Buy the Book

Like this book?
Hear about more



US News & World Report: Whither the World's Last Forest? Brazil bets that it can save the Amazon wilderness while tapping it's riches.

US News & World Report: Home on the Tropical Range: How ranching and farming are changing the Amazon debate

New York Times: Bright Spots in the Rain Forest

VALOR: Amazônia precisa conviver com a agroindústria (in Portuguese)

O Estado de S Paulo (pdf, 187k, in Portuguese)

Whither the World's Last Forest? Brazil bets that it can save the Amazon wilderness while tapping it's riches.

Mark London and Brian Kelly
US News & World Report
February 4, 2007

The flame on the horizon is startling, a tight orange cone shimmering over the tree line. After flying for almost two hours southwest from Manaus with nothing but trees and an occasional snaking brown river underneath, any sign of civilization is satisfying. The fire's source becomes clear as we approach: a sprawling series of white chimneys, part of a high-tech industrial complex that looks like a secret military installation. An army of workers in orange jumpsuits moves through a maze of pipes and steel towers and low squat buildings. We hadn't seen a town for hundreds of miles in any direction, not even a road, except for the spine of black pavement we spotted as we approached this clearing. A wildcatter from Oklahoma exploring for oil in the Peruvian Amazon once said to us, "As a general rule, you have to remember the good Lord was a fine man, but he picked some godawful places to put oil." This was one of them.

The oil and gas field at the headwaters of the Urucu River lies almost dead center in the South American continent, surrounded by primary rain forest for hundreds of miles in all directions. If there were a part of the Amazon that even the most worrisome environmentalist considered impenetrable, this would be it.

It's estimated that there are at least 100 billion cubic meters of gas and 18 million barrels of oil in the Urucu region. "This is not Saudi Arabia, but for Brazil it will be very helpful," said Ronaldo Coelho, who manages the site for Petrobras, the state-owned oil company.

The hydrocarbons are high quality and easily recoverable. The crude is unusually pure, bubbling out of the wellhead like espresso. "You could practically strain this through your handkerchief and put it in your gas tank," said Coelho as he rubbed some between his fingers. "The only issue is how to get it out of this site to a market. And that's a political problem, not a technical one." A big political problem.

Whenever an access route has been created in the Amazon, a spontaneous influx of immigrants hungry for land has emerged. Environmentalists see the gas and oil finds as a death blow to the remote western jungle, fearing that pipelines to Manaus and Porto Velho in the southwestern Amazon will open a seam of entry to empty forest and protected Indian lands, clearing the way for a torrent of loggers, miners, and cattle ranchers. The controversy over the pipelines-along with other burgeoning industries such as cattle ranching, soy farming, and iron mining-has profoundly changed the traditional debate about how to manage the Amazon-or, as many environmentalists would see it, how to save the Amazon. The construction of these pipelines will alter the rain forest but will also generate energy for millions of people. Nearly 2 million people live in Manaus alone, and they need energy. Blackouts rotate through the city daily. Lack of energy has retarded factory construction, holding back employment expansion. When Brazilian President Lula da Silva approved the pipeline to Manaus in the spring of 2004, he said, "If people want development that preserves the environment, we have to have energy. It's no good people saying the Amazon has to be the sanctuary of humanity and forget there are 20 million people living there."

The Amazon is not, and never has been, a pristine wilderness that could be fenced and preserved as an intact ecosystem. Increasingly, it is proving to be a resource-rich region of a continent that desperately needs to grow. Brazil, which contains most of the Amazon basin, is under particular pressure as it tries to reconcile its great disparities between rich and poor. And there's a voracious market for the goods, whether it's the Chinese buying steel or the Europeans buying soybeans. At the same time, the vast basin of freshwater and forest is a global feature of such magnitude that its destruction will only help tip a fragile global climate further over the edge. The hard question facing the various governments and organizations with a stake in the outcome is whether some development can prevent a lot of deforestation.

