Smoke rises from an illegally lit fire in the Amazon in Para state, Brazil, on August 15. The Amazon is on fire again. Deforestation rates are at their highest in 13 years. In June, the number of fires reported was up 20 percent over this time last year , when the burning of the Amazon dominated global headlines. Caused largely by burning to clear land for the beef industry, this destruction is driving wildlife extinction, displacement of Indigenous communities, and the release of large amounts of greenhouse gases. In the Amazon and globally, deforestation’s other major impact has come into stark relief: Clearing native ecosystems, and bringing humans into closer contact with wildlife, is the leading risk factor for diseases leaping from animals to humans and is likely linked to the current pandemic, just as it was connected to Ebola and AIDS before it. And the toxic haze produced by deforestation and associated fires makes people far more vulnerable to respiratory diseases like the coronavirus. As severe and sweeping in impact as the Amazon deforestation crisis is, it is also avoidable. Lessons from half a world away show us that it is possible to transform private industry and improve […]

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