News reports on May 19 announced that more than 10,000 square miles of the Amazon rainforest had been deforested over the last year – an area the size of the state of Massachusetts in the US.
Not only is the Amazon rainforest an area of breathtaking beauty and unparalleled biodiversity, through the process of photosynthesis it also ensures the survival of the human race, with its billions of trees producing much of the world’s supply of oxygen.
While ultimately Brazil’s progressive President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, bears the brunt of this fiasco, the U.S. and European nations also generously share in the responsibility for the destruction of vast swaths of the country’s rainforest.
They have promoted the neo-liberal economic polices that persuaded Brazil to rely on the strength of its constantly expanding agricultural sector to pay down its suffocating international debt.
As a result, loggers have felled hundreds of thousands of hectares of trees and farmers have cleared vast tracks of the rainforest to grow crops.
Just as was the case under former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the negative repercussions which result from this arboreal massacre, were relatively mild because – despite presidential declarations to the contrary – Brazil’s environmental polices under Lula have been much more bark than bite.
Brasília, under the “people’s president” has failed to fulfill its commitment to prevent further destruction of the Amazon rainforest as promised last year when Lula announced a $140 million campaign to preserve and ensure better policing of the fragile habitat.
However, external economic factors also have certainly played a role in persuading the government to turn a blind eye to the desecration of its own rainforest.
It is critical to our common planet’s survival that the U.S. and the EU develop a comprehensive plan with teeth, in cooperation with Brazil, in order to provide the financial incentives necessary to preserve the rainforest, while also strengthening Brazil’s competitiveness in the global economy.
The U.S. and the EU would be wise to accept this responsibility in order to temper the dangerous extremes involved in their push for globalization and the maximization of free trade that threatens the very integrity of the environment, if not the very survival of the human race.
This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associates, Hampden Macbeth. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) – www.coha.org – is a think tank established in 1975 to discuss and promote inter-American relationship. Email: email@example.com.