Monday, July 7, 2008

A Tree on Fire

The photo attached to this post was taken by my brother, John, in my family's side yard in Rutherford, NJ. When I saw it today, I went him the comment that it looks like the branches are on fire, and that the edges are lit up in orange.

The tree is a huge elm that has stood in our sideyard for much longer than I have been on this planet. For much longer than we have lived in the 100 year-old house on Mountain Way. The tree, if all goes well, will stand there for many more years, offering shelter to squirrels and birds, and shade for whoever stops beneath its limbs.

I have not been living in Rutherford since 2001. I have been living in Brazil since 2004, in a country which has been in the news for trees themselves. Big, big trees, that are being cut down at alarming rates. Yeterday's Folha de S. Paulo, Brazil's best daily, reported yesterday that two times the area of Monaco are cut down in the Amazon every day. That is correct. And truly depressing.

Unlike what many in the eco-world would report, none of that is for ethanol. Most of it is done to make space for cattle grazing, contruction, and charcoal. Some of it, especially in the ground zero state of Mato Grosso, is soy. And a huge, huge part of the lumbering, legal and illegal, is done by foreign companies. Just in Mato Grosso, over 160 non-Brazilian comanies operate.

So, Brazil, today's largest beef exporter, is lighting up and cutting down trees for your next steak. The huge majority of the cattle in the Amazon is shipped out of the country to the US, Japan and Europe. The price you pay for a hamburger, of course, does not include the destruction of the world's most important forest.

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