Rapid Depletion in the Amazon Rainforest
It is nothing new to hear that the Amazon is decreasing at a rate unimaginable to most, but between the years of 2005-2012, the Amazon saw its’ most devastating depletion to its biodiverse rainforest. It has been traditionally regarded as the largest rainforest with the most extreme variety of its kind in the natural world, yet illegal logging and lack of protection from the Brazilian government has kept the quite real possibility of its extinction in place of the indigenous people residing there and to all who observe its’ complex biology . Small populations on the reserve are left by themselves to defend the only land they know, the men making up the small number on average of 48, only barely armed with pistols and bows and arrows, facing many large trucks equipped with tree cutting weapons. Their forces have cause quite the commotion, however, driving off loggers and their equipment with them. Yet Brazil’s government has yet to punish any loggers for their illegal activities, only a promise to end the illegal activity by 2030. One native to the reserve states even goes to state that “in terms of the environmental crime in Brazil, the state is not fulfilling its role . With the government’s clear lack of initiative to help save the beautiful land these communities call home, it raises the question of what economic decisions were made through the country or what mutual benefits were identified between multiple countries, if at all. It also raises the question of the importance of the indigenous people to Brazil’s state of affairs, as well as exactly how long this has been in occurrence. How did early policies and/or lack of government enforcement in Brazil lead to the continuation of depletion in materials from the Amazon rainforest? How has the view of indigenous people (relative to Brazil) politically and socially, shaped this aspect further? What repercussions has this allotted in our natural world today?
In Richard P. Tucker’s book entitled Insatiable Appetite: The U.S. and the Ecological Degradation of the Tropical World, he writes how the United States and other countries feeding into the development of this rising consumerism and industrialization. In the 1860s, commercial productions of sugarcane, coffee beans, and tropical fruits began to become full-on success stories in America . This created a large consumer base with each industrial effort made to satiate the growing audience, so more was wanted. Yet, the places where these crops were indigenous had begun depleting due to this mass consumerism in developed countries. As this fascination grew, so did the fascination for new materials and building resources with the time of the Industrial Revolution, turning America to other countries than those used previously and ultimately exploring the realm of rubber . Rubber began the craze of the Amazon’s natural depletion, beginning with the plant called Hevea brasiliensis. This plant derived what was needed to make rubber in the first place and it was seemingly very ecologically friendly, as the material could be extracted directly from the tree itself. This logic did not translate on a larger scale, however, as the mass extraction of chemicals from these trees created a natural resource panic . The mass reason for the loss in natural resources was the invention and recovery of petroleum from these birthplaces in the Amazon, creating a huge customer base for rain boots and “wet weather clothes” in England, as well as for coatings on bicycle and automobile tires. This made a skyrocket increase from the slowly rising consumption in the 1890’s upon rubbers’ introduction to the world, “creating an insatiable market for the latex” . The craze of the consumers grew larger than anyone thought could be true, “the Amazon basin producing 25,000 metric tons of rubber”. This led to an even higher demand, the figure rising to almost 40,000 metric tons of rubber yielded in 1909 alone .
It has been ingrained in our brains since we first began going to school that white complexions have only harvested personal, social, and political gains from those that were less fortunate on this man-made scale of privilege. Examples range from the Trail of Tears, to slavery, to the Holocaust, all having one thing in common; irrevocable and unequivocal crimes. The white man, the privileged man, has shown through history, time and time again, oppression is deserved and force will be maintained among those with differences and without developed armory in defense of monstrous crimes. Since the role of early Europeans and their predisposed pigmentation of importance, illegalities have continued to occur in instances such as these. This cycle of colonialism and continued downward spiral of its repercussions has allotted cruel acts to take place. More specifically, the lack of enforcement in governmental positions Brazil’s still developing country has also impacted the Amazon for the worse due to the patterns of this abuse in naturally occurring instances, giving a sense of entitlement amongst upper class individuals .
