- Deforestation has degraded the Amazon rainforest to such a point where it can no longer regulate its own systems.
- São Paulo’s water supply could dry out completely by April 2015.
Beef Production in the Amazon is Causing Droughts in Brazil
Agriculture expansion and the resulting deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has many people worried. What we’re seeing now is that the forest has degraded to such a point where it can no longer regulate its own systems.
A report produced by a researcher, Antonio Nobre, from the National Institute of Space Research and the National Institute of Amazonian Research has stated that the rapid deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest is actually causing a drought in many major urban communities in South America. São Paulo, a city that is called home by approximately 20 million people, is especially feeling the impacts of deforestation by facing the worst drought in 80 years.
The situation is very bad, as bad as it can get before we go down the abyss. We’ve been telling this story for the longest time and this is the first time people are really paying attention.
How Are There Droughts in Brazil?
Often described as the “lungs of our planet”, the Amazon covers about 40% of South America and contains approximately 1.4 billion acres of forests. On a daily basis, these forests are capable of generating 20 billion tons of water vapor which then moves inland and provides precipitation to many urban communities. The forest acts as a pump as it channels moisture in between the forest and other locations throughout South America.
Because of the destruction of this major rainforest, the moisture-generating mechanism has weakened.
Currently, the Amazon is being destroyed to supply the logging, agricultural, and ranching industries at unsustainable rates. It is estimated that more than 3 million trees are cut down every single day which. When added up over the course of a year, this means about 1 billion trees are removed each year–and all for the sake of meeting the demands of human industry.
Nobre’s report indicates that, as the forest is pushed beyond natural repair, the forest’s rate of transpiration is decreasing significantly and leading to longer dry seasons. In São Paulo, for example, October usually marks the beginning of the rainy season, but it proved to be drier than any other time since 1930.
As a result, the volume of the Cantareira reservoir system decreased to 5% of its usually capacity and is decreasing on average by 0.1% a day—which means that São Paulo’s water supply system could dry out completely by April 2015.
What Impact Will the Droughts in Brazil Have?
Humans share in common a vital resource–water. We use water daily for drinking, cleaning, and even supporting our agricultural demands. Without sufficient amounts of precipitation to supply large urban centers such as São Paulo, many people will be left with ruined crops and low levels of drinking water. To compensate, these people will have to either adapt (especially through rationing) or find new ways to retrieve water.
As if this news wasn’t already devastating enough, a lack of precipitation also means record-low water levels will be supplied to hydroelectric plants throughout the region. In 2012, hydroelectric power provided 65% of Latin America’s electricity, and the hydropower industry is currently expanding across South America. Since the release of Nobre’s report, officials have been warning residents of São Paulo about potential power blackouts in the near future.
Without power, schools, hospitals, homes, and even things as simple as traffic lights will be forced to go without power. Something that will cause major chaos within São Paulo and other large cities.
Can you imagine not having electricity and rationing your drinking water?
What Can We Do?
For each minute we ignore the issues occurring in the Amazon, about 2,000 trees will be removed from the forest. Nobre has advised urgently that the damage is so great that a large portion of the Amazon basin must be reforested in order to “preserve an ecosystem that prevents parts of South America from resembling the deserts at comparable latitudes in southern Africa and Western Australia.”
In order to help the people in São Paulo, as well as other major cities, and the future of our entire planet, we must start paying closer attention to our own actions and how they impact our world.
Unless you’re able to fly to South America to replant trees yourself, we can at least prevent further acts of deforestation through small life changes such as not consuming animal meat—cow meat especially.
Land used for ranching and cattle farming occupies 80% of deforested areas in the Amazon. Additionally, a bulk of the deforestation in the Amazon and across South America is due to growing crops for farmed animal feed—soy especially, whose consumption China is the world leader of. The area of land in South America devoted to soy grew from 17 million ha in 1990 to 46 million ha in 2010, mainly on land converted from natural ecosystems.
With these industries taking up so much space, pasture runoff has caused a large amount of contamination problems in local rivers, and slash and burn methods used to manage fields often results in the spread of fires through living forests. Truly, nothing good comes from deforestation.
By consuming a plant-based diet, you can be one of millions of people around the world who are helping to save the Amazon rainforest and our future. By doing so, you could not only save thousands of animals, but also the livelihoods of millions of South American residents.