Luxury SUVs are to blame for forest destruction in Brazil

With Americans’ growing demand for leather in luxury SUVs — and with large corporations acting against laws and regulations to illegally harvest these precious materials — Amazon deforestation is up, the story goes. The…

Luxury SUVs are to blame for forest destruction in Brazil

With Americans’ growing demand for leather in luxury SUVs — and with large corporations acting against laws and regulations to illegally harvest these precious materials — Amazon deforestation is up, the story goes.

The piece — “Luxury SUV Hermes Don’t Lose Sleep On,” published Wednesday by Fortune and Grist — implies that large international corporations are harvesting rare exotic woods in an attempt to meet demand for leather on luxury vehicles and are ignoring traditional woodworking and other sustainable forestry practices.

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Amazon isn’t the only place where a different story could be playing out, but the rise of these vehicles has played a significant role in human activity in many Amazonian communities.

Grassroots efforts in the Amazon region have both found and abolished illegal logging. Some communities have traded traditional resource extraction for economic development and leadership projects.

More from GlobalPost: These rainforest region Uber drivers could be working for Amazon

According to a recent report by the Amazon Conservation Team, approximately 44,000 hectares have been harvested illegally in 2016, a decrease of 22,000 hectares in 2015. Last year, five townships, mostly located in the states of Cuiaba and Amazonas, agreed to collaborate in mining projects. However, they are not supposed to allow locals to create illegal infrastructure.

“Illegal logging is linked to soil erosion, soil runoff, the release of particulate matter into air and water, as well as displacement of communities, destruction of protected areas, and damage to the environment,” said Ana Lira, a Brazilian national with the Amazon Conservation Team.

Small-scale forest conservation in Brazil has seen improvements. The Tropical Forest Alliance, started last year in Brazil, is a nonprofit that “is backed by the country’s largest investments and exports,” according to Bloomberg News. TFA will help other communities in the Amazon region.

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But major companies (like Hermes) shouldn’t not overlook the role luxury SUVs are playing in deforestation. Global compacting measurements show that 33,692 ha in the Amazon region was destroyed in 2017 due to logging — nearly 4,000 hectares more than 2016, when 35,070 ha was lost.

Five things to know about Amazon deforestation in the year ahead

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