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Brazil’s minister of ideas, nemesis of former environmental minister, resigns

Brazil’s minister of strategic affairs, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, will resign his post in the next few days and resume his teaching career at Harvard, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced Monday.

Unger, who had been dubbed Lula’s “minister of ideas”, had clashed with environmentalists — notably Brazil’s former Environment Minister Marina Silva — over his pro-development approach to the Amazon rainforest.

Unger’s resignation had been expected. His leave-of-absence from Harvard expires in August.

Unger has advised Lula on energy and food security, foreign trade and investment, according to Dow Jones. In April Unger told Bloomberg that Brazil could triple its agricultural without the needing to clear additional rainforest in the Amazon Basin but, at other times, he has pushed for infrastructure expansion and new energy projects in the world’s largest rainforest. Marina Silva resigned last May following battles with Unger and other ministers over planned development projects in the Amazon.

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Amazon deforestation doesn’t make communities richer, better educated, or healthier

(06/11/2009) Deforestation generates short-term benefits but fails to increase affluence and quality of life in the long-run, reports a new study based an analysis of forest clearing in 286 municipalities across the Brazilian Amazon. The research, published in Friday’s issue of the journal Science, casts doubt on the argument that deforestation is a critical step towards development and suggests that mechanisms to compensate communities for keeping forests standing may be a better approach to improving human welfare, while simultaneously sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem services, in rainforest areas.

Political infighting in Brazil threatens the Amazon rainforest

(06/01/2009) Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc accused other government agencies of working to undermine environmental laws in favor of Amazon development projects, report Reuters and the Associated Press. His charge comes a year after his predecessor, Senator Marina Silva, resigned due to the same opposition from development interests. Minc has taken an active role in battling Amazon deforestation, reducing credit access to illegal loggers and ranchers, seizing agricultural products and cattle produced on illegally deforested lands, and pushing for new protected areas. His efforts have angered powerful development interests and at times have put his at odds with President Lula, who is promoting new road and hydroelectric projects.

Former environment minister Silva honored with prestigious environmental award

(04/02/2009) Brazil’s former Environment Minister Marina Silva was awarded Norway’s $100,000 Sophie Prize for her efforts to protect the Amazon rainforest.

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