Brazil ‘s Amazon Deforestation Prompts ‘Crisis Cabinet’

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Not even Brazil’s environmental minister can explain the cause of a sudden and unexpected surge in deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon. All Izabella Teixeira could say was that the 27% spike between August 2010 and this year was “alarming.”

Indeeed, the news came as a shock to Texeira, who was probably celebrating with caiprinhas and cachaça last December as Brazil publicly announced “the lowest level of deforestation in the history of Amazonia.”

Now, she’s had no option but to announce a “crisis cabinet,” coinciding with a heated debate surrounding Brazil’s forest code, an environmental legislation under which farms and settlements have to conserve 80% of the forest on their land as ‘Legal Reserves’.

(MORE: Monks fight to get Cambodian forests on the Cambodian markets)

One might wonder, why anyone would oppose such a sensible proposal to prevent global warming and save millions of species, as environmentalists have argued.  Under the new proposed legislation, flex rules would mean fewer trees: the amount of legal reserve would fall to 50% in large areas, and as far as 0% in small areas (up to 400 hectares).

The other side of the coin, though, is boosting the economy; you can’t blame Amazon farmers and ranchers for wanting to expand their properties. But if the bill is approved, swathes of the rainforest will continue to disappear, an “environmental crime,” as stated by Teixeira.

(MORE: Climate: speaking the truth on avoided deforestation and warming in Cancún.)

Officials describe how, in the soy-growing state of Mato Grosso, where the situation is most dramatic, farmers have been using tractors and giant chains to rip up vast areas of the forest. Now they’d better watch out: Ibama, Brazil’s environmental protection agency, will take action by launching 200 operations by the end of the year to track down illegal cattle and timber.

Brazil’s Congress is expected to vote on changes to the forest code by the end of this month.

(MORE: Global paper company- and clients- under fire for deforestation)