Deathwatch

 

The future of the Amazon

Brazil has the power to save Earth’s greatest rainforest—or destroy it

Although its cradle is the sparsely wooded savannah, humankind has long looked to forests for food, fuel, timber and sublime inspiration. Still a livelihood for 1.5bn people, forests maintain local and regional ecosystems and, for the other 6.2bn, provide a—fragile and creaking—buffer against climate change. Now droughts, wildfires and other human-induced changes are compounding the damage from chainsaws. In the tropics, which contain half of the world’s forest biomass, tree-cover loss has accelerated by two-thirds since 2015; if it were a country, the shrinkage would make the tropical rainforest the world’s thirdbiggest carbon-dioxide emitter, after China and America.

Nowhere are the stakes higher than in the Amazon basin— and not just because it contains 40% of Earth’s rainforests and harbours 10-15% of the world’s terrestrial species. South America’s natural wonder may be perilously close to the tipping-point beyond which its gradual transformation into something closer to steppe cannot be stopped or reversed, even if people lay down their axes. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, is hastening the process—in the name, he claims, of development. The ecological collapse his policies may precipitate would be felt most acutely within his country’s borders, which encircle 80% of the basin— but would go far beyond them, too. It must be averted.

Humans have been chipping away at the Amazon rainforest since they settled there well over ten millennia ago. Since the 1970s they have done so on an industrial scale. In the past 50 years Brazil has relinquished 17% of the forest’s original extent, more than the area of France, to road- and dambuilding, logging, mining, soyabean farming and cattle ranching. After a seven-year government effort to slow the destruction, it picked up in 2013 because of weakened enforcement and an amnesty for past deforestation. Recession and political crisis further pared back the government’s ability to enforce the rules. Now Mr Bolsonaro has gleefully taken a buzz saw to them. Although congress and the courts have blocked some of his efforts to strip parts of the Amazon of their protected status, he has made it clear that rule-breakers have nothing to fear, despite the fact that he was elected to restore law and order. Because 70-80% of logging in the Amazon is illegal, the destruction has soared to record levels. Since he took office in January, trees have been disappearing at a rate of over two Manhattans a week.

The Amazon is unusual in that it recycles much of its own water. As the forest shrivels, less recycling takes place. At a certain threshold, that causes more of the forest to wither so that, over a matter of decades, the process feeds on itself. Climate change is bringing the threshold closer every year as the forest heats up. Mr Bolsonaro is pushing it towards the edge. Pessimists fear that the cycle of runaway degradation may kick in when another 3-8% of the forest vanishes—which, under Mr Bolsonaro, could happen soon. There are hints the pessimists may be correct (see Briefing). In the past 15 years the Amazon has suffered three severe droughts. Fires are on the rise.

Brazil’s president dismisses such findings, as he does science more broadly. He accuses outsiders of hypocrisy—did rich countries not fell their own forests?—and, sometimes, of using environmental dogma as a pretext to keep Brazil poor. “The Amazon is ours,” the president thundered recently. What happens in the Brazilian Amazon, he thinks, is Brazil’s business.

Except it isn’t. A “dieback” would directly hurt the seven other countries with which Brazil shares the river basin. It would reduce the moisture channelled along the Andes as far south as Buenos Aires. If Brazil were damming a real river, not choking off an aerial one, downstream nations could consider it an act of war. As the vast Amazonian store of carbon burned and rotted, the world could heat up by as much as 0.1°C by 2100—not a lot, you may think, but the preferred target of the Paris climate agreement allows further warming of only 0.5°C or so.

Mr Bolsonaro’s other arguments are also flawed. Yes, the rich world has razed its forests. Brazil should not copy its mistakes, but learn from them instead as, say, France has, by reforesting while it still can. Paranoia about Western scheming is just that. The knowledge economy values the genetic information sequestered in the forest more highly than land or dead trees. Even if it did not, deforestation is not a necessary price of development. Brazil’s output of soyabeans and beef rose between 2004 and 2012, when forest-clearing slowed by 80%. In fact, aside from the Amazon itself, Brazilian agriculture may be deforestation’s biggest victim. The drought of 2015 caused maize farmers in the central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso to lose a third of their harvest.

