Economic gain defies environmental sense

The death of the Amazon forest. Photo: Threat To Democracy

The death of the Amazon forest. Photo: Threat To Democracy

For once the world is concerned that democracy has been served. A large majority of the people in Brazil have had their voices heard, when last week Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies passed a bill that would end protection of most of the Amazon rainforest from deforestation from farmers. The move could see a sudden surge in the amount of the ‘lungs of the earth’ destroyed, at a time when it is 20% smaller than in 1960.

The bill was passed due to the huge pressure from rising commodity prices on Brazil’s valuable agricultural sector. Brazilain farmers are desperate for more land. Brazil is the fourth largest producer of corn in the world, and hopes to increase that level of production. Self sufficiency during this economic period is seen to be very valuable.

More valuable than the unique ecosystem that is the Amazon rainforest. What is especially remarkable about this situation is that no fewer than ten former Environmental ministers fought tirelessly against the bill, but apparently to no avail. Alternatives were not seen to be as fruitful. Part of the bill will allow farming to be permitted on ecologically sensitive riverbanks.

Brazil recognises its chance to maintain its position as one of the fastest developing countries in the world, and ecological arguments are not going to stand in its way. Neither is income inequality, with Brazil’s gini coefficient being one of the highest internationally. With the football World Cup coming in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, Brazil has a chance to fully establish themselves globally. Any prolonged economic crisis caused from high commodity prices isn’t part of the plan, especially if it can be averted somehow.

One section of the bill will allow the possibility of amnesty for those who illegally logged before 2008. This has been severely criticised, as many are concerned that these environmental crimes going unpunished sets the wrong precedent. The facts sound worse; illegally logging 990 acres holds no consequences according to this bill. Despite this, how do we define a sufficient punishment? Previously fines were used to deter potential loggers, although I doubt this is justice for the irreversible damage caused to the unique ecosystem, which accounts for production of 20% of the world’s oxygen.

President Rousseff has promised to review the Bill after the mass international outcry from environmental campaign groups. She hinted she may veto the amnesty section, and any sections that encourage logging. Nevertheless, you don’t really have to be a strong environmentalist to oppose this bill, just a compassionate human being.

The moral argument of increasing the pressure on the survival of over half of the world’s species of plant, animals and insects living in the Amazon must surly be stronger than the economic one?

At a time when some small ecological progress internationally was gaining steam, environmentalists all over the world have had their dreams dashed. The economic recovery, once seen as a catalyst for environmental change for the better, has turned out to put a resounding halt to that.

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