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Saving the Planet Is the World’s Duty. Not Brazil’s Alone

Cover of January 2007 issue of National Geographic Magazine

Cover of January 2007 issue of National Geographic MagazineThe January 7 issue of National Geographic features the Amazon as its cover story. A very hard approach to the big forest’s issue. The tone of the article is about what is left of the rainforest, calling the readers’ attention to the devastation of the Amazon forest. As a matter of fact this is all the story does, it shows all the negative aspects, without a word on anything positive going on or even all the rich and wonderful things of the area.

The magazine points to economic factors as the main cause for the devastation of the forest and it charges the Brazilian government with responsibility, on a level of predatory complicity. Not a word on other aspects of the Brazilian economy such as the world’s demand for Brazilian exports like soy, beef and wood, a lot of which comes precisely from the Amazon.

The US alone buy 50% of Brazilian wood sold for export. Too bad important magazines publish such biased stories. Too bad because what is published by this kind of magazine is taken very seriously by the American public and many will be led into thinking, after reading this particular story, that Brazil is not capable of managing its important natural wealth.

Which is not an absolute truth. Brazil is a country with lots of problems, but it is also a responsible country, with sovereignty. It is true that Brazil needs to pay closer attention not only to the Amazon, but to global warming as well.

And this is true not only for Brazil, but it applies to all countries in the world. It is dangerous negligence, and unfortunately this is what we are witnessing. The entire planet has to pay closer attention to the environment. and this is not a Brazilian duty alone.

The Amazon belongs to Brazil and it is Brazil’s responsibility, as its primary caretaker, to make sure that things are done in a proper way in the area, preserving the environment. But it does bring about an uncomfortable feeling when great publications write tendentious stories about the rich forest, which has generated so much wealth and which will keep doing so.

When a subject like the Amazon comes up, one can never be too careful. There is too much at stake and maybe there are too many eyes longing from a distance in hope to find a way to grab a piece of that rich cake or even to claim possession.

The Amazon belongs to the planet first thing, but in this world of possessions and borders, all officially established by men, it belongs to Brazil, the South American giant.

Mistakes have been made and they should be corrected, we all know that. It is true that under the present government alone there has been 85,000 km² of forest devastation and this is serious business. It is also known that Brazil is today, like many other major countries, a big cause of pollution in the world. This is not good and the issue needs to be approached more seriously.

The recent development plan (PAC) launched by President Lula in the beginning of his new term, lacks a more assertive and clear approach to the environment issue. The PAC needs to motivate entrepreneurs, because it counts on private initiative for investments, limiting public money to infrastructure under its direct responsibility.

The money is there, both the government and the big companies have plenty. But as today’s fourth bigger contributor to global warming, thanks to burning and devastating the forest, Brazil needs to include in the plan a model that seeks progress and growth with all due respect to nature, and with emphasis on the preservation of the Amazon forest, and how to avoid, prevent or lessen the impact of the severe droughts supposed to affect the country by 2070, according to scientists.

It really is a big challenge, a whole new revolution without which there will be very little left of the human kind. Talking ecology is no longer sophisticated talk, ecology now, more than ever, is politics, the most important kind, because it is politics of human survival on earth.

How to use natural resources; how not to lose competitivity; how to use fuels without so much pollution; how to open new roads; how to build new hydro-electric plants; how to do it all while preserving the environment, all at the same time? And what is everybody doing about it? What is Brazil doing about it? How is it planning to protect the Amazon forest?

If the development plan did not approach the subject in a satisfactory manner, the Minister of Environment Protection, Marina Silva, said during a speech at IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) that environment preservation must be part of any development plan and that this is the time when Brazil has to make important decisions on what it wants for the Amazon.

She was emphatic, according to the Brazilian press, when she affirmed that fighting global warming must be part of all development and growth. This is good news.

During the upcoming G-8 meeting in July the environment is one of the major themes. An NGO in Brazil convinced banks to tie financing of big projects to environment safe rules. This is very good news.

Brazilian artists and celebrities are gathering signatures for a document to be presented to President Lula, even a website has been created. More good news.

Everybody should get involved because saving the planet is a subject that belongs to all of us. Let’s do what we can – without crossing the borders, please.

Clara Angelica Porto is a Brazilian bilingual journalist living in New York.  She went to school in Brazil and at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  Clara is presently working as the English writer for The Brasilians, a monthly newspaper in Manhattan.  Comments welcome at clara.angelica@gmail.com.

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