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Will environmentalists scupper Brazil’s success?

The Brazilian economy is thrivingBrazil PRpic_sm , according to this BBC Cataratas_12 report. The Economist magazine recently identified what it described as a new lower middle class “emerging almost overnight” in Brazil and Latin America – millions of people who are “the main beneficiaries of the region’s hard-won economic stability”.

Credit must go to Brazil’s president, who as a child worked as a shoe shine boy and peanut seller and only learned to read when he was 10-years-old, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

However, could the protest actions of global environmentalists threaten this booming country’s new feeling of security? They are incensed at Brazil’s importation of rainforest wood and successfully forced officials in one American seaside resort to reconsider its decision to buy $1.1 million wood from Brazilian rainforests to repair their boardwalk.

In an astonishingly successful online campaign, nearly 50,000 e-mails flooded the mayor’s in-box in Ocean City, New Jersey from as far away as Australia, the Philippines, South Africa and New Zealand. However, the Mayor is worried that scrapping the deal could lead to in a lawsuit. However, this could be the start of similar campaigns which will force government leaders and other authorities to place the needs of the environment first.

Ten years ago, Ocean City voted never to use tropical rainforest wood again for its 2.5-mile-long boardwalk that is a mixture of ipe and domestic yellow pine, citing the damage that logging operations are doing to the Amazon. But in January, it decided that it could use wood certified as having been harvested responsibly.

Ipe is a flowering tree that towers over others in the forest canopy and can grow to 100 feet. It is Brazil’s largest timber export, 50 percent of which is sold to customers in the United States. Ipe has been used in boardwalk projects from coast to coast, including Atlantic City, New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Miami Beach and Long Beach and Santa Monica, California. It is obviously big business for Brazil.

But not as big as biofuels. Brazil is determined to continue its global domination as the world’s leading producer of biofuel, it wants to produce enough biofuels to power the world’s cars. However, in order to succeed, it is crucial it proves that its rainforests are not endangered as a result, that they will not be hacked down and replaced by sugar cane plantations.

I remember reading recently that there are 1 million paid up members of political parties in the UK, compared to five million paid up members of environmental groups. Any idea how many environmental members there are throughout the world? One thing is for sure, their influence will grow due to the high profile of climate change, they have the passion to act on their beliefs. Their power cannot be under estimated.


8 Comments

  1. BH, Yes, it’s interesting how boundaries are changing, I’m not sure how far reaching they are yet. What I do wonder is whether this means we are going to have to rely increasingly on GM produced crops to provide biofuels, to grow them more quickly and productively, to “save on the space”, in a manner of speaking. And that includes Brazil’s rainforests.

  2. Both Friends of the Earth and the Green Party have recently changed tack on biofuels. Environmentalism is having a dreadful effect on the environment.

  3. This is always a difficult one: the ethical issue versus people’s need to make a living. Sadly, I think a lot of environmentalists just do not understand the latter need.

  4. I wrote some months ago about a book called 1491 in which the author made claims as to how the rain forest was able to support a much larger population than is there now and how, without tending, the rain forest is a very green desert (meaning not fertile — very poor soil for growing and so forth).

    Trees should be replaceable, don’t you think? But clearing forests for farms, even for “biofuel” farms seems not replaceable. So: Environmentalists, which is better — harvesting trees which can be replaced? Or forbidding their import so they are merely cleared and replaced with farms?

  5. I fear the global environment may be deteriorating to the point where quality of life will suffer for everybody. Short term prosperity can lead to longer term strife. Witness the North Sea herring industry. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

  6. Q9 and Wolfie, I’m sure there are ways that industry and the environment can work together and be profitable and beneficial all round. Activists will up their campaign to prevent further destruction of the rainforest.

    Q9, I’m afraid I couldn’t open your YouTube link.

  7. This is an issue I’m really in two minds over as I’m a physics graduate of an environmentalist bent but work in Investment Banking. I find it hard to reconcile the dilemma between development and preservation.

    I’ll have to let you know who wins …

  8. Hi Elle, the environment is a difficult and emotional issue.
    Just been watching how in Northants because of demands from new build flood defences are going to be built.
    Just been watching someone pleading for well paid jobs for ‘workers’ at Stansted, sod the environment.

    And we presume from a distant to ask other people to make sacrifices or stunt development.
    No wonder the people in China or Brazil say develop first – we can clean up the mess later – just like Europe did.

    I suggest that card carrying environmentalists should do more personally for the environment and moan less about what others should or should not to.

    After all if Brazil (and the amazon rain forest) were taught how to manage their forests rather than cut them down to plan GM soya or biofuel crops – whoever came up with the notion that biofuels are green or enviromentally friendly – compared to what?

    Try this from YouTube as alternative fuel, there was a myth or conspiracy theory that someone in France developed the water engine decades ago, but the Oil companies bought him out (or even wiped him out).

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