A man in 1974 named José Piquet Carneiro resigned from a nature foundation in Brazil, claiming “he had failed to convince the authorities and the public of the gravity of the ‘crimes against nature’ in Brazil” . This newspaper article was published by the New York Times on May 30, 1974, illustrating the need of even back then Brazil’s national need for change and motivation for it. He claimed “‘[Developers] are turning the Amazon basin into a desert, destroying its forests, rivers and animal life’”, further claiming he “‘is not against progress, but that progress and preservation of nature must go together” . Replacing the natural resources man uses is only part of the equation to a stronger and healthier ecosystem, but without that contribution, no improvements can be made.
In another article published in the New York Times on November 28, 1977 titled “Joint Development of the Region Is Aim of Talks in Brazil”, it tells of eight nations beginning their public dispute of resources from the Amazon River basin for its “harnessing of its water resources” . It claimed to protect the natural ecology of the river and to “globally integrate” the area and its neighboring regions. It causes great conviction in the people reading such an article and wishing they could do more to protect the nation so far from reach, especially at the last few sentences: “… there could be just 27 years left to the world’s biggest virgin forest, whose major river drains an area of 2.3 million square miles. The gigantic Amazon network of waterways includes 18 major rives and at least 200 important tributaries” . These ‘virgin’ wonders are described as untouched, natural resources, yet it shows that nothing will ever truly remain untouched by human hands.
On a relative scale, “Brazil’s rate of deforestation has declined by more than 70% since 2004, unimaginable even a decade ago” . On a more global spectrum, it has been found that “tropical deforestation accounts for approximately 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions” . These numbers should be scaring all of us, as global warming affects all part of the earth, not just Brazil; no one is exempt from Mother Earth’s wrath or destruction.
Disgracefully, many companies behind the scenes don’t actually know a multitude of such; what forests are being used and their contributions to the mass destruction. Companies like Starbucks, Nestlé, and even McDonald’s don’t realize the large impact they make , as their nationally known names are concerned with more of profit rather than a wholesome, giving-back attitude after the destruction they have created in global societies. This shows the money driven society Americans have displayed, dating back to the slaves completing hard labor for them, no rewards or acts displayed for their well-deserved work.
In developing countries like Brazil, environmental policies have only had an extremity of trouble getting noticed, implemented if that. In Latin America, environmental policies are being increasingly lacking in their impact avoidance processes. Referencing the article written by Ana Villarroya, Ana Cristina Barros, and Joseph Kiesecker on September 5, 2014 entitled “Policy Development for Environmental Licensing and Biodiversity Offsets in Latin America”, it is illustrated of the utmost importance to “review major environmental policy frameworks” and extensively dissect how the revision would benefit Brazilian natives and their land, as well as how this could entail the conservation of the natural resources the Amazon gives off to supply users of many generations down the road . The Amazon’s biodiverse wonders are rapidly decreasing, the people of Brazil calling for action and laws to be placed. The people residing there find themselves in dire need of ‘keeping infrastructure [the basic resources needed for a society to completely function, as well as to allow other societies to function], increasing food production, and expanding access to reliable energy and housing while also protecting and preserving the biodiversity and ecosystem services of the region” . There are contrasting needs that have to be met, by the natives and by the foreign allies with resource expectations being held for years on end. However, a simple solution isn’t everything, as the large reason as to why this complete undermining of natural destruction takes place has to do with how these ‘offset’ policies are sanctioned. The article goes on to describe that only “national-level Environmental Impact Assessment Laws enable the use of these offsets, their “explicit [requirement]”. Most countries in Latin America do not have these extensive guidelines, so flying under the radar is easy for even the Brazilian government, allotting more money and more allies in the long run. In total, the effectiveness of an offset program and its truly strict enforcement would provide the country with a higher chance of keeping biodiversity conservative.
