and her parents pulling a Lyle Lanley on everyone.

    3. My god, scientists are tone deaf. Literally reading off authority levels like its social credit and if you don’t have enough reputation in the kingdom you have no standing to speak. So much for “facts don’t care about your feelings.”

      Interesting how they’re shifting away from the scientific argument and more towards the meta argument. Fact is, while I don’t doubt the science (greenhouse gas theory is pretty straightforward), I do doubt the statistical methodology as an econometrician myself and I also question the political and economic remedies and their efficacy.

  7. “It is routine for farmers and ranchers in tropical areas burn their fields to control pests and weeds and to encourage new growth in pastures.”

    These kinds of fires can get out of control. I saw this myself some years ago in Laos when many forests of south east Asia was burning. They have an economic cost, isolating regions by cutting off roads, filling the air with smoke and soot. It was a force of nature, and handing out 1000s of dollars to the good people of Laos wouldn’t have stopped it,

    1. “These kinds of fires can get out of control. I saw this myself some years ago in Laos when many forests of south east Asia was burning. They have an economic cost, isolating regions by cutting off roads, filling the air with smoke and soot. It was a force of nature, and handing out 1000s of dollars to the good people of Laos wouldn’t have stopped it,”

      Cite missing, liar.

      1. I’m glad you asked. Another wildfire that had economic consequences was the one that struck Alberta’s tarsands forest a couple three years back. Many homes were consumed and extraction of oil was brought to a standstill. I understand your desire to minimize the panic associated with fires, and it is admirable. But I beg you not to lose perspective and underestimate the devastation mother nature is capable of. Perhaps if you’d have witnessed her wrath as I have, you’d be a better judge of things.

        1. Cite missing, liar.

          1. I’ll send it by smoke signal.

            1. Isn’t that what set Alberta ablaze in the first place?

  8. Decades in Brazil including jungle time showed me natives doing the same slash-and-burn clearing of their tiny cassava plots as 400 years ago. Sometimes these get out of hand, like whiskey stills catching fire in the woods during Prohibition, but most don’t. The smoke thins out mosquitoes, and baked snakes are not as dangerous to step on. The political shriekers are the very folks blocking the tribes from having nuclear reactors or isotope generators, so charcoal is the last energy source standing.

    1. The natives have been burning the slash for thousands of years, in order to enrich the soil with the biochar called terra preta.

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_preta

    2. The indigenous North and South (Siberian-)Americans routinely burned the underbrush out of the forests so deer would be easier to hunt. But that was after they had hunted most of the other American megafauna to extinction.

      1. …within 2,000 years of immigrating to Alaska.

  9. Good job Ron!

    Especially the part While problematic deforestation is still taking place in the Amazon region, a 2018 study in Nature reported that the global tree canopy cover had increased by 865,000 square miles from 1982 to 2016.

    Just like New England forests, much more forest now than for the past couple hundred years, deer are back, turkeys are back, coyote hybrids have come in to replace the wolves that are gone…. a pretty vibrant ecosystem.

    CNN is full of stuff good only for fertilizing my garden!

    1. Basically, re-grown New England forests got swapped in from Ohio. It went that way because the glaciated terrain in New England is a bitch to farm, so as soon as better opportunities were slashed and burned into existence farther west, New England farmers decamped for greener pastures.

      The “vibrant” New England ecosystem is looking pretty depleted offshore.

      1. Talk to the foreign factory ships; at this point the local fishermen are pretty much gone.

        New England may be the first to recover, but IIRC, the US peaked in acres being farmed some while ago. Ohio will be catching up, and the farmers will be out of work.

        1. Don’t bother a religionist with facts.

  10. . . . .is one of the dumbest aphorisms ever coined.

    Its not as bad as people constantly using ‘problematic’ for things that aren’t actually problems.

    1. While problematic deforestation is still taking place in the Amazon region, a 2018 study in Nature reported that the global tree canopy cover had increased by 865,000 square miles from 1982 to 2016.

      1. And:
        From Appelbaum’s “Iron Curtain”, Hungarian joke from the ’50s:
        ‘The definition of Socialism: An incessant struggle against difficulties which do not exist under other systems.’

        1. Damn, that’s good! I’ll have to write that one down for the next time I have to deal with a snooty leftist.

  11. Part of the ‘division of labor’, wife is usually in the kitchen early in the evening (after my turn); she has TV news on. CNN, for reasons which are a mystery to me…
    Anyhow, they were trumpeting the Froggy leader claim that “20% of the world’s forest is on fire!”. THAT is what was claimed.
    Any idiot claiming that ‘20% the world’s’ *ANYTHING* are doing this or that are to be ignored instantly; may as well get your ‘science’ from that fucking idiot trueman.

    1. This story is particularly useless, because it does nothing to tell me if Orange Man = Bad, or Hitler

      1. Is there any question of this?
        ORANGEMANBAD is axiomatic.

  12. 20% of the earth is sunlit. Oh wait that’s 50%

  13. Also, don’t panic because there’s nothing you can do about shit that happens thousands of miles away from you in another country. In fact, the case could be made that things so far removed from you are none of your business.

