Brazilian Government Places Some of the Rainforest Under Protection - But is it Enough?

Brazilian President, Lula da Silva

On June 5, in response to a well-publicized increase in the rate of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced plans to place more of the forest under federal protection. Under President Lula da Silva's proposal, three new forest reserves would be created, adding an additional 10,000 square miles to the 89,000 square miles of forest that is already protected. The announcement came after analysis of satellite photographs of the Amazon showed that approximately 434 square miles were lost in April alone, putting the Brazilian government under international pressure to do something. President Lula's administration has a mixed environmental record, acting to protect the forest in some cases, but fiercely protective of what it sees as the country's right to develop its natural resources without "foreign interference." For example, in late May the government arrested a group of loggers illegally felling trees in the Vale do Guapore Indian reserve in Mato Grosso state. However, the government also has plans to develop large swaths of the forest, planning to build 70 dams by 2030. Of course, some development in and around the Amazon is probably inevitable. The question is what kind of development should be permitted? The Amazon is not only a global hotspot of biodiversity and a carbon sink; it is also an integral part of the region's water cycle. Trees in the rainforest release water into the air from their leaves. This process helps create more rain, in effect recycling the water. In fact, the Amazon creates 50% of its own precipitation. Too much deforestation could impact the amount of rain that falls on Brazil and surrounding countries. Therefore, sustainable development in the Amazon is just as important to Brazilians as it is to the rest of us. As much as possible of the forest ecosystem needs to be kept intact-and it's nearly impossible to dam rivers, build roads, and expand farms and cattle ranches without damaging or destroying the rainforest ecosystem. Also, many of the people that actually live in the areas to be developed don't want the development. For example, a group of 1,000 forest dwellers, including native people and farmers, gathered recently to protest against a proposed dam on the Xingu River. According to Reuters, President Lula da Silva takes issue with foreigners telling his country what to do, saying that "it is important that when someone comes into our house they ask permission to open our fridge." But what about the people in his own country who are opposed to these projects? I'm not trying to completely knock the Brazilian government's conservation record-they have taken some important steps to protect the forest. For example, in April, a condom factory was opened in the tiny rainforest town of Xapuri. A condom factory may sound like an unlikely example of sustainable development, but tapping rubber trees for natural latex gives area residents an opportunity to profit from the forest without cutting it down. Also, the government just set up an international donations fund so that other countries can make donations to be applied toward preserving the Amazon. However, Brazil is experiencing a clash of two conflicting impulses: the impulse to grow as quickly as possible and the impulse to preserve the Amazon rainforest, the country's national treasure. As we here in the U.S. and other "developed" countries have learned, it's difficult to get the balance right. Without careful planning and study, giving in too quickly to the urge to develop can cause a lot of environmental damage, much of it irreversible. To put the amount of land that President Lula da Silva just set aside into perspective, 4,333 square miles of forest were denuded in 2006. Approximately every 2 years, an area equal to the 10,000 square miles in the proposed reserves is lost. The new reserve areas, and even the areas that are already protected, are only a small part of a much larger whole. If the rest of the forest is logged, ranched or otherwise developed to death, there will likely be serious ecological consequences for Brazil and its neighbors, and for the rest of us, too. Further Reading:

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frances (anonymous)

No is not enough right now there is no mayor in Itacoatiara the banks do not release money to the people what is going on in that town that forgotten town???

Written in December 2009

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  • Posted on June 23, 2008. Listed in:

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