The Amazon rainforest in Mato Grosso Brazil is shrinking. Brazil’s space research agency, INPE, reported that the first quarter of 2022 set a new deforestation record for the rainforest—941 square kilometers were cleared from Janaury to the end of March. This is the largest area of deforestation that the agency recorded in a single quarter since it began monitoring in 2016, representing a 64% increase of cleared rainforest from the same time period last year.
Satellite images from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 show alarming differences in tree coverage between March 2021 and early April 2022 in one part of the state of Mato Grosso.
The Amazon is disappearing before our eyes, and the recent findings are not the first to confirm that large swaths of the rainforest have disappeared in 2022. Earlier this year, satellite imagery data from the INPE showed that the Brazilian Amazon saw five times more deforestation in January 2022 than in January 2021.
Under the leadership of Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, millions of acres of the rainforest have been illegally cleared for the agricultural industry and cattle ranching. Indigenous communities within the rainforest have been displaced, and some have even been murdered over land access. Back in 2021, there was some hope that Bolsonaro would make changes after he pledged to increase government spending on tackling deforestation in the Amazon. But he changed his mind and even slashed the budget by more than 20%. “There is a deliberate lack of environmental inspection and many of those behind this wave of illegal deforestation are also expecting the Brazilian congress to pass legislation that will reward land-grabbing,” Cristiane Mazzetti, spokeswoman for Greenpeace Brazil, said in February.
Once considered the lungs of this hemisphere, the Amazon may now be a greenhouse gas emitter instead of a carbon sink.