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Brazil Faces Environmental Challenges in Amazon Ahead of Rio+20 Earth Summit

Mario Tama/Getty Images

ACAILANDIA, BRAZIL – JUNE 09: A man flips off a platform in the Amazonian town of Acailandia on June 9, 2012 in Acailandia, Brazil. The boomtown was founded when a highway was carved through the rainforest and loggers quickly felled the valuable trees in the area for profit. The town now has a population of 104,000 and houses a number of smelters which produce pig iron. The smelters are usually fuelled with charcoal created from illegally harvested Amazon rainforest wood.

The Brazilian Amazon, home to 60 percent of the world?s largest forest and 20 percent of the Earth?s oxygen, remains threatened by the rapid development of the country. The area is currently populated by over 20 million people and is challenged by deforestation, agriculture, mining, a governmental dam building spree, illegal land speculation including the occupation of forest reserves and indigenous land and other issues. Over 100 heads of state and tens of thousands of participants and protesters will descend on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, later this month for the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development or “Earth Summit”. Host Brazil is caught up in its own dilemma between accelerated growth and environmental preservation. The summit aims to overcome years of deadlock over environmental concerns and marks the 20th anniversary of the landmark Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, which delivered the Climate Convention and a host of other promises. Brazil is now the world?s sixth largest economy and is set to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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