Cheat-Seeking Missles

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Rainforest Eco-Hysteria

BBC reports Brazil's Amazon rainforest deforestation figures: A drop of 50 percent in the last year -- 3,475 sq miles in the last year vs.6,950 sq miles in 2003 to 2004.

That seems like a lot, but there are 2.5 million sq miles of rainforest down there, so last year, only .00139 of the Brazilian forest, a bit over one-tenth of one percent of the forest was converted. Of this, a portion was converted to agriculture or development, but much was logged and will grow back.

Brazilian environment minister Marina de Silva attributed the drop to greater government control and more emphasis on sustainable development projects.

Environmentalists, of course, don't take good news well. BBC quotes Greenpeace saying it is too soon to talk about a long-term slowing of the destruction of the forest. They warn that illegal loggers may just be biding their time.

Greenpeace also warns that a new economic initiative by the Brazilian government is bad news for the rainforests:
In January 2001 the Brazilian government announced its plans for "Avan├ža Brasil" (Advance Brazil). This is a US$40 billion plan to cover much of the Amazon rainforest with 10,000 km of highways, hydroelectric dams, power lines, mines, gas and oilfields, canals, ports, logging concessions and other industrial developments.

Scientists predict that these planned developments will lead to the damage or loss of between 33-42 percent of Brazil's remaining Amazon forest.
In other words, they want us to believe that Brazil intends to wipe out up to 1,050,000
square miles of rainforest!

Really?!

The United States is not quite three times bigger than the Amazon rainforest, covering 3,537,441 square miles. Of this, almost 1.7 million square miles is either developed or in agriculture. Adusting for the size disparity, if the U.S. were the size of the Amazon rainforest, it would have 1.2 million developed square miles.

We are a heavily industrialized country that's been hard at work at conquering the wilderness for 500 years -- 150 in mechanized earnestness -- and we've just barely accomplished on our entire subcontinent what Greenpeace says may happen to the Brazilian rainforest.

The claim isn't merely mathematically ridiculous. Brazil has a lot of much more developable land outside the rainforest, so whatever resources are poured into developing that country will be spread around, leaving only a portion for the rainforest. We didn't concentrate our development in the Louisianna bayous; the Brazilians won't concentrate it in the rainforest.

Like so many environmentalists fears, this is another that is nothing more than eco-hysteria.