The Gruniad article of yesterday on deforestation is interesting, and illustrates once again how polemic the subject is – even in Brazil and even within the government and its agencies. The debate is nicely summed up in the article itself, although I must point out that here on the ground what is widely believed to be the next watershed is the combined effect of a) the completion of the BR319 and a future bridge across the Amazon, linking Manaus with the East-West Transamazonian highway; and b) the completion of the western-most part of the Transamazonian Highway itself, linking the whole lot to the west coast of South America. In fact these events are unlikely to be co-terminous, but work is already under way on all these projects and eventually (actually quite soon) there is no doubt here that what we will have is a nicely quartered Amazon, with huge N-S and E-W highways ushering in a whole new era of slaughter of fauna and flora alike. You can also add to the mix the huge hydroelectric projects already approved (for which the highways will act as huge conveyor belts transporting raw materials out and construction materials and manufactured goods in).
Whilst I personally very much regret all this, I cannot see that there is any way to prevent it. Brazilians surely have the right to live in our wonderful 21st century global society on equal terms – and in order to gain access to the necessary infrastructure and education (never mind all the trappings of so-called civilised society like cars and computers and the internet and mobile phones and and and….), well, they’re just going to have to use up their natural resources just like everyone else has done over the centuries. And I can assure you that, at least currently, concepts like environmental sustainability, carbon offset agreements and alternative energy are every bit as real (and realisable) to the locals as cheap day trips to Mars are for New York’s middle class.
It seems to me that the answers in the short term lie in the availability of suitable infrastructure, communication, manpower and legislation to those tasked with environmental protection, and the indisputable fact is that Brazil just hasn’t got that right now – period. In the longer term of course, education and market forces come into play, but as things stand this will simply come too late to be of any relevance.
And the solution is….? I dunno. I simply dunno.