Every year a chunk of forest equivalent to an average-size U.S. state disappears from the Amazon. In the year ending August 2004, 16,236 square miles, about twice the size of Massachusetts, were deforested. According to Conservation International, that represents between 1.1 billion and 1.4 billion trees of 4 inches or more in diameter. This deforestation took place during a time of heightened environmentalism in Brazil, during a robust return to democracy when a comprehensive body of laws protecting the Amazon had been enacted and supported by broad enforcement powers-though often, not the enforcement itself. The reaction of the Brazilian government and nongovernmental organizations to these annual figures can be summarized by the Yogi Berra quote, "It's like déjà vu all over again." The so-called experts annually express "shock and surprise" at the figures. The shock subsides, then reappears the following spring. Fingers point at the culprit du jour-the cattle ranchers in some years, or the soy farmers, or the migration of small families clearing homesteads. Loggers, miners, and ranchers get denounced regularly. And in response, the government usually sets aside another national park equivalent in size to a small American state. A federal department's budget gets increased by more than $100 million, at least publicly. A government official sometimes resigns. Nongovernmental organizations use the statistics in their annual pleas for contributions. The New York Times writes an editorial reminding Brazil that "the rain forest is not a commodity to be exploited for private gain." The Economist chides Brazil for its institutions, which are "weak, poorly coordinated, and prone to corruption and influence-peddling." But from one year to another, the process repeats itself and the Amazon shrinks. When we first traveled here in 1980, about 3 percent had been deforested. Today, more than 20 percent is gone.

That number needs some interpretation. Compared with the dire predictions of 25 years ago-that most of the forest would be destroyed by now-it actually looks good. And there's widespread acceptance that even more forest inevitably will be cleared. The problem is how that clearing is managed. Now it is haphazard and uncontrollable. The emerging consensus, at least among the key decision makers in Brazil, is that the solution is more development, not less. The argument is that development means civilization, which brings the resources to create better economic incentives and to enforce the laws. The downside is that if the Brazilian strategy doesn't work, it will be too late to change course.

"You have to understand that deforestation is not just about the environment," says Everton Vargas, the top environmental strategist for the Brazilian Foreign Ministry. "Deforestation is an economic issue. It will not be avoided simply by saying, 'Don't cut the trees.' You have to say, 'Here's why you don't have to cut the trees.'"

Finding those incentives and making them work is a job that keeps Eduardo Braga up at night. The governor of the state of Amazonas is one of the most important decision makers when it comes to the future of the Amazon. After a long day at his office in Manaus, he slumps from the stress of trying to administer a territory as vast as the land between Chicago and Juneau, Alaska. His outer office is filled with small-town mayors who have traveled days just to meet with him. "I am constantly tired," he confides. "There is so much to do. So much space to cover."

His optimism comes from two serendipities that he inherited on taking office six years ago. The first can be found in the Zona Franca, an incongruous sprawl of modern manufacturing plants that rings the outskirts of Manaus, which was the capital of the turn-of-the-century rubber boom and now has turned into a mix of glassy high-rise condos, suburban housing tracts, and fetid Latin American slums set amid majestic but peeling colonial buildings. The tax-free Zona Franca takes in parts from international brands like Honda and Nokia and ships out finished motorcycles and cellphones. The other windfall is the natural gas discovery.

"Gas changes everything for us. It will give us the energy to allow industry to grow in Manaus. It will give us the energy in the small towns to improve their quality of life. Gas will give us the money to do other things, to improve social services here and to have programs to develop the rest of the state in a way that protects the environment."

He plans to create a network of family farms and supporting towns to provide a bulwark against uncontrolled development. "It's inevitable that people are going to invade these areas," he says. Braga sees two choices for Amazonas on its southern flank: spillover development and the resulting anarchy and violence endemic elsewhere in the Amazon, or some semblance of civil society. "If we have roads, we can put IBAMA [the environmental protection agency] there. We can put government agencies there. We can put schools there. We can put health centers there. We can create conditions for family farms that are clearly demarcated and where people can make a living. You think that no controls means no people? No controls means that people just invade the land and do what they want. The people already are there, and we can't leave them behind like a bag of trash. We need to connect them."

But Braga also knows that the cycle of development, once started, cannot be stopped. It is based on an economic, not ecological, choice. "I understand that the small farms eventually will sell out to the big farms, and then you end up with major agricultural interests and small people in search of land. As long as using the land brings more material benefits to people than not using the land, we don't really have much chance. I hope to break the cycle."

Braga calls the program the Zona Franca Verde, or the Green Free-Trade Zone. He's promoting a range of local products to help create stable communities: guarana berries, which make a popular soft drink; jute fibers; fish farms. This comes under the rubric of "sustainable development," an ill-defined buzzword of the international development community that has so far shown mixed to disappointing results elsewhere in the Amazon.

