In 2008, after the financial crisis, people of a certain political persuasion (libertarians, Tea Partiers, and Ron Swansonites) started pushing gold as a fail-safe alternative to investing in stock markets or keeping money in the bank. Unlike many Randroid schemes, which never crack the boundaries of the internet, that craze for gold is now killing the rainforest. In the Peruvian Amazon, illegal gold mining has now beat out “the combined effects of all other causes of forest loss in the region, including from logging, ranching and agriculture,” one researcher told the Guardian.

A new study used satellite images, backed up with algorithms that detect changes at much higher resolutions and field data, and found the rainforest is being destroyed three times as quickly as in 2008. Here’s a map of what that destruction looks like along the Madre de Dios River:

But, hey, protecting an irreplaceable resource like this would probably require government intervention! Better just to let the market take its course.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.