How deforestation is pushing the Amazon toward a tipping point

The rough middle section of Brazil's Highway 319, in the rural area of Humaitá in Amazonas state, on Oct. 19, 2021. (Raphael Alves for The Washington Post)

Every day, deforestation brings the Amazon closer to what scientists warn will be its death, when the loss of tree cover finally pushes it past the point of no return and the world loses its greatest shield against rising temperatures.

The Washington Post is focusing on the rainforest in its new series “The Amazon, Undone.” We’re traveling throughout Brazil, home to roughly 60 percent of the Amazon. To examine the effects of deforestation, we took a 500-mile trip down a highway that slices through the rainforest, wreaking havoc on the ecology of the forest itself and fueling criminal behavior such as land-grabbing and even murder. To follow beef tied to illegal deforestation from Brazil to the United States, we examined thousands of shipment and purchase logs and obtained satellite imagery that exposed illegal cattle grazing.

Here’s what we know about the dire state of the Amazon rainforest and why it’s increasingly important to pay attention to its destruction.