Technology to the rescue of the rainforest

. Jul 14, 2019
amazon rainforest gps

Since taking office as president, Jair Bolsonaro has overseen the dismantling of Brazil’s already frail mechanisms for the curbing of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. While the upwards trend in deforestation took off in 2013, it has accelerated to dangerous heights over the past few months. In June, Amazon deforestation increased 88.4 percent compared to the same period last year, according to a study by the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe).

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">June was the second consecutive month seeing higher deforestation rates in the area. If this pace is maintained, the rainforest would suffer &#8220;irreversible damage&#8221; within the next decade—or within &#8220;two presidential terms with Jair Bolsonaro,&#8221; as recently stated Paulo Artaxo, a scientist at the University of São Paulo.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, despite alarming conditions, local initiatives are trying to mitigate damage. In the Uacari Reserve of Sustainable Development—1,540 kilometers away from Manaus, the capital city of the northern state of Amazonas—, roughly 60 young adults are being trained to monitor deforestation and help create, through collaborative data input, heat maps in the forest.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Seven of them have participated in a workshop to become volunteer deforestation monitors, using GPS, smartphones and tablets to aid them in their task. In the coming months, the volunteers will visit deforestation hotspots and determine the causes. Participants are expected to monitor the nature reserve while professional researchers are absent.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The project is spearheaded by the Sustainable Amazon Foundation (FAS), a local non-governmental and non-profit organization which operates in partnership with Petrobras and is partially financed by the Amazon Fund. As well as engaging young people in efforts to fight deforestation, the workshop is also aimed at developing local education and entrepreneurship, and at generating more income opportunities. This activity will be replicated in four other nature reserves in the Amazon.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“They are the guardians of the forest, we really believe in that,” said Andressa Lopes, a geoprocessing analyst at the Sustainable Amazon Foundation. “They learn about the forest and end up protecting the place where they make a living.”</span></p> <h2>Technology to the environment’s rescue</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Many of the young men and women who will act as volunteer monitors have had little, if any, contact with smartphones and GPS navigation devices. &#8220;It was very interesting to learn how to manipulate it. These technical aspects of our training will be valuable for the rest of our lives,&#8221; 18-year-old Eliane Oliveira </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">told</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> local newspaper </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">A Crítica</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the next few months, local leaders will allocate each of the seven volunteers to a schedule to monitor vast areas under their watch—always close to their homes. &#8220;This project will have an impact on our communities. Whatever we learn here, we will replicate there,&#8221; said Alessandro Araújo, a member of the Xibauazinho community.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The project will soon expand to three other preservation reserves in the state of Amazonas.</span></p> <h2>Rainforest destruction gains international attention</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Amazon rainforest has made many headlines in recent months, mainly due to President Bolsonaro&#8217;s lack of concern for climate issues. Under his watch, deforestation rates have reached their worst point in three years. When asked about the rainforest, Mr. Bolsonaro reached for a sexual metaphor: “Brazil is a virgin that every pervert wants,” suggesting illicit foreign designs on the Amazon.&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Meanwhile, a stalemate between the administration and representatives from Norway and Germany have jeopardized the future of the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">Amazon Fund</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, created to finance anti-deforestation initiatives. Both Norway and Germany have considered pulling their billion-dollar investments, after the Brazilian government’s decision to scrap the two decision-making committees that are responsible for deciding where resources should be allocated.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Many projects throughout the Amazon will be affected if the fund is extinguished,” said Felipe Irnaldo, Communications Coordinator at the Sustainable Amazon Foundation. “But we believe in the power of communication and we expect Brazil to conciliate [with other actors] to obtain an outcome that doesn’t hinder the [local] communities.”

Martha Castro

Martha Castro is an intern at The Brazilian Report. She is a Brazilian journalism and political science student at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Don`t copy text!