The clearing of the Amazon

The Amazon rainforest is disappearing, or so we’re told:

An area of Amazon rainforest roughly the size of a football pitch is now being cleared every single minute, according to satellite data. The rate of losses has accelerated as Brazil’s new right-wing president favours development over conservation.

Okay, so let’s walk through the math.

  • Amazon rainforest = 5,500,000 square kilometers
  • Football pitch (max) = 120 meters x 90 meters = 10,800 meters
  • Square kilometers of Amazon cleared every single minute = .0108
  • Minutes until Amazon is entirely cleared = 509,259,259 minutes
  • Number of minutes in a year = 525,600
  • Years remaining to Amazon rainforest = 968

So, clearly not a problem for anyone living today, unlike immigration. And, as it happens, this reported clearance rate is actually very good news for those of us who are both ecologically conscious and numerate, as it means the rate of rainforest clearance has declined by 98 percent since 2013.

The first global, high-resolution, satellite analysis of global deforestation revealed that since 2000 an area equal to 50 football pitches has been destroyed every minute. The total loss is 10 times the area of the UK, with only a third being replaced by natural and planted reforestation, and the destruction is accelerating in the tropics.

So, if  .18 square kilometers are being replaced by natural and planted reforestation every minute and .0108 is being cleared, the Amazon will last a lot longer than 968 more years. Indeed, it appears that it is actually growing.

And even that is an improvement from 2008, when we were told that 120 football pitches were being destroyed every minute.

The current rate of rainforest destruction is the equivalent of two football fields every second. That adds up to 33.8 million acres a year. Official Brazilian government data shows that 3,500 sq km of forest were lost between August and December last year, but it is thought that the real figure might be double that. Rising prices for cattle, soy and other commodities are increasing the value of deforested land, so we can expect deforestation rates to increase accordingly.

Always do the math. And thank Sting and Mrs. Sting for saving the Amazon. The numbers make it very clear that their Rainforest Fund has saved the planet by reducing the rate of rainforest clearance to less than one percent of its previous rate.


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