Here’s a little bit of welcome news from the Southern Hemisphere: The rate of deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest has fallen sharply, according to Brazilian environmental officials. Between 2000 and 2001, the rate of logging and set forest fires fell by 13 percent, from roughly 7,000 square miles of forest destroyed in 2000 to about 6,000 last year. The Brazilian government attributed the better figures to increased monitoring of hotspots and continued efforts to introduce sustainable patterns of land use in the region. Environmentalists greeted the news happily, but cautioned that more work needed to be done to control logging and fires. The Amazon Basin, which is larger than Western Europe, is thought to be home to as much as 30 percent of the world’s biodiversity. In the last few decades, about 240,000 square miles of a total of 1.8 million have been destroyed by human encroachment.