The bill before the National Congress for the regulation of public forest management (PL 4776) does not conform to the new model of responsible utilization in the Amazon.
This is the opinion of the environmental journalist, Washington Novaes. Novaes, one of Brazil’s Agenda 21 reporters, is one of the country’s foremost experts on environmental issues.
Instead of removing trees from the forest, Novaes urges that an ample project be formulated for the sustainable and intelligent development of the region. To go this route, the journalist suggests that the Amazon be the object of research rather than exploitation.
“We must convince ourselves that biodiversity is the country’s greatest resource, because it is from there that new remedies, new foods, and new materials to replace non-renewable products will be drawn,” he argues.
In Novaes’ view, the country should not be interested in removing trees from the forest. Rather, it should identify species that can be propagated outside the Amazon setting. He mentions several products that achieved economic success when they were cultivated outside the forest setting.
“One example is the peach palm (“pupunha”), which is a tree with many thorns. The Amazon Research Institute took years to develop a much more manageable type of peach palm, with few thorns.”
According to Novaes, at present the peach palm accounts for practically 90% of the country’s production of hearts of palm. It is substituting the jussara palm, which has nearly been wiped out.
“But we know hardly anything about the Amazon, because what we invest on research in the region is very little,” he cautions.
Novaes says that, of the country’s total of almost 30 thousand Ph.D.’s, “fewer than a thousand are working in the Amazon.” “And if we destroy the Amazon, we will destroy this biodiversity even before we become familiar with it.”
Besides the peach palm, he cites the cases of açaí, cupuassu, and guaraná as products discovered in the Amazon but cultivated outside their native setting. “And these are just a few; there are many more in the area of medications,” he notes.
In Novaes’ opinion, the bill intended to disseminate the practice of forest management still does not conform to the new model of sustainable development.
He points out that, without inspection and with little financial return, management will not emerge from the drawing board and will serve indirectly as an incentive to deforestation.
By concentrating on wood extraction as the way to utilize the Amazon, Novaes believes that the government is continuing to adhere to the line of exporting raw materials or products with little value, such as aluminum, wood, soybeans, cattle, and ore.
The Agenda 21 is an action program based on the suggestions of governments and civil society institutions from 179 countries. It represents the most daring and comprehensive attempt ever made to promote a new standard of development on a global scale, balancing methods of environmental protection, social justice, and economic efficiency.
Actually, the Agenda 21 approved by these countries is meant to serve as a basis for each country to draft and implement its own National Agenda 21, a commitment, in fact, assumed by all the signatories during the World Conference on the Environment and Economic Development, known as Eco-92, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.