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« Tom Wolfe and Transparent Buildings | Main | Follow Up: Mapping the Cultureverse »

October 16, 2003

Follow Up: Preserving the Rainforest


Another story that brings up echoes from previous 2blowhards postings is in the Wall Street Journal of October 16. Headlined, “Brazil’s President Sees New Growth in Rain Forest,” it's about how environmentalists are “dismayed” at the policies of the Brazilian government in the Amazon rainforest. What kind of new growth does Brazil’s president see? Well, it ain’t the plant or animal variety:

When Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva became Brazil’s first elected leftist president in January, environmentalists cheered. They regarded the co-founder of the Workers Party as progressive and “green” in his politics. “We believed in Lula,” says Jecinaldo Satere Mawe, an indigenous leader who has worked for years with environmentalists…Activitsts are mounting a last-ditch struggle to halt [natural gas pipelines being built through the rainforest by national oil company] Petrobras, in what is shaping up as one of the first of potentially many environmental battles for Mr. Da Silva’s administration. The president wants to pump billions of dollars into highways, railroads, airports, waterways and other projects that could change the face of the rain forest.

On July 3 I noted, in a posting A Modest Proposal for the Brazilian Rainforest, that such long-established policies by the Brazilian government cast significant doubt on the world’s preferred environmental strategies of bribing Brazil to “just say no” to developing the Amazon:

Looking back in history, it turns out that the Brazilian government has been financially encouraging settlement of the Amazon rainforest since the 1940s. The motive, in large part, has been geopolitical—to wit, that hardly any “real” Brazilians live in the Amazon rainforest, and Brazil doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to park army units along the borders. Successive Brazilian governments have been uneasily aware that they have been getting away with the claim to “own” a huge chunk of the Amazon rainforest without having hardly any of their citizens actually living there, or without having any real means to control the territory…And if the outside world wants to “bribe” Brazil to declare parts of the Amazon rainforest off limits to deforestation, well, that’s okay by the politicians—as long as the foreigners are stupid enough to think Brazil will actually abide by these covenants.

My suggestion was to create private property rights for the Amazon which would give the locals an economic incentive to preserve, not destroy, the rainforest. You can read about it here.

I still think it's a good idea, BTW.



posted by Friedrich at October 16, 2003


Did you ever eyeball that Hernando de Soto (am I remembering the right name?) book abuout the Third World, the poor, and property rights? He'd agree with you. Too bad the president of Brazil doesn't.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 16, 2003 11:25 PM

How come all of our left-leaning commenters never jumped in on this post or the previous one? One could even begin to question their credentials as friends of the environment.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 17, 2003 1:34 PM

The sad state of human nature is to be re-active instead of pro-active. Without strong central leadership and support from the people, any land reform or conservation plan is doomed to fail. Complicate this further with a poor communication system and you now have the Amazon jungle. One of the saving graces of the Amazon region is the annual flooding that goes on. This flooding makes large areas of land very hard to settle, though the timber can still be cut down.

Some interesting links for information on Brazil and the Amazon region are listed below. One interesting point made to me was how industrialized countries begin to have a slowed birth rate. The benefits of a modern society are hard to come by if you do not have the financial resources available to use them. As a result, financial strains are encouraging people to have only one or maybe two kids if any. The question then becomes will we have time for the nations to reach this level before the environment is irrevocably damaged. Another major point is the purchase of the rainforests by the wealthy countries of the world. Is it possible for foreign interest to buy up these lands and then control their preservation?

Posted by: ShipShape on October 19, 2003 12:09 PM

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