Much more important may be large-scale forest management through the creation of so-called certified forests. Braga wants to lease timber concessions to big companies that would practice sustainable forestry by carefully harvesting and replanting trees. The companies in turn sell their lumber to U.S. and European importers who agree to buy only certified wood.

And his ultimate goal is to tie the Amazon into some sort of international carbon market that, by putting a price on the carbon contained in the trees, would create an incentive to not cut and burn them. Carbon-trading markets exist in Europe and the United States on a mostly experimental basis. If they became global, the rights to billions of trees-whether in the Amazon or other endangered forests in South Asia and Africa-could become quite valuable.

That may be far off, but Braga sees a much more immediate possibility of bringing foreign investment to Amazonas as a way to break out of the traditional Third World cycle of exporting low-priced raw materials to advanced factories in the developed world. "People want to save the forest? They want to help?" Braga asks. "We need resources to establish these programs. Maybe Home Depot wants to build a factory here and will buy only certified wood. Let us add value here. Then we can take those profits and return them to the people." The area of Carajás has the world's greatest iron ore reserves, but there are no steel mills on-site. Trombetas has one of the world's greatest bauxite mines, but there are no aluminum mills in proximity. "It's frustrating," Braga says. "It's frustrating when the Kyoto Protocol does nothing to help us. It's frustrating when we try to open markets to products and we can't get the investment we need to support the production."

So for now, the Brazilians have decided to try to forgo the pleadings and promises of the international community and take their chances on promoting aggressive development while hoping they can control its effects. "Other countries just are going to have to trust us to take care of the Amazon," says Everton Vargas. "That's the way it'll have to be."

Home on the Tropical Range:How ranching and farming are changing the Amazon debate

Brian Kelly and Mark London
U.S. News & World Report
May 01, 2004

RIO BRANCO, BRAZIL--Just beyond the dusty edge of this improbable city in the western Amazon rain forest the landscape turns a luminous green. Not from the forest, which is nowhere to be seen, but from the pastures that cover an endless line of gently rolling hills. This is cattle country. Clumped under shade trees or meandering along the ridgelines, hundreds of big-humped, white Nelore steers forage on lush saw grass and swat their tails at tropical insects. The ranches run far back on either side of the new blacktop road, extending for 150 miles all the way to the border with Peru. There are hundreds of ranches, portioned off by barbed-wire fences that hold more than 4 million head of cattle in just this corner of the Amazon.

What's most unusual about the landscape is that it wasn't supposed to look this way. The felled rain forest was supposed to bake into a desert wasteland. That has been an environmental truism for more than three decades, best summarized by the oft quoted Amazon Jungle: Green Hell to Red Desert? by tropical ecologist Robert Goodland. The presumption was that the dense array of 200-foot-tall trees actually grew on a thin layer of infertile soil. The nutrients of this complex ecosystem were in the tree canopy, and once you cut it, little or nothing would grow. This had proved true in some parts of the Amazon, particularly in some of the early cattle ranches in the east, and has been the justification for placing legal restrictions on development of the area ever since. But the Amazon is a big place, and the explosion of agriculture here is changing the terms of one of the world's great environmental debates.

"It's a myth that cattle ranching in the Amazon is not profitable," says Judson Valentim, head of the local office of EMBRAPA, Brazil's agriculture research agency. "In some places, it's very profitable. We can raise 2.5 to 3 animals per hectare. That's better than New Zealand." It's a major reason why Brazil, with more than 50 million head of cattle in the Amazon alone, has become the world's leading exporter of beef. Valentim credits the country's innovative technology, as well as the Amazon climate, for creating sturdier breeds of tropical cattle and more adaptable strains of grass: They can forage all year. "We can bring a steer to weight in half the time as the U.S. And the economics are only getting better."

It's not just cattle. A thousand miles to the east in the Texas-size state of Mato Grosso, the land, which had been part savanna and part forest, is now covered with flat miles of delicate green soybean sprouts. The crop has gone from nonexistent to one of the world's most spectacular farming frontiers in about 10 years. Amazon soy is much more efficient than that grown by its largest competitor-midwestern farmers in the United States-and accounts for the fact that Brazil just became the world's leading exporter of soy as well, feeding China, Europe, and the Middle East. A January report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture catalogs the "phenomenal expansion" of Amazon farming but predicts that this is just the beginning for what the USDA calls a "tropical agricultural powerhouse" with virtually unlimited land. At least as long as Brazil keeps clearing the forests.