For all these reasons, the world ought to make clear to Mr Bolsonaro that it will not tolerate his vandalism. Food companies, pressed by consumers, should spurn soyabeans and beef produced on illegally logged Amazonian land, as they did in the mid-2000s. Brazil’s trading partners should make deals contingent on its good behaviour. The agreement reached in June by the eu and Mercosur, a South American trading bloc of which Brazil is the biggest member, already includes provisions to protect the rainforest. It is overwhelmingly in the parties’ interest to enforce them. So too for China, which is anxious about global warming and needs Brazilian agriculture to feed its livestock. Rich signatories of the Paris agreement, who pledged to pay developing ones to plant carbonconsuming trees, ought to do so. Deforestation accounts for 8% of global greenhouse-gas emissions but attracts only 3% of the aid earmarked for combating climate change.

The wood and the trees
If there is a green shoot in Mr Bolsonaro’s scorched-earth tactics towards the rainforest, it is that they have made the Amazon’s plight harder to ignore—and not just for outsiders. Brazil’s agriculture minister urged Mr Bolsonaro to stay in the Paris agreement. Unchecked deforestation could end up hurting Brazilian farmers if it leads to foreign boycotts of Brazilian farm goods. Ordinary Brazilians should press their president to reverse course. They have been blessed with a unique planetary patrimony, whose value is intrinsic and life-sustaining as much as it is commercial. Letting it perish would be a needless catastrophe.

翻译:

虽然树木稀疏的非洲大草原是人类的摇篮,但是人类长期以来从森林中获取食物、燃料、木材和极大的精神动力。森林仍然是15亿人的生计来源,它维持着当地和整个地区的生态系统,而对另外62亿人来说,森林为应对气候变化提供了一道一触即破的屏障。现在,干旱、野火和其他人为因素正在加剧砍伐森林造成的破坏。在占世界森林生物量一半的热带地区,自2015年以来,森林覆盖面消失的速度加快了三分之二;如果把热带雨林看作一个国家,那么雨林缩减规模足以使它成为仅次于中国和美国的世界第三大二氧化碳排放国。

世界上再也没有哪个地方比亚马逊盆地面临的风险更大了——这不仅仅是因为它拥有地球上40%的雨林和10-15%的陆地物种。这个南美洲的自然奇迹可能已经接近临界点,前景堪忧。一旦超过这个临界点,即使人们停止砍伐,也无法停止或逆转亚马逊盆地逐渐退化为草原的趋势。当前,巴西总统雅伊尔·博索纳罗正以发展的名义加速这一进程。他的政策可能引发生态崩溃,这在巴西境内(巴西境内包含了80%的盆地面积)感受最为强烈,但影响范围将远甚于此。这种现象必须避免。

从一万多年前人类定居在亚马逊热带雨林以来,就不断砍伐亚马逊雨林。自20世纪70年代以来,人类开始了工业化砍伐。在过去的50年里,巴西已将17%的原始森用于修路筑坝、伐木、采矿、大豆种植和畜牧业,这一面积超过了法国的领土面积。七年间,政府努力放缓森林砍伐速度,但由于执法力度减弱和对过去毁林行为的特赦,2013年的破坏速度有所回升。经济衰退和政治危机进一步削弱了政府的执行力。现在,巴西总统博索纳罗罗兴高采烈地把嗡嗡作响的电锯挥向雨林。尽管国会和法院阻止了他剥夺亚马逊部分地区受保护地位的努力,但博尔索纳罗明确表示,尽管他当选总统是为了恢复法律和秩序,违法者没有什么可害怕的。因为亚马逊地区70-80%的伐木都是非法的,所以对森林破坏已经飙升到了创纪录的水平。自从他一月份上任以来,森林每周以超过两个曼哈顿面积的速度消失。

亚马逊的独特之处在于,它的大部分水都是循环利用的。但随着森林减少,再循环也会减少;再循环能力降低到临界值时,将导致更多的森林枯萎,因此,在未来几十年,这一过程将以此往复。随着森林升温,气候变化使临界值迫近。博尔索纳罗正在将森林萎缩推向临界值的边缘。悲观主义者担心,当这片森林再消失3%-8%,失控退化周期可能就会出现——在博索纳罗的领导下,这一现象可能很快就会发生。有迹象表明,悲观主义者可能是正确的。在过去的15年里,亚马逊遭受了三次严重干旱。火灾数量也在上升。

博索纳罗对这些调查结果不屑一顾,就如他在更广泛的科学领域一样。他指责外人虚伪——难道富裕国家没有砍伐自己的森林吗?——而且,有时,还以环境教条为借口,让巴西一直贫穷。最近,博索纳罗怒斥,“亚马逊是我们的”,他认为,在亚马逊巴西流域发生的一切都是巴西自己的事。