Largely, Brazil’s segregation of classes exists similar to America’s, differences between racial groups representing the country significantly by their divided “economic outcomes and education levels” . Wage gaps have traditionally shown the divvy of power to each respective party, poor and rich. “Lack of access to social networks and to higher quality public schools”  could be the leading cause of the large lack of power to who the deforestation of the Amazon truly affect. These small tribes that see this day to day horror of their homelands have no platform other than their voices, which don’t make up much of Brazil’s populations. This in turn leads the government to almost not truly see first-hand what is going on behind the scenes of these indigenous tribes’ truths.
Hope exists for the people of Brazil nevertheless, with policies and change natives hope could last a lifetime. Although it seems as though more funds have come from this mass globalization of resources up for grabs, but just as Washingtonians could not do without their morning views of snowy peaks or oceans just miles away, the active deforestation taking place in Brazil causes outsiders looking in to have an extreme understanding and genuine sympathy for the destructions seen daily. White supremacy and ignorance of actual events taking place have led the Amazon to deplete at a constant spiral, leaving only the Amazonian natives with limited resources to defend the land they call theirs. Mass implementations of policies and follow through with these policies will ensure the prolonging of the Amazon, as well as an increase in advocating for the wrong doing behind the scenes will prove to globalize mass change in people and the products they buy from companies interacting with negative tendencies in environmental contexts.
 Dom Phillips, Bonnie Jo Mount, “Defending the Amazon”, The Washington Post, October 7, 2015, https://ntserver1.wsulibs.wsu.edu:3080/usnews/docview/1719345222/223E52DDCD12451APQ/2?accountid=14902 (accessed March 2, 2018)
 The Washington Post, October 7, 2015.
 Richard P. Tucker, Insatiable Appetite: The U.S. and the Ecological Degradation of the Tropical World, (University of California Press, November 1, 2000)
 Richard P. Tucker, Insatiable Appetite…, 2000 [pp. 226-227]
 Richard P. Tucker, Insatiable Appetite…, 2000 [pp. 227]
 Richard P. Tucker, Insatiable Appetite…, 2000 [pp. 227]
 Richard P. Tucker, Insatiable Appetite…, 2000 [pp. 228]
 Ana Villarroya (et. Al), “Policy Development for Environmental Licensing and Biodiversity Offsets Latin America”, PLOS ONE Volume 9, Issue 9, (September 5, 2014)
 Marvine Howe, The New York Times, “Conservationist Stirs Furor in Brazil” May 30, 1974
 Howe, “Conservationist…” May 30, 1974
 David Vidal, The New York Times, “Joint Development of the Region is Aim of Talks in Brazil” November 28, 1977
 Vidal, “Joint Development…” November 28, 1977
 Gina Roos, The Environmental Leader, “Greenpeace Says Big Brands Destroying Rainforest”, June 23, 2009 https://www.environmentalleader.com/2009/06/greenpeace-says-big-brands-destroying-rainforest/
 Susanna B. Hecht, “From eco-catastrophe to zero deforestation? Interdisciplinaries, policies, environmentalisms, and reduced clearing in Amazonia”, Cambridge University Press, Volume 39 Issue 1, (March 2012) pp. 4-19
 Villarroya, “Policy Development…”, September 5, 2014
 Villarroya, “Policy Development…”, September 5, 2014
 Tomáš Evan, “Chapters of European Economic History”, (Prague: Charles University, Karolinum Press, 2014) pages 1-181
 Gustavo Andrey de Almeida Lopes Fernandes, “Is the Brazilian Tale of Peaceful Racial Coexistence True? Some Evidence from School Segregation and the Huge Racial Gap in the Largest Brazilian City” Science Direct, Volume 98, (October 2017): pages 179-194
 Fernandes, “Is the Brazilian Tale…” October 2017
Figure 1. Natives of the Amazon, Victor Dutertre, 1850 https://www.lo.gov/item/91789526
Figure 2. Figures of Depletion varying from each country in South America, BBC News, news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7360258.stm
Figure 3. Amazon Deforestation of trees in the Amazon, SnowBrains, https://snowbrains.com/deforestatoin