"Soy is the most important protein in the world," explains Blairo Maggi, one of the largest soy growers in the Amazon and the governor of the state of Mato Grosso. "The world diet," he says, "is based on soy. If we stopped soy production today, the world would die of hunger." Maggi, a second-generation farmer who started with a small plot of land, has created an agricultural empire that grows beans and other crops on thousands of precisely fertilized acres, scoops them up with the latest harvesting machines, then barges them down the Amazon tributaries and pours them into giant freighters bound for Rotterdam, Shanghai, or Tokyo. In the process he's creating an incentive system for thousands of smaller producers and an infrastructure of roads and ports that's reshaping the once inaccessible jungle. "I don't care about the critics," Maggi says, "I care about results. I care about the jobs it creates."

That is why soybeans have become nightmare material for people like Phil Fearnside, one of the godfathers of the Amazon environmental movement. "This is very worrisome," he says as he walks through satellite data showing the rate of deforestation approaching an all-time high. Soy, he says, is the spark behind a renewed push to develop the Amazon region. After years of relatively low rates of clearing, big farmers are burning their land to prepare for crops, land prices are rising, small settlers are picking their way deeper into pristine forest, and the government has announced plans for new roads, several giant hydroelectric dam projects, and even some major natural gas pipelines. "The main thing to save the forest is to keep the people out," says Fearnside, a scientist at the National Institute for Amazonia Research in Manaus. "You have to fight deforestation tree by tree."

MYTHOLOGY. Fearnside is part of a 20-year movement that has made the Amazon a global cause célèbre, attracting global organizations from Greenpeace to the World Bank. The fate of the rain forest is taught in middle schools throughout Europe and the United States, and discussed by earnest intellectuals and celebrities. But that discussion has long rested on a cost-benefit assumption that's now being challenged by the facts on the farm.

The Amazon has wallowed in mythology for the 500 years that man has been trying to figure out what to do with it. What can you say about a place that was named for a rumored encounter between European explorers and a fierce tribe of women warriors? The Spanish conquistadors were sure that somewhere within the green morass was the city of gold, El Dorado; haggard prospectors are still looking. Thirty years ago, scientists thought the Amazon was "the lungs of the world," adding vast amounts of oxygen to the Earth's atmosphere through photosynthesis. Subsequent studies have debunked that myth as well.

What's not in dispute is the sheer size of the Amazon. The entire basin, a shallow bowl with parts in nine South American countries, is 80 percent the size of the continental United States and contains a fifth of the world's fresh water and six of the 10 largest rivers. It's by far the largest expanse of forest left in the world, although somewhere around 15 percent of the area-roughly the size of France-has been cleared. There's still plenty left, but what apprehensive ecologists focus on is the rate of that clearing. Estimates say that if left unchecked, the virgin forest would all be gone in 80 years.

Why care? Scientists point to three areas. Rather than producing oxygen, they now think the issue is carbon: vast amounts stored in the stable forest, or released by burning, adding to the greenhouse gas problem. Less conclusive studies offer evidence that the forest plays an important role in the weather cycle of the Western Hemisphere; less rain in the Amazon may mean less rain in the midwestern United States. Unquestioned is the vast array of plant and animal species, along with the potential for losing them. Ecologists call this the "next cure for cancer" argument.

But scientific precision in assessing the risks and rewards of fooling with one of the world's biggest ecosystems is just not possible. "It's still a race to the finish," admits Thomas Lovejoy, an Amazon expert who now heads the Heinz Center. "We still don't know enough yet to say exactly what happens to something like the hydrological cycle." Such uncertainty has caused groups like Conservation International to help create parks, forest preserves-anything that might protect large chunks of land. "We're fighting a holding action right now, buying time," says Russell Mittermeier, CI's president. "We're trying to set aside land, then figure out what we can do to sustain it."