但事实并非如此。“倒流”将直接影响其他七个与巴西共享亚马逊河流域的国家。从安第斯山脉一路向南流入布宜诺斯艾利斯的水流量将会减少 。如果巴西真的拦河筑坝,而非护林蓄水,下游国家可能会认为这是在宣战。随着亚马逊地区巨大的碳储存被燃烧和腐烂,到2100年,世界可能会升温0.1摄氏度——你可能会认为这个变化并不是很大,但巴黎气候协议的首选目标只允许再升温0.5摄氏度左右。

博索纳罗的其他观点也有不足之处。的确,发达国家已将森林夷为平地。趁现在还有能力重新植树造林,巴西不应重蹈覆辙而应像法国一样吸取教训。对西方阴谋的偏执就是如此。知识经济对隐藏在森林中的遗传信息的重视程度高于对土地或枯树的。即便不是如此,砍伐森林也不是发展的必要代价。巴西的大豆和牛肉产量在2004—2012年间有所增长,当时森林砍伐速度放缓了80%。事实上,除了亚马逊本身,巴西农业可能是森林砍伐的最大受害者。2015年的旱灾导致巴西中部马托格罗索州种植玉米的农民损失了三分之一的收成。

综上,世界应向博索纳罗先表明,人们不会容忍他的破坏行为。被消费者实验的食品公司应该摒弃在非法砍伐的亚马逊土地上生产的大豆和牛肉,就像2000年代中期那样。巴西的贸易伙伴应根据其良好行为进行交易。今年六月,欧盟与南美贸易集团南方共同市场(Mercosur)达成协议,其中就包括保护热带雨林的条款。巴西是该集团最大的成员国。强制执行这些协议完全符合各方的利益。对中国来说也是如此,中国担心全球变暖,需要巴西的农产品来喂养牲畜。签约《巴黎协定》的发达国家承诺向发展中国家支付种植可吸收二氧化碳植物的费用,他们应当兑现他们的承诺。森林砍伐排放全球8%的温室气体,但只获得应对气候变化援助资金的3%。

导读:

亚马逊雨林给予了许多文学作品灵感,也是人类重要的精神家园。它的重要性更体现在作为世界上面积最大的热带雨林,所蕴含的数不清的资源和生物多样性,对南美洲乃至整个世界都意义重大。

然而它的状况我们也知道,是越来越差了。肆意的砍伐让这片雨林快速萎缩,而新上台的极右派巴西总统波索纳罗(Bolsonaro)却根本无意对亚马逊加以保护,反而是将其作为巴西快速发展的摇钱树。我们必须要对这样的行为加以制止。

1. Savannah:a wide flat open area of land, especially in Africa, that is covered with grass but has few trees 大草原 特指非洲大草原

2. Creaking:if something creaks, especially something wooden, it makes a high noise when it moves or when you put weight on it吱吱作响

3. Compound:something made by combining two or more things 混合,合成

4. Chainsaws:电锯

5. Forest biomass:森林生物群

6. Tree-cover:林木植被

句子解析:

… if it were a country, the shrinkage would make the tropical rainforest the world’s third-biggest carbon-dioxide emitter, after China and America.

如果把亚马逊雨林看作一个国家,那么因为雨林面积减少,它就将是世界上仅次于中美的第三大二氧化碳排放国了。

虽是这么翻译了,不过这中间有一层联系似乎不甚明确:雨林面积减少和排放二氧化碳有什么关系呢?

有一个概念叫做碳固存(carbon sequestration),分为人为固碳和生物固碳,这生物固碳说的简单点就是植物光合作用,将空气中的二氧化碳转换为碳水化合物储存在植物当中。

了解了这个概念之后,那雨林消失了的话,一方面它本可以吸收、固存的二氧化碳就将继续“逍遥法外”,可以算作亚马逊的排放量;另一方面,这些被砍掉的树木本身体内固存着大量的碳,若是作为建筑材料使用也倒还好,但若是被焚烧了,原来固存住的碳又将释放出去。这一来二去,排放的就太多了。

7. Harbour: to provide somebody with shelter or sanctuary包含

*注意这里的harbour不是通常的名词含义,而是由“港湾”这一含义中引申出来的动词含义。

8. Terrestrial species:陆生种类

9. Tipping-point:转折点

10. Hasten: to make sth happen sooner or more quickly促进;使加快

11. Encircle: to surround sb/sth completely in a circle环绕;围绕;包围

12. Avert: to prevent sth bad or dangerous from happening防止,避免

句子解析:

South America’s natural wonder may be perilously close to the tipping-pointbeyond which its gradual transformation into something closer to steppe cannot be stopped or reversed, even if people lay down their axes.

