Last year, Brazil rolled back crucial parts of its landmark Forestry Code, potentially opening vast tracts of forest for destruction; it is also moving ahead on a number of Amazon dams, including the infamous Belo Monte, despite international condemnation and conflict with indigenous people. Meanwhile, a new law under consideration proposes allowing large-scale mining in protected areas. Given this a new paper in mongabay.com’s open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science argues that Brazil has thrown off its once admired mantle of environmental legislation, imperiling hundreds of thousands of species in the most biodiverse country on Earth.
According to the paper, by the 1980s, Brazil had “the broadest environmental legislation in the world.” Since then the country successfully cut its deforestation rate.
“Over recent decades, the establishment of fully protected areas, the development of national and state’s Red Book of Endangered Species, the rise of NGOs, and the advancement of conservation science made Brazil a global example of conservation success,” the researchers write.
However, things have changed in the last few years.
“Today Brazil is no longer a good example of environmental stewardship,” the paper’s authors write, arguing that the loss of progressive legislation and new laws now represents the greatest threat to the country’s biodiversity. These changes threaten species, soil health, freshwater sources, medicine, and agriculture, according to the paper.
“Even more alarming are the statements by members of the Brazilian government, which display a total lack of interest in biodiversity and natural resources,” the authors write. They argue that the current government is more influenced by corporate lobbyists than the public good.”
“This power relationship is a chronic problem in Brazil and is reflected in every sphere of society, including biodiversity conservation,” the researchers write.
The recent swing by the government has led to a number of resignations including Marina Silva, former Minister of Environment in 2008.
“Both the government and various society sectors are now divided into two camps: the so-called ‘ruralista’ composed of large agribusiness producers allied with the majority of deputies and senators, who are opponents of the environmental agenda; and the ‘environmentalist’ bench, composed of NGOs for environmental protection, the scientific academy, and a small number of politicians,” the researchers write.
Amazon rainforest meets cattle pasture. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
- Novaes, R. L. M. and Souza, R. F. 2013. Legalizing environmental exploitation in Brazil: the retreat of public policies for biodiversity protection. Tropical Conservation Science. Vol. 6(4):477-483.
(09/19/2013) A federal judge in Brazil has ordered the suspension of construction activities on the Teles Pires due to shortcomings in the environmental licensing process, including the project’s impacts on three local tribes, reports International Rivers.
(09/19/2013) 150 indigenous protesters have once again occupied the Belo Monte dam site in an effort to block the controversial project, reports Amazon Watch, an NGO that is helping lead the fight against the dam.
(09/12/2013) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon appears to have risen significantly over the past year, according to data released by the country’s space agency, INPE. Data aggregated from INPE’s monthly deforestation alert system shows a 34 percent rise for the 12 months ended July 31, 2013 relative to the year-earlier period.
(09/10/2013) The Brazilian government has designated 952,000 hectares of remote public land in the Amazon as two new protected areas.
(09/10/2013) The Paiter-Suruí, a rainforest tribe that in June became the first indigenous group to generate REDD+ credits under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), has now closed their first deal. As reported by Ecosystem Marketplace, Brazilian cosmetics giant Natura Cosméticos has purchased 120,000 tons of carbon offsets from the the Surui Forest Carbon Project in Rondônia, Brazil.
(08/22/2013) Around 40% of beef and 85% of leather production serve markets that are potentially sensitive to environmental concerns, providing a partial explantation as to why Brazilian producers have made recent commitments to reducing deforestation for cattle production, finds a new study published in Tropical Conservation Science.
(08/21/2013) As the world’s population increases and agricultural frontiers expand into native tropical habitats, researchers are working furiously to understand the impacts on tropical forests and global biodiversity. But one obvious impact has been little studied in these agricultural frontiers: pesticides. However a new study in the journal Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B seeks to shine a light on the problem.
(08/19/2013) With deforestation pacing more than 90 percent ahead of last year’s rate according to an estimate released today, Brazil said it has increased the number of environmental inspectors in the Amazon rainforest.
(07/18/2013) Brazil has launched a military campaign to evict illegal loggers working from the fringes of an indigenous reserve home to the Awá people, reports Survival International. Inhabiting the Amazon rainforest in northeastern Brazil, only around 450 Awá, also known as Guajá, survive today, and around a quarter of these have chosen voluntary isolation.