Not good enough, says Blairo Maggi. "It's very easy to defend the Amazon on the beaches of Rio or in the offices of Washington or London. But our families need jobs and homes. Do you know how many poor people there are in Brazil? Soy will raise people's standards of living." There are in fact about 60 million to 90 million poor people in Brazil, as much as half the population of this conflicted nation with one foot in the First World and one in the Third. Although Maggi is the most aggressive Amazon developer, there is a sense of anticipation even in the environmentally conscious offices of Brasíl-ia, where the left-leaning Workers Party is trying to run a fragile government and finding that one of the few bright spots is a trade surplus of $25 billion. "This is a debate which is not easy," says Marina Silva, the minister of the environment and herself an Amazon native who rose to political prominence in the rubber tappers union. "There are some projects that are really necessary for the development of the country."

"The view from the international community is that the whole forest should be behind barbed wire," agrees Everton Vargas, head of the environment portfolio at Itamaraty, Brazil's foreign ministry. "It's like being in the Louvre filled with people who have nothing to eat. There's a temptation to burn the paintings for heat." The metro São Paulo region has 18 million people, and Brazil doesn't want any more. "The Amazon is a frontier of jobs," says João Carlos Meirelles, an Amazon development expert. "But it has to be an organized frontier. Right now it is a chaotic frontier." The problem is unrestricted migration, "destruction by the ants," in the words of federal Congressman Raúl Jungman. "Poverty and misery and hunger. That's what destroys the environment."

Some key Brazilian officials are increasingly arguing that the only way to preserve a substantial part of the Amazon may be to develop a lot more of it than most environmentalists think prudent. For instance, the Amazon has many forest preserves where development is banned-on paper. In reality, they're filled with logging trails and squatter families. Big projects, such as farms, bring with them civilization in the form of government agencies with the ability to enforce the law.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva shocked many environmentalists when he declared last summer, "The Amazon is not untouchable." Now the question is how. Can Brazil expand its farms and ranches in a controlled way? Can the country build roads and towns and use them to enforce preserves? This is how Eduardo Braga, governor of the giant state of Amazonas, talks about Brazil's disorganized attempts to forestall development while knowing that massive economic pressures are building: "It's like a cat fighting a mouse when behind him a big dog is coming. The dog's going to get him. I think we have maybe three years to do it right."

That's a scary trade-off to many in the environmental community. The Amazon matters because it's the last, best place. "We work in 30 countries," says CI's Mittermeier. "This is the place of greatest hope. It could be a model for the rest of the world."

For better, or for worse.


Bright Spots in the Rain Forest

By Brian Kelly and Mark London
The New York Times
April 22, 2004

The rallying cry, ''Save the Amazon!'' rang out again this month when the Brazilian government reported that clearing of the rain forest had reached near-record levels—with an area bigger than the state of New Jersey disappearing last year. This Earth Day, global environmental groups are covering their Web sites with the usual predictions of how long it will take for all the trees there to vanish (20 to 50 years). Recently, the Brazilian government announced yet another initiative to get serious about the problem.

  But the news was welcomed by others who also care deeply about the environment. Most of them actually live in the Amazon.

The reasons for the surge in deforestation are a lot more complicated than they used to be, and the solution for saving the rain forest may be more development, not less.

The facts have changed, as we discovered while traveling thousands of miles across the Amazon this year. At one time, use and abuse of the region were synonymous. In many instances, the best development was no development at all: there were few alternative uses of the forest that justified its destruction.

Not anymore. Technically savvy Brazilian farmers have created profitable large-scale cattle ranches and soybean farms that reach to the horizon. Cotton, corn and rice, when rotated properly, flourish in the delicate soil. Last year, Brazil passed the United States in soybean exports.

The facts on the ground give every indication that the Amazon can be used for multiple purposes. Perhaps 60 percent to 70 percent of the territory—as much as a million square miles—should be left untouched, set aside because the soil is too poor or the biodiversity too rich. The rest, however, can be used. There's a lot there: a promising new agricultural frontier, giant mineral deposits of iron ore and bauxite, fish farming, hydroelectric power, even some substantial oil and natural gas reserves.

To take a do-not-touch position ignores reality and makes it impossible to work with those who have the capital to make productive changes to the environment. Though recent discussions among aid organizations, the private sector and the Brazilian government about new road development have been promising, too much of the debate remains locked in old mythologies. The World Bank and the European Community, for example, are intent on strict preservation or, sometimes, ''sustainable development,'' a term that is so open to interpretation as to be meaningless.

What's more, Western governments have been slow to help Brazil in an area of genuine importance: law enforcement. Brazil has progressive environmental laws, but lacks the resources to see to it that they are followed. Development is chaotic .

