Fifteen percent of the Amazon rainforest has already been destroyed. Between 2000 and 2007, the Brazilian Amazon was deforested at an average rate of over 19,000 km² per year, an area larger than Greece. A significant part of what remains is under direct threat - as are the forest plants, animals and people who depend upon the forest.
Greenpeace campaigner Paulo Adario contemplating the destruction in the Pará State, Amazon, Brazil.
Threats: Logging, soy and cattle
One of the greatest dangers to the Amazon rainforest is illegal logging which is fuelled primarily by demand for cheap timber. By building logging roads into pristine rainforest, the logging industry opens the door to further devastation of the forest ecosystem through clearing for cattle ranches and soya plantations, over-hunting, fuel wood gathering, and mining.
Between 60 and 80 percent of all logging in the Brazilian Amazon is estimated to be illegal. Shockingly, as much as 70 percent of the timber cut is wasted in the mills.
As industrial logging and other destructive industries move further and further into what remains of the Amazon Rainforest, many indigenous people's cultures and ways of life are put at risk. While the Brazilian law provided for the complete protection of all indigenous lands by 1993, to date only half of the indigenous lands in Brazil have been demarcated.
More recent investigations by Greenpeace have uncovered strong links between soya farming and cattle ranching to Amazon destruction. In 2006, it was estimated that there were three head of cattle for every person living in the "Legal Amazon".
Many solutions are needed to protect the Amazon Rainforest. Greenpeace believes that for solutions to be effective they need to take into account human rights and biodiversity of plants and animals. But this can only be achieved if sound environmental and economic alternatives replace the current destructive models.
In 2006 Greenpeace convinced major soya traders operating in Brazil to agree to a two-year moratorium on soy grown in deforested areas. The moratorium was extended for a year in 2008. The first field evaluations for 2009 show that the moratorium is working, and that soya harvested in the Brazilian Amazon has not come from newly deforested areas. Read more.
Forests for climate
Forests for climate is a Greenpeace-proposed mechanism to protect forests that will oblige all governments to pay for tropical forest protection in line with their climate change committments. Read more
Certified logging operations offer an important way forward for the logging industry in the Amazon. The Forest Stewardship Council™(FSC®) is currently the only socially and ecologically responsible certification system independently verifying logging operations to a set of international recognised standards. Some companies in the Amazon, such as Precious Woods and Gethal Amazonas, have already received FSC® certification and are now selling timber from their operations around the world.
Extractivist Reserves - protected areas of forest established by the Brazilian government allow the rubber tappers to maintain their traditional way of life - cover perhaps one percent of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest. Greenpeace has been working with the rubber tappers and other groups to demand an increase in the area under Extractivist Reserves to ten percent of the Brazilian Amazon. With the protection of indigenous lands through demarcation and other initiatives such as the creation of more Extractivist Reserves, as much as 30 percent of the Amazon would be legally off-limits to industrial logging and large-scale industrial development.