Amazon rain forest cut for cattle

The rain forests of the Brazilian Amazon, the most biologically diverse place on Earth, are shrinking by tens of thousands of square kilometers a year.

Ahead of the global climate talks in December 2009, nine photographers from the photo agency NOOR photographed climate stories from around the world. Their goal: to document some of the causes and consequences, from deforestation to changing sea levels, as well as the people whose lives and jobs are part of the carbon culture.

When forests are cleared in Brazil's Amazon, the trees end up as lumber or charcoal, the latter produced in ovens like these outside the city of Rondon do Para.

The clearing of forests by fire and logging releases carbon dioxide earlier than would occur naturally, adding to greenhouse gas emissions. Kadir Van Lohuizen / Consequences by NOOR
The charcoal operation in Rondon do Para had 47 ovens when photographed and plans were to increase that to 200 in the near future. The charcoal is used at a steel smelter in Maraba, Brazil.

These ovens, and the once-forested land they are on, are owned by a cattle rancher. That's a typical scenario here, and often one whose legality is clouded. Kadir Van Lohuizen / Consequences by NOOR
Workers move charcoal into trucks for delivery to the steel smelter in Maraba. Each basket weighs 110 pounds.

Brazil's Amazon still accounts for more than half of the world's standing forest.

While gaps in climate science exist, leading some to question the degree of mankind’s impact as well as whether anything should be done, most governments as well as the science academies of the U.S. and other industrial nations agree that mankind is a significant factor and that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced. Kadir Van Lohuizen / Consequences by NOOR
This man works at the Rondon do Para charcoal ovens. Many of the workers in Rondon have come from other areas of Brazil in search of jobs and, someday, their own land. Kadir Van Lohuizen / Consequences by NOOR
A truck moves logs near Rondon do Para. Brazil says a larger environmental police force reduced illegal logging in 2009 to its lowest level in two decades. The slumping economy, and reduced demand for beef and timber, could also be a factor.

Deforestation peaked in 2004 at 10,000 square miles, but it still happens. The 2,700 square miles cleared in 12 months through August 2009 is nine times the size of New York City.

For more information on this project go to Consequences by NOOR Kadir Van Lohuizen / Consequences by NOOR
The Terra do Meio nature reserve in Para state has been partly deforested and burned for illegal cattle ranches. Ironically, the reserve was created in 2005 after the murder by cattle ranching interests of Dorothy Stang, a U.S. nun.

The Amazon's trees are a major natural defense against global warming, acting as "sinks" by absorbing carbon dioxide. But burning those trees to make room for ranches and farms releases that CO2. About 75 percent of Brazil's CO2 emissions come from rain forest clearing.

Globally, deforestation accounts for up to 20 percent of carbon emissions -- more than all the world's cars, ships and planes combined. Kadir Van Lohuizen / Consequences by NOOR
Cattle are transported from one pasture to another. While providing food and jobs, cattle are also greenhouse gas culprits, belching out methane as part of their digestive process. Methane is released in much smaller amounts globally than carbon dioxide but is some 30 times more potent. Kadir Van Lohuizen / Consequences by NOOR
Slaughterhouses like this one in Xinguara, Para state, export much of their product to Europe and the United States. Brazil is the world's biggest exporter of beef, with the largest herd as well: 200 million cattle.

Share your thoughts about these slideshows and climate change. Kadir Van Lohuizen / Consequences by NOOR
This area was recently cleared to use for cattle ranching. "In the dry season, the forest is set on fire, leaving a graveyard of burned trees," says photographer Kadir Van Lohuizen. "These forest fires are also a serious contributor to global warming. After the burning, bulldozers clear the area. Wood that remains is often used to produce charcoal in ovens, which are scattered in the states of Para and Mato Grosso. The charcoal is used in blast furnaces in and outside Brazil. After the land has been cleared, planes drop grass seeds to create the pastures." Kadir Van Lohuizen / Consequences by NOOR
At the charcoal ovens near Rondon do Para, workers often live in barracks on the property along with their families. Most of the 25 million people who live in the Amazon make a living off logging, ranching or farming.

Para state has become the epicenter of illegal logging in Brazil. For the 20 years before that it was Mato Grosso, which is now mostly cattle ranches and soy farms.

For more information on this project go to Consequences by NOOR Kadir Van Lohuizen / Noor / Consequences by NOOR