Brazilians have long been conflicted about how to deal with the Amazon and become defensive when discussing it with outsiders. At the same time, they have a point. The Europeans and Americans ''cry when we cut a tree, but they don't cry when children die or do not have an education,'' says Blairo Maggi, a large soy producer and governor of the southern Amazon state of Mato Grosso. ''If they want to help us,'' he adds, ''then help us help ourselves.''

And what do you say to the pioneer families slashing and burning their way through the forest in search of a better life? That the frontier is closed? That they should go home to the slums that ring Rio and Sao Paulo?

  The real news from the Amazon is that the news is not all bad. The region has the potential to be the next breadbasket of the world—and it can remain the earth's most important virgin rain forest. For that to happen, though, people will have to update their assumptions about the region, bringing them into line not with romance but with reality.

Amazônia precisa conviver com a agroindústria

Silvia Czapski interviews Mark London
March 23, 2007

Mark London: Cerca de 20% da área da floresta estão perdidos mas a agropecuária tornou-se atividade lucrativa

Quando visitou pela primeira vez a Amazônia, em 1980, o americano Mark London, recém-formado em direito, pensava que seria sua última viagem de aventura antes de assumir a carreira profissional. Tal foi o impacto da visita que, na volta aos EUA, convenceu Brian Kelly, então repórter do "Chicago Sun Times", a retornar com ele, para uma série de reportagens. Foram duas viagens, com apoio do jornal, que também resultaram no livro Amazon (Ed. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) lançado em 1983 nos EUA e, logo depois, pela Record, no Brasil, com o nome Amazonas: Um Grito de Alerta. "Cenas dos garimpeiros na Serra Pelada marcaram-me profundamente" relembra London, ao falar para o Valor sobre este livro, que focava o conflito entre a expansão econômica e a preservação da maior floresta tropical do mundo.

Vinte anos depois, London, bem-sucedido advogado do ramo de litígios empresariais, e Kelly, editor-chefe do "U.S. News and World Report", revisitaram a região, com o intuito de preparar o livro A Última Floresta - A Amazônia na Era da Globalização, recém- lançado nos EUA pela Random House. Nele, descrevem um novo contexto, em que 21 milhões de habitantes convivem com o avanço do agronegócio, antes tido como inviável na região. Desta vez, eles defendem um pacto pela convivência entre a agroindústria - segundo London, capaz de gerar empregos -, e a preservação da floresta, que ajudaria a conter o avanço do aquecimento global.

Será este o tema que o trará a São Paulo em abril, para o 2º Congresso Ibero-Americano sobre o Desenvolvimento Sustentável (Sustentável 2007), promovido pelos Conselhos Empresariais Brasileiro para o Desenvolvimento Sustentável (CEBDS) e Mundial para o Desenvolvimento Sustentável (WBCSD). A seguir, os principais trechos da entrevista.

Valor: Há 25 anos, o que o marcou em sua primeira incursão na Amazônia?

Mark London: Fiquei fascinado. Na região, viviam apenas 5% da população brasileira. A partir das imagens de satélite, denunciava-se o avanço do desmatamento, que destruíra 3% da floresta amazônica. Era um momento rico, de retorno do país à democracia. O movimento ambientalista começava a se debruçar sobre o tema, defendendo a intocabilidade do verde. Argumentava-se que a biodiversidade esconderia, por exemplo, o princípio ativo da cura do câncer. E que, pelas características da região, seria inviável trocar a mata por outro uso econômico. Por outro lado, já se entrevia a possibilidade da comunidade internacional contribuir com a proteção ambiental.

Valor: O que mudou?

London: Confirmaram-se as previsões de que a floresta seria comida pelas bordas e na faixa de até 50 quilômetros em torno das estradas. Cerca de 20% de sua área estão perdidos. Mas não se imaginava que a agropecuária não só se viabilizaria, como seria lucrativa. A região está mais integrada ao resto do país. Amo a Amazônia, sei que o ideal seria cercá-la, para proteger o que resta. Mas temos 21 milhões de pessoas por lá, em busca do que qualquer um deseja: moradia, saúde, educação, bem estar. A questão é: como preservar a mata, dando-lhes isso?

Valor: É possível casar desenvolvimento com a proteção da floresta amazônica?

