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Deforestation of Brazilian Amazon Rainforest Surges to Record High, Further Devastation Looms

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Deforestation of Brazilian Amazon Rainforest Surges to Record High
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(TMU) — The Brazilian Amazon rainforest has suffered a surge in deforestation in recent months, reaching unprecedented levels in May as Brazil’s far-right government under President Jair Bolsonaro continues to grant free license to illegal logging, farming and mining activities in once-protected lands.

According to data from the government’s satellite monitoring agency, the Brazilian Amazon lost about 285 square miles in May, which is equivalent to two football fields every minute, the Guardian reports.

May marks the beginning of the dry season, when most forest clearance and burning takes place.

May’s 285 square miles adds to a loss of over 837 square miles from August to April, up from the 698 square miles lost over the same period the previous year, according to the non-governmental monitoring organization Imazon.

Carlos Souza of Imazon said:

“The government can’t deny these numbers from their own agency. The question now is what they’ll do about it … By the end of July, we’ll have a clear idea of the impact of recent moves to dismantle environmental policies.”

Environmentalists fear that the trends will accelerate as the Bolsonaro government and its environmental ministry continue to act on behalf of mining and industrial agricultural interests, who have enjoyed free rein to expand their exploitation of the Amazon and protected areas. This has included Indigenous reserves that have ceased being demarcated since Bolsonaro came to power in January.

The radically far-right president and his officials have blamed environmental laws, activist groups, and indigenous peoples for hindering Brazil’s economic potential, showing scant signs that they are willing to halt the accelerated deforestation of the Amazon.

The 2 million-square-mile rainforest is a vital repository of carbon dioxide and plays a crucial role in the fight against climate change, a reality the president denies. The Amazon is also home to 10 percent of all known plant and animal species. Over the course of the past four decades, the jungle has lost a staggering 18 percent of its territory, according to Greenpeace.

Regardless, officials like Bolsonaro’s most senior security adviser, General Augusto Heleno Pereira, have shown little regard for outside concerns, remarking:

“I don’t accept this idea that the Amazon is world heritage … This is nonsense. The Amazon is Brazilian.”

The president has also blasted the main government monitoring agency as a “fines industry,” forcing it to issue fewer penalties than at any time other over the last 11 years while inspections have reduced by 70 percent from last year.

The environment minister, Ricardo Salles, has also failed to appoint regional officials and destroyed morale in the ministry with the sacking of veteran inspectors. Folha reported that Salles plans to privatize the satellite monitoring of the forest.

Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, the president’s oldest son, introduced a bill last month that would remove the obligation of farmers to designate a minimum percentage of their property to natural vegetation. The measure would open up an area of over 412 million acres—an area larger than Iran—to the extractive industry.

A statement from Flavio Bolsonaro and Marcio Bittar, another senator backing the proposal, said:

“It’s a necessity to further occupy the Amazon region and exploit its natural resources.”

Brazil has also become victim of a “radical, fundamentalist and irrational” environmental movement, they added, noting that “there’s no sense in the ecological clamor manufactured by Europeans, North Americans and Canadians and imposed on the country and its rural producers.”

Carlos Rittl, the executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, said:

“The spike in deforestation is depressing, but hardly surprising: you have a government in Brazil who is dismantling nearly every environmental policy put in place since 1992 and who is harassing federal environmental agents, thus empowering environmental criminals.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Animals

Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral

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A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.

Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.

It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.

The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.

Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.

While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.

“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”

“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.

It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.

“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.

The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.

“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.

The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.

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Environment

Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History

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For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.

Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.

However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.

Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.

The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.

To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.

The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.

“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”

“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”

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Environment

South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash

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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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