主要成分:Natural wonder may be perilously close to the tipping point 这一自然奇观可能离转折点太近了。

什么转折点呢?后面先是一个beyond which引导的定语从句:超过了这个点,雨林逐渐变成steppe(干草原,主要指俄罗斯西伯利亚的大草原)的过程就将不可逆转。

最后再加一个条件状语从句:即便那个时候人们已经放下斧头(停止砍伐)了。

13. Chip away: to destroy, reduce, or make something weaker by gradually and persistently attacking it切屑;凿开;毁损

14. Millennia:一千年

15. Relinquish :to stop having sth, especially when this happens unwillingly(尤指不情愿地)放弃

16. Log: to cut down trees in a forest for their wood采伐(森林的)树木;伐木

17. Cattle ranching: 牧牛

18. Amnesty: an official statement that allows people who have been put in prison for crimes against the state to go free赦免,大赦

19. Pare back:削减,削弱

20. Pick up:to stand up after falling down, or recover strength, courage, or a sense of purpose after a setback 恢复

21. Gleefully:得意地,欢快地

22. Buzz saw:电动小圆锯

23. Strip: [VN] ~ sb of sth to take away property or honours from sb, as a punishment 剥夺;褫夺:

He was disgraced and stripped of his title.

他名誉扫地,被取消了头衔。

24. Shrivel: to become or make sth dry and wrinkled as a result of heat, cold or being old (使)枯萎,干枯,皱缩

25. Feed on:以……为食

26. Runaway:happening very easily or quickly, and not able to be controlled轻易的;迅速的;难以控制的

27. Kick in:to start to take effect or come into operation 开始生效、产生影响

28. Andes:安第斯山脉

29. Choke off:to stop the flow, supply, or development of something, usually abruptly遏制

30. Aerial:in the air; existing above the ground空中的;空气中的;地表以上的

句子解析:

It would reduce the moisture channelled along the Andes as far south as Buenos Aires. If Brazil were damming a real river, not choking off an aerial one, downstream nations could consider it an act of war.

现实生活中,若是一条河流流经几国,而上游的国家不经商量直接铸造大坝,那下游国家的水利、灌溉都会受到极大影响,因此这种做法不啻于发动一场战争。事实上中国很多农村地区过去常常有聚众械斗的情况发生,有的时候就是因为雨水少的季节,某个村子的村民擅自改水道,甚至截断水流,只灌溉自家水田,引得下流村民的不满才导致的。

而巴西砍伐森林,虽然不会改变现实生活中的水文情况,但是却影响了水汽的量,对整个安第斯山脉沿途的国家都会造成影响,只不过因为这发生在空中(aerial),不容易关注到,也不容易定量,所以才没有国家抗议。

31. Flawed: having a flaw ; damaged or spoiled有错误的;有缺点的;有瑕疵的

32. Raze:to completely destroy a building, town, etc. so that nothing is left彻底摧毁;将…夷为平地

33. Paranoia:a mental illness in which a person may wrongly believe that other people are trying to harm them, that they are sb very important, etc.偏执狂;妄想症

34. Knowledge economy:知识经济

35. Sequester:to keep a jury together in a place, in order to prevent them from talking to other people about a court case, or learning about it in the newspapers, on television, etc.隔离(避免陪审团与公众接触)

36. Maize:玉米

37. Vandalism:the crime of destroying or damaging sth, especially public property, deliberately and for no good reason 故意破坏公共财物罪;恣意毁坏他人财产罪

38. Spurn: to reject or refuse sb/sth, especially in a proud way(尤指傲慢地)拒绝

39. Contingent on: 依情况而定的。这里是说巴西的贸易伙伴在和巴西谈贸易协定的时候,条款具体的设定要视巴西在森林保护方面的表现而定,也就是把贸易协定和森林保护相挂钩。

40. Mercosur:南方共同市场

41. Earmark:to decide that sth will be used for a particular purpose, or to state that sth will happen to sb/sth in the future 指定…的用途;预先安排,确定(未来发生的事情)

42. Green shoot:绿芽。也指经济发展中积极的迹象、势头。这里指Bolsonaro政策中好的点。

43. Scorched-earch tactics:焦土策略

44. Unchecked:if sth harmful isunchecked , it is not controlled or stopped from getting worse 不加约束的;不受限制的;放任的

45. Patrimony:the works of art and treasures of a nation, church, etc.文化遗产;文物;国家(或教堂等)的财产

结构:

 

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