Environmental Sustainability Arresting Deforestation
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is driven primarily by cattle and soy producers clearing new fields and pastures. Although Brazil’s Forest Code requires 80 percent of private lands in the Amazon to remain forested, most landowners operate with seeming impunity, knowing that the state is not equipped to monitor what happens on their lands, and rarely collects fines for illegal deforestation.
The social entrepreneurs: Adalberto (Beto) Veríssimo and Carlos Souza, Jr., are recognized leaders in tropical forest conservation, having developed, through the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment (Imazon), a deforestation monitoring system that makes it possible to know, in almost real time, where deforestation occurs. Beto co-founded Imazon in 1990, determined to find a role as an honest broker and provider of information at a time when those who wanted to save the forest and those determined to exploit it were almost literally at war. Carlos joined the team two years later, pioneering a key innovation: using state-of-the-art remote sensing and mapping to detect deforestation. This enables agencies to identify and prosecute illegal clearing, and creates strong incentives for the ranchers and producers to find alternatives – such as diversified wood products with less waste. Imazon also publishes cutting-edge scientific reports in accessible formats and works with national and international media outlets to keep information on deforestation up to date and bring public pressure on decision-makers At the time of the Award, the Brazilian government had achieved 80 percent reduction in deforestation over five years. Rigorous new limits to deforestation were enacted, and the government had committed to stop illegal logging, focusing on hotspot regions identified by Imazon.
Quote: “We are very optimistic that is possible to reduce deforestation in the Amazon and develop this region for the people living there. But we know that this is just the beginning. We are inspired to go on build a global monitoring system covering 1 billion hectares of tropical forest that has tremendous worth for carbon, environment services, and cultural values.”
Impact since joining the portfolio in 2010:
- Worked with Google to develop Google Earth technology’s capacity to track deforestation; Global Forest Watch platform launched in 2014 with World Resources Institute makes it possible to monitor tree cutting worldwide.
- Projects in development include tools to track fishing vessels and monitor sea level change.
- In Brazil, partnership with public prosecutors facilitates enforcement of conservation laws in 75 million hectares of conservation and indigenous lands.
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