    1. ” In fact, the case could be made that things so far removed from you are none of your business.”

      Make the case.

      1. Offer a cite, you fucking liar.

        1. Make the case. If you can.

          1. Provide a cite, you fucking liar.

            1. A cite for what? A cite for asking the poor guy to make a case he’s not equipped to make, though he claimed a case could be made?

              1. OM goodness!
                The one time you didn’t make some fucking ignorant claim! Shame on me.
                And fuck off, liar.

                1. No need to be such a chicken.

                  1. Fuck off and die.

                    1. Laugh while you can, monkey boy.

      2. Based on progressive logic, we’d be justified in bombing India and China back to the Stone Age since they are the worst polluters on the planet.

        If “intervening in another country’s economic system” is really what you’re arguing here.

        1. “If “intervening in another country’s economic system” is really what you’re arguing here.”

          But Brazil is asking for assistance. They claim they are not equipped to handle the disaster. What’s wrong with assisting a country in need?

          1. “What’s wrong with assisting a country in need?”

            No answer? Not even an insult for me?

      3. “” In fact, the case could be made that things so far removed from you are none of your business.”

        Make the case.”

        Google translate says: Foda-se, Escravo.

  14. I sort of figured this was normal, and being trumped up to push the Green Nazi Deal.

  15. How sustainable slash and burn agriculture is in a rain forest depends heavily on what proportion of the forest is under attack annually. It is a function of how long the recovery cycle is before previously burned, used, and abandoned areas get re-burned and re-used. The proportion now is far higher than previously, the recovery cycle is shorter. What can’t go on forever, won’t.

    Assuming true the reports that fires now burning in the Amazon are mostly controlled agricultural burns, there is zero reason to take reassurance from that, absent a showing that the aggregate burning is no greater now than centuries-long norms.

    1. “Assuming true the reports that fires now burning in the Amazon are mostly controlled agricultural burns, there is zero reason to take reassurance from that, absent a showing that the aggregate burning is no greater now than centuries-long norms.”

      There’s more than enough reason to be reassured, regardless of jaw-flapping by watermelons.

    2. Should we not presume that the aggregate burning is about the same as it was for the past few centuries until shown otherwise?

      I mean, this has been happening for thousands of years. And the farmers have had the good sense to not burn the same place two years in a row. (This is rather similar to crop rotation.)

      . The proportion now is far higher than previously, the recovery cycle is shorter.

      An all-time low of annual proportion of forest burned would have been around the year 1600, when plagues from across the Atlantic wiped out ninety percent of the population. Can we estimate the proportion of forests being burned today to the rate in the 16th century, prior to the plagues?

  16. “Don’t worry kids! They’re burning it down on purpose”.

    Personally, it never occurred to me that it might be a natural wildfire. They burn down rainforest to clear land for cattle grazing. There’s only so much “controlling” you can do.
    BTW, apropos of nothing, the oil companies who created climate science denialism have quit denying climate change. Yet their marks have soldiered on, true believers in the con.

    1. “BTW, apropos of nothing, the oil companies who created climate science denialism have quit denying climate change. Yet their marks have soldiered on, true believers in the con.”

      And the watermelon catastrophists continue screaming after not *ONE* of the dire predictions have proven true. Absolutely zero.
      How’s it feel to be a lackey to a new religion, watermelon?

      1. “And the watermelon catastrophists continue screaming after not *ONE* of the dire predictions have proven true.”

        Cite please.

        1. Sure, fuckface:

          “We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN”
          https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report

          See how easy that is? Even a caveman can do it; you can’t.
          Fuck off and die.

          1. Hey comrade, how long you been a guardian reader?

        2. Hey, asshole! You got your cite.
          Why don’t you try it?

          1. I had one, but on second thought, it may not be commie enough to suit you. It’s back to the drawing board.

            1. mtrueman
              August.25.2019 at 11:49 pm
              “I had one, but on second thought, it may not be commie enough to suit you. It’s back to the drawing board.”

              No, fuckface, you NEVER had a one.
              Please fuck off and die.

    2. The oil companies like Exxon Mobil see the writing on the wall as other energy sources are coming into play so they need to diversify.
      Exxon is putting money into research in alternative energy sources just like Apple or Disney seek to diversify and get into new fields as they anticipate long term market changes.

      Of course they stopped denying climate change.

      Personally I don’t know enough about it to have an informed opinion about what exactly is happens or why. Cheaper cleaner energy and more efficient appliances, transportation and all that seem good to me. Those LED light bulbs save me money and are way better than the old ones.

