Column - Brazil should stick to its roots and keep the trees
Published: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2012 07:03
Brazil, which hosts 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest, may become a victim to economically hungry "ruralists" who hold positions within the country's congress.
With March finally arriving, a crucial decision is about to be made.
A debate will be held to decide whether to maintain regulations set by the 47-year-old Forest Code, or to no longer adhere to the code with intentions of agricultural expansion accompanied by a heightened level of deforestation.
Agriculture holds claim to 22 percent of Brazil's gross domestic product.
Congressmen affiliated with the agribusiness sector are trying to emphasize that the old Forest Code is denying Brazil of its potential for production of agricultural goods.
Are they unaware they are the sixth largest country, keepers of a rainforest that would cover roughly half of the United States?
Well, maybe less when taking into consideration the amount of deforestation the Amazon has endured since 1970.
Since then, Brazil's space research institute, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE), estimates nearly a fifth of the Brazilian forest has been lost. Roughly 11,550 square miles were cleared in 1995 – an area that would cover the state of Maryland.
The forests have seen relief though.
In 2011, the rate of loss had been reduced to nearly 2,400 square miles resulting in the lowest annual clearance since INPE began conducting yearly surveys in 1988. Brazil is aiming to reduce deforestation to 1,351 square miles annually by 2020.
If legislation is not instated by Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's newly appointed president as of late 2010, proper improvement will not be executed.
Credit is given by Brazil's environment ministry to a combination of support granted toward sustainable actions and near-real-time satellite monitoring of the forest allowing illegal operations to be targeted with extra agents.
It is now feared that Brazil could be at risk due to the overturning of the Forest Code since the efficient use of technology has been backed by political will to slow deforestation.
Currently, Brazilian government statistics show about 30 percent of the country's land is given over to agriculture. Are the "ruralists" unaware that there is already enough land to double production?
Scientific evidence proves Brazil would be able to increase agriculture production substantially without cutting down a single tree.
If anything, Brazil should increase percentages of livestock.
It's understandable in the sense, like in many developing nations, commercial and agricultural interests are looking to use natural environments. But it is not reasonable to threaten the vast range of animal and plant life found within the rainforest.
Such an environment is home to a treasury of life. Scientists from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity estimate at least two-thirds of all Earth's terrestrial species are found in tropical rainforests.
Furthermore, the new law will lead to billions of greenhouse gas emissions, undermining the efforts made to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.
There is also a possibility, due to the change of the code, that up to 76 million hectares (about 293 million square miles) of forest could be affected.
In other words, the equivalent of 28 billion tons of carbon dioxide would be released reaching four times the target for global greenhouse gas emission cuts according to the Kyoto Protocol for 2008-12.
Although the "ruralists" do have a hefty amount of power in Brazil, they are becoming greedy and irrational while trying to make Rousseff their puppet.
According to The New York Times, President Rousseff promised before she took over office, to veto any revision of the Forest Code that granted amnesty to landowners who had previously deforested illegally.
Then her government negotiated a version of the code, approved by the Senate, which gave an official pardon to farmers who broke the law before 2008 – provided they agreed to plant new trees.
The alteration was a result of "ruralists" becoming hungry due to passed regulations made by Marina Silva, Brazil's former environment minister, who also ran for the presidency in 2010, but lost.
Even such a small alteration makes the whole situation more irritating and incomprehensible.
The new code would result in 60 million acres of reforestation, which is referred to by the Environment Ministry as "the largest reforestation program in the world," according to The New York Times. But who will pay for all of those new trees?
"The small producers don't have the money to replant," said Marcos Jank, president of the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association. Programs will need to be implemented to even help them meet financial requirements.
With relief, deforestation is minimizing. Beyond that, according to The New York Times, Brazil will be granted a new generation of satellites within the next two years, giving access to images from seven satellites instead of just two.
Director of the National Institute for Space Research, Gilberto Camara along with other scientists, predict the Amazon has a chance to become a "carbon sink," in which the amount of forest being replanted is larger than the amount being deforested.
Let's hope an overwhelming mistake is not made.