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Imazon just released a great new report with hundreds of statistics about the logging industry in the Amazon.

The report covers the furniture industry, the carbon markets, sustainable logging and a host of related topics. It is available for download here.

Here are a few interesting facts in the report:

– There are nine Brazilian states in the Amazon. The most deforested in Maranhao, with 42 percent gone; the most pristine is Amapá, which has lost just 1.4 percent of its tree cover.

– The population of the Amazon went from 8.2 million in 1970 to 17 million in 1991 to 24 million today.

– Almost half (44 percent) of the Amazon is protected, at least nominally, as either indigenous reserves or conservation units.

– Logging brought in an estimated $2.5 billion in 2009.

– The logging industry provides direct or indirect jobs to 200,000 people. That’s down from 350,000 in 1998.

– Between 2008 and 2010, Para planted 254 million trees. Most of them were eucalyptus.

 

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There’s a good side and a bad side to being at the World Economic Forum on Latin America.

I am here in Cartagena working for the forum as a summary writer. I write up short reports about the roundtable discussions. I wrote this about an Amazonian debate and this about Latin America’s growing ties to Asia.

The interesting bit is being party to the debates. The participants are the movers and shakers of the Americas, the top people in business and government. Many of the debates are private and off the record and so there are occasional juicy tidbits to be had.

But my role here is strictly not as a journalist, so I can’t write about any of it, much less corner any of those involved. It’s frustrating as there are a load of people I’d like to talk to and whom their press officers never let journalists get near.

I am missing a golden chance. But such is the nature of the beast.

Brazil’s announcement it has cut annual deforestation to its lowest level in 21 years is great news. Some 7,008 km2 of Amazonia was lost between August 2008 and July 2009, or 45.7 percent less than during the same period a year previously. This year’s number is down to about a quarter of what it was in 2004.

The government is celebrating the drop, which is to be expected, and it is claiming the improvement is down to its own policies. There are lots of theories why deforestation has fallen so much over the last five years. (I’ve outlined a few of them in this story on the Christian Science Monitor website).

Clearly, the change is down to a combination of factors and policy decisions and the Lula administration is responsible for lots of them. In fact, this may be one of the very few areas in which Lula owes no debt to his predecessor Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

But make no mistake, this administration is no great friend to the environment. From the very start of his term in 2003, Lula made it clear that economic growth – and the prosperity it would bring – was more important than preserving flora and fauna. He is a close ally to people like Blairo Maggi and he regularly undermined Marina Silva in her battles with the agriculture lobby.

That double talk was evident this week in his decision not to pass a law that would punish landowners not in compliance with the Forest Code. (The code stipulates what percentage of land must be kept intact. In the Amazon, 80 percent must be kept as natural vegetation; in the Cerrado it is 65 percent.)

The law was to have taken effect in December but Lula postponed its implementation until June 2011, which not only gives the agricultural lobby another 18 months of respite, it also allows them time to pressure Lula’s successor to cancel it for good. If the administration can maintain deforestation on a downward trend it will have made a huge difference. But it cannot pass itself off as a government that has done all it could to protect the environment.

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