      1. There have been scare-stories for at least 50 years pointing out that oil companies ‘haven’t identified new sources of oil beyond what we need for 20 years!!!!’
        Well, there’s a good reason for that; predictions tend to get really fuzzy beyond 10 years or so (witness the witless “THE SKY IS FALLING!!!” predictions from the climate catastrophists), and any decent management is not going to waste time identifying raw material sources for their business much beyond that.
        But that idiot Hubert made a career of proving what an imbecile he was claiming the ‘end of the world!!!!’.

      2. “Exxon is putting money into research in alternative energy sources j”

        There’s nothing wrong with the energy sources we have now. The sun powers almost all life on earth. The bottleneck is storage. The energy density of the most advanced batteries today is but a fraction of that of fossil fuels. Question is will more efficient batteries just give a new twist to the degradation we subject to the habitat of our animal and plant friends.

        1. Let’s take truemans bullshit apart~!

          mtrueman
          August.26.2019 at 12:04 am
          “There’s nothing wrong with the energy sources we have now. The sun powers almost all life on earth. The bottleneck is storage.”
          This is what’s known to people of normal intelligence as a ‘non-sequitur’. Our iditotic lefty hopes we see it as something else.

          “The energy density of the most advanced batteries today is but a fraction of that of fossil fuels. Question is will more efficient batteries just give a new twist to the degradation we subject to the habitat of our animal and plant friends.”
          One one of our resident fucking ignoramuses assume that a comment including “energy density” will somehow qualify his (un-cited) bullshit as other than the bullshit of a bullshitter.
          No. The question is whether fucking lefty ignoramuses will continue posting watermelon lies here, or (please) fuck off and die where they don’t stink up the place,

          1. Chinese conspiracy more your style?

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  18. I just watched a PBS doc on the Amazon. The farmers generally can only grow things in the dry season when the land is not underwater. The highlighted problem was the increasing rainfall drowning out the temporary farmers from their homes . Floods! Fire! Is there nothing Global warming can’t do?

  19. Liberals (or some of them) oppose the drug wars, but they want state action to ban meat. If you can’t stop people from smoking dope, how you gonna stop people from eating meat?

    1. A good start might becremoving corporate welfare in the form of massive global government mest and dairy subsidies ($40 billion in the US alone, the vast majority of which goes to the wealthiest meat and dairy farmers).

  20. * As it happens, this post is only about 430 words.

    So like, what, you don’t blow out much CO2 saying it?

  21. From what I’ve read it seems the Amazon forest hasn’t been there undisturbed since the Cretaceous or Permian. It seems the area was the home of a number of powerful chiefdoms, even kingdoms and divided into regions of cultivation as well as areas of jungle.
    Early Europeans there, as in the Mississippi, noted large populations and towns. Masses of Indians in both places seem to have perished from diseases spread by the explorers, reducing the survivors to more primitive conditions.
    So were people gasping for oxygen worldwide till smallpox, measles, and other plagues accomplished this in the 1500s?

  22. If one of the hijackers had just showed up in the ER with cutaneous anthrax, which would not be “skin irritation “ or a single lesion and not been diagnosed and aggressively treated he would probably have died…… Read More

  23. Ron, Bruce Cockburn would like to have a word.

    I have a record that specifically says ‘they’re burning down the Amazon’.

    We all know rock stars know everything.

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  25. even though I’m so glad that the forests are almost ok, but the fire can spread and soon enough it will burn them too.
    خدمات ویپ

    1. Care to defend that claim?

      1. Fire can spread! Ridiculous! Typical commie propaganda.

        1. So more trueman bullshit?
          Stupidity can spread also, but it seems that most of us here are well familiar with you fucking ignoramus posts.
          Got it. Fuck off and make your mommy proud.

          1. Well argued. Of course fires can’t spread, comrade.

  26. While problematic deforestation is still taking place in the Amazon region, a 2018 study in Nature reported that the global tree canopy cover had increased by 865,000 square miles from 1982 to 2016.

    Okay, so 1982 is before the whole rainforest harpy crew got organized–wouldn’t this mean that during the entire run that the ecofaithful have been screaming about deforestation forest canopy has been expanding?

    Or did all the land that had been deforested plus another 865,000 square miles of canopy suddenly re-appear last year?

    Because, based on this, we’ve had forest migration as opposed to deforestation.

    Do we say that Monarch butterflies have gone extinct in the north when they migrate south?

    1. Forests don’t migrate. They teach that on the first day of forestry school. It’s canopy cover you’re talking about here. No distinction is made between old growth forests and the monoculture that is replacing them. Sure canopy cover increases, but bio-diversity takes a hit.

  27. I would not worry about any of this.

    It is coming! Finally the apocalyptic asteroid of doom is on the way!

    So party on and forget your worries. We have until 2029 then it is finally over.

    https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/1169698/Asteroid-warning-God-of-Chaos-space-nasa-collision-Earth-impact-death-destruction-tracker/amp

  28. On afterthought, I want to add, too, that after skimming the comments, I declined to read them, they’re so full of ad hominen name-calling. Isn’t that strange for a publication hoping to promote logic and reasoning?

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