Tropical Forest Destruction Accelerated in 2020 大疫之年 熱帶森林被砍更凶
Tropical forests around the world were destroyed at an increasing rate in 2020 compared with the year before, despite the global economic downturn caused by the pandemic, which reduced demand for some commodities that have spurred deforestation in the past.
Worldwide, loss of primary old-growth tropical forest, which plays a critical role in keeping carbon out of the atmosphere and in maintaining biodiversity, increased by 12% in 2020 from 2019, according to the World Resources Institute, a research group based in Washington that reports annually on the subject.
Overall, more than 10 million acres of primary tropical forest was lost in 2020, an area roughly the size of Switzerland. Loss of that much forest added more than 2 1/2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, or about twice as much as is spewed into the air by cars in the United States every year.
Brazil once again led the world in forest loss by a wide margin, as the pro-development policies of the country's president, Jair Bolsonaro, led to continued widespread clear-cutting. Surging forest losses were also reported in Cameroon in West Africa. And in Colombia, losses soared again last year after a promising drop in 2019.
Indonesia and Malaysia were rare bright spots, with forest loss declining from 2019.
As in previous years, most forest loss in the tropics was driven by agriculture, either the production of commodities like palm oil and cocoa or subsistence efforts by small farmers. In either case, forests are usually clear-cut and the resulting debris is burned to prepare the fields.
Most of the forest loss in Brazil occurred in the Amazon rainforest, as it has for years. But this year the Pantanal, the enormous wetlands region in the southern part of the country, which also covers parts of Bolivia and Paraguay, contributed greatly to the losses. The region experienced a historic drought that led to a severe fire season, with 16 times more forest loss in 2020 than the year before.
She said the world has yet to see the greatest impact on forests from the pandemic, "which will probably come into play as economies start to recover."
Online Schools Are Here to Stay, Even After the Pandemic 當疫情過去 線上學校會留下
Rory Levin, a sixth grader in Bloomington, Minnesota, used to hate going to school. He has a health condition that often makes him feel apprehensive around other students. Taking special-education classes did little to ease his anxiety.
So when his district created a stand-alone digital-only program, Bloomington Online School, last year for the pandemic, Rory opted to try it. Now the 11-year-old is enjoying school for the first time, said his mother, Lisa Levin. He loves the live video classes and has made friends with other online students, she said.
"It is such a good fit for him," she said. "We're really hoping they can continue it for the rest of his school career."
A year after the coronavirus set off a seismic disruption in public education, some of the remote programs that districts intended to be temporary are poised to outlast the pandemic. Even as students flock back to classrooms, a subset of families who have come to prefer online learning are pushing to keep it going — and school systems are rushing to accommodate them.
The districts are racing to set up full-fledged online schools even as concerns mount that remote learning has taken a substantial toll on many children's academic progress and emotional health. Parents and lawmakers, alarmed by the situation, have urged schools to reopen.
Even so, at least several hundred of the nation's 13,000 school districts have established virtual schools this academic year, with an eye to operating them for years to come, education researchers said. Unlike many makeshift pandemic school programs, these stand-alone virtual schools have their own teachers, who work only with remote students and use curricula designed for online learning.
Yet a surge of online schools comes with risks. It could normalize remote learning approaches that have had poor results for many students, education researchers said. It could also further divide a fragile national education system, especially when many Asian, Black and Latino families have been wary of sending their children back to school this year.