London: Sim. Mas as soluções são complexas e passam pela compreensão de como se expandiram a soja e a pecuária. Seres humanos são animais econômicos. Direcionam-se pelo lucro. Quando meu filho quer algo, se eu disser não, talvez não obedeça. Mas posso convencê-lo, com outra opção atraente. No caso floresta amazônica, o país tem boas leis ambientais. Mas como dizer para a polícia que salve áreas verdes, se crianças são mortas em São Paulo ou Rio de Janeiro? Quer dizer, temos de gerar alternativas econômicas que mantenham a floresta em pé. Se o desmatamento já atingiu 40 milhões de hectares na Amazônia, em vez de abrir novas fronteiras para o agronegócio, por que não concentrá-lo nas áreas já desmatadas, através de um zoneamento adequado e o incentivo à produção certificada? O Brasil tem excelentes pesquisadores, que ajudariam a melhorar a produtividade nestas áreas. Só que nada sairá do papel, sem a aliança com os produtores. A comunidade internacional, que quer a proteção, pode estar disposta a dar verbas para a exploração sustentável.

Valor: Há 15 anos, na Agenda 21, documento resultante da Rio-92, países desenvolvidos comprometiam-se a prover US$ 600 milhões em prol do Desenvolvimento Sustentável. Não aconteceu. Como conseguir este apoio agora?

London: A floresta amazônica não é o pulmão do mundo, como se argumentou no passado. Mas é a máquina do equilíbrio climático. Calcula-se que 8% das emissões de carbono na atmosfera resultam de seu desmatamento. O furacão Katrina, em New Orleans (EUA), ou as recentes secas no Amazonas e no Acre foram sinais de alerta da urgência no combate ao aquecimento global. Defendo a soberania do Brasil sobre o uso do território amazônico. Mas o país tem uma oportunidade de obter o apoio internacional para promover o uso sustentável da floresta. O suporte viria mais facilmente, houvesse um mecanismo específico de incentivo. Discutem-se hoje as regras do Protocolo de Kioto que vigorarão após 2012. Existe um clima favorável para estender a captação dos créditos de carbono também para quem mantém a mata em pé. Por enquanto, este mecanismo financeiro só custeia novos plantios.

Valor: O senhor dedica parte do livro ao governador do Mato Grosso Blairo Maggi, descrito como importante liderança empresarial. No entanto, ele é detestado por muitos ambientalistas.

London: Blairo Maggi não teve como principal mérito a viabilização do plantio da soja em áreas de cerrado e da própria floresta amazônica. O mais importante foi a logística: ele soube abrir vias para escoar as commodities, e os produtos ganharam o mercado internacional. Foi isso que permitiu a expansão do agronegócio na região. Ele é um homem racional e, caso se convença que soja certificada é o melhor caminho, investirá nisso, podendo levar sua cadeia de custódia a fazer o mesmo.

Valor: Fala-se hoje de um ciclo de ocupação, que começa justamente com o desmatamento. O que o senhor pensa sobre isso?

London: Um dos processos é a ocupação de uma área por uma família, que desmata para sobreviver. Atrás dela vêm grileiros, que ocupam o terreno de várias famílias, com a criação de gado. Que por sua vez poderá dar lugar à soja, em áreas maiores. Este processo não acontecia há 25 anos, pois gado não dava lucro, e soja sequer existia como opção para plantio.

Valor: O senhor mencionou gado e soja. Quais outras alternativas de desenvolvimento sustentável para a Amazônia?

London: A evolução de Manaus surpreendeu-me positivamente. Como capital de Estado, viveu dois grandes momentos. No começo do século passado, o boom da borracha. E agora, com a Zona Franca, gera pelo menos 100 mil empregos diretos. É claro que para a cidade crescer foi preciso desmatar. Mas, graças ao complexo industrial lá instalado, o Estado do Amazonas conserva 98% de cobertura florestal! No entanto, é difícil replicar o modelo. Tentativas de criar zonas francas em Macapá (AP) e Guajará-Mirim não funcionaram. Há outros programas interessantes, como a Zona Franca Verde, que busca promover produtos locais, como a juta e o guaraná. São alternativas honestas, mas não acredito que funcionem na grande escala.


The Amazon in the
Age of Globalization

By Mark London and
Brian Kelly

Random House

Buy the Book









Home | Booknoise | ER: Editor's Room | Buy the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Booksense.

Open Slideshow in a new window Open videos page in a new window Open the maps page in a new window