Brazil: ‘zero deforestation’ push

Following a three-year campaign, Greenpeace Brazil activists formally presented a petition signed by 1.4 million Brazilians to the country's congress, calling for legislation establishing a "zero deforestation" polcy. "We submit this bill to Congress and now it's time for them to reflect on the will of the people. There is enough space for development without cutting down more of our forests." The annual rate of Amazon forest loss in Brazil has slowed by 75% since the early 2000s, but roughly 5,000 square kilometers (1.2 million acres) of rainforest is still destroyed every year. Some lawmakers have signed on to the proposal. "I signed the petition in 2012 and I admit that I was anxious to see it completed," Sen. João Capiberibe said in a statement. "This is certainly an important step toward the objective of zero deforestation in Brazil and then beginning a new project for developing the country, one that is not based on environmental destruction."

A recent analysis by Paulo Moutinho of Brazil's Amazon Environmental Research Institute and Steve Schwartzman of the Environmental Defense Fund supports the Greenpeace assertion that zero deforestation is entirely possible for Brazil to achieve without foregoing economic growth. "Brazil succeeded in reducing Amazon deforestation by more than 80% since 2005 while maintaining robust growth in beef and soy production," Moutinho and Schwarzman write. "There are at least about 56,000 km² of degraded cattle pasture in the Amazon that can be reclaimed for agriculture, as well as ample scope for intensifying cattle raising and improving yields, freeing up even more land."

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has pledged to eliminate illegal deforestation and restore 12 million hectares (about 30 million acres) of forest by 2030 as part of broader efforts to combat climate change. But zero illegal deforestation by 2030 is a "considerably less ambitious goal”" than what many Brazilian states have already proposed for themselves, Moutinho and Schwarzman assert.

Pará, for example, a major agricultural state, has adopted a target of 80% deforestation reduction by 2020 and zero net deforestation thereafter. And Acre state, which still retains nearly 90% of its original forest cover, "is already implementing the most ambitious and successful system of payment for environmental services in the tropical world focusing on forest conservation," Moutinho and Schwarzman write. (Mongabay, Oct. 13)

But Greenpeace and its allies appear to be in a race with another legislative measure that could dramatically accelerate deforestation: Proposed Constititional Amendment 215, or PEC 215. The amendment, which failed to pass last year, would transfer responsibility for demarcation of indigenous territories from the executive to legislative branch, where the land barons have far more power. Conservative lawmakers are now pushing to revive the measure. On Nov. 11, a delegation of a dozen indigenous leaders from across the Brazilian Amazon met with Government Minister Ricardo Berzoini to express their opposition to PEC 215. (Jornal do Brasil, Nov. 11; Intercontinental Cry, Sept. 2)

After more than 10 years of decline, the rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has again begun to increase in the past three years.

  1. Brazilian politician wins “Racist of the Year” award

    From Survival International:

    Survival International today announced the winner of the Racist of the Year Award 2015 as Fernando Furtado, a deputy in the Brazilian state of Maranhao.

    Furtado, of the Communist Party of Brazil, was given the award for comments he made in a speech in July, in which he said that Amazonian Indians should be left to starve. He also called them “a bunch of little gays.” After having caused outrage in Brazil, Mr. Furtado was forced to issue a formal retraction.

    Addressing a meeting of loggers and ranchers, Mr. Furtado said of indigenous Brazilians: "They don't know how to plant rice, so let them die of hunger in poverty, that’s the best thing, because they don't know how to work."

    The speech was delivered to a settler community in São João do Caru, close to the border of the Awá indigenous territory. Multiple fires started by the loggers are still raging in this area, threatening the lives of several hundred Awá tribespeople. This includes a group of uncontacted people, who are one of the most vulnerable societies on the planet.

    We've noted the plight of the Awá before. But… Communist Party of Brazil? Really? Survival's previous Racist of the Year awards have gone to pillars of the conservative establishment in Paraguay and Peru. Why hasn't this Furtado been purged fom the party, or at least harshly censured? Time for a little party discipline, PCdoB!