The Economist: Seeing the Wood

23 August 2014

“Forests are the lungs of our land,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Twenty years ago, the world’s lungs were diseased. Brazil, the country with more tropical trees than any other, was cutting down an area of forest two-thirds the size of Belgium every year. Roughly half of all the planet’s once-luxuriant tropical forests had been felled and the further degradation of the Earth’s green spaces seemed inevitable.

It would be too much to say that forests have made a full recovery. Worldwide, over 5m hectares of jungle—getting on for two Belgiums—are still being felled or burned down each year. In some countries, notably Indonesia, the chainsaws are growing louder. But the crisis is passing and the prognosis is starting to improve. Fears that the great forests of the Congo would be cleared have proved unfounded so far. Brazil and Mexico have reduced their deforestation rates by well over two-thirds. India and Costa Rica have done more than reduce the rate of loss: they are replanting areas that were once clear-cut.

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