At least until fairly recently, Brazil was seen as a success story when it came to cutting back on deforestation of the Amazon. Deforestation totals in the 1990s and early 2000s were astronomical — averaging 19,500 square kilometers per year between 1995 and 2005. Yet with tougher law enforcement and other measures such as an international soy moratorium, it had plunged to a low of 4,571  square kilometers by 2012.

The problem is that it is now clearly going up again.

“The increase in deforestation rates can be linked to signals from Brazil’s government that it will tolerate the destruction of the Amazon. In recent years, public environmental protection policies in Brazil have weakened. For example, very few protected areas and Indigenous Lands have been created, and a new Forest Code was approved in 2012 that gives amnesty to those who committed illegal deforestation,” said Cristiane Mazzetti, Amazon campaigner with Greenpeace, in a statement.

George Mason University professor Thomas Lovejoy, who operates a research project in a completely undisturbed part of the Amazon near Manaus, in collaboration with the Brazilian government, saw a recently deforested plot along a road close to the research area last December. He now says it was a “first indication” of the deforestation increase.

“For our immediate situation we are cutting down road access,” he said by email from Manaus.

December 2