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Image courtesy NASA based on ASTER data; Rondonia, Brazil

Since 1970, 600,000 square kilometers of the Amazon rainforest have been lost through deforestation. Various causes have been cited, to include clearing for cattle grazing, colonization, agriculture, infrastructure expansion and logging.

Brazilians may resent other countries as they continue to pollute the atmosphere with fossil fuel emissions and engage in their own deforestation. But many look at rainforests as the lungs of the planet as the vegetation pulls carbon from the atmosphere. A look at the satellite image above from Rondonia, Brazil shows large tracts of deforestation.

Dr. Philip M. Fearnside of the National Institute for Research in the Amazon says that deforestation continues at a fast rate and continues for as little as 20 years, the results could be disastrous. He suggests that it is up to society to determine how to deal with this issue and that decisions made now will have major implications for the future. These decisions will come from carefully considering how to best make use of this renewable resource. A consideration may also be the answer to this question: "how renewable is the rainforest or any forest for that matter? If we cut down the rainforest, can I grow back? Is so, how long will it take?"

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