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-Washington Post Book World
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-Folha de Sao Paulo

The Washington Post Book World
Candice Millard
February 25, 2007

When two young journalists, Mark London and Brian Kelly, traveled to Brazil in 1980 to write their first book about the Amazon, three percent of the rain forest had already been lost. When they returned 25 years later — London now an attorney and Kelly the executive editor of U.S. News and World Report — 20 percent was gone. The question that remains, and that lies at the heart of London and Kelly's thought-provoking new book, The Last Forest, is: Can the Amazon be saved? The authors' answer is one of confident optimism: "It is not too late." The solutions to deforestation, however, are nearly as complex as the rain forest itself.

"The rain forest, even to those who live in its shadow," London and Kelly note, "is an alien place." Millions of different species inhabit the Amazon, and each has evolved a unique and fascinating way to survive. There are caterpillars that scare off predators by making themselves look like vipers; four-eyed fish with two sets of corneas and retinas, one to search for danger above and the other to scan the river below; and plants that can change from a vine to a tree, depending on the sunlight. Trees of the same species are also widely separated in the Amazon, preventing a single disease from wiping out an entire species.

The same evolutionary adaptation that has protected trees from blight, however, has exposed them to overwhelming devastation at the hands of man. Because some types of wood are more valuable than others, it is not unusual for a logger to carve a road into the rain forest just to reach a single tree. "The scars left behind," London and Kelly write, "do not heal. These tiny trails are often visible from the air, their pattern resembling a river watershed in reverse. The end of the line is the tiny white vein that stops at the base of what was once a mahogany tree." This initial incursion into the rain forest sets off a seemingly irresistible surge of development. Smaller paths soon split off the central road, ending in farms or clearings for cattle. According to The Last Forest, 85 percent of deforestation occurs within 50 kilometers of a road. By some estimates, the Amazon will have lost a quarter of its original size by the year 2020.

Perhaps drastic circumstances call for drastic measures. Although the prevailing belief has long been that the only way to save the Amazon is to leave it wholly untouched, London and Kelly argue that that kind of absolutist thinking is not only outdated, it's dangerous. "Saving the Amazon," they write, "now requires saving the people who live in the Amazon." Their answer is a collaborative approach that joins preservation with its old nemesis: development. The government of Brazil, which encompasses more than half of the Amazon, has already taken a similar stance. "It's no good people saying the Amazon has to be the sanctuary of humanity and forget that there are 20 million people living there," said Brazil's president, Luiz Lula da Silva. Arguing that legal, monitored logging is preferable to the current chaos, his government recently announced a plan to auction off timber rights to vast stretches of the rain forest.

The Amazon, London and Kelly contend, is a land where "opportunities abound" and one that will allow for development — if it's done well. We must recognize this region "not as an exotic wilderness but as one of the few frontiers left on earth," they write. To support their argument, they point to new anthropological evidence that may suggest that large societies — with canals, bridges, curbed roads and thousands of people — once existed in the Amazon Basin without destroying it. While the authors caution that "this discovery does not provide much hope, despite ongoing research, that twenty-first-century occupation will replicate this harmony," it does form part of the foundation for their optimism. The rest comes from their own research into the Amazon, which uncovered creative, if limited, solutions to deforestation. A chapter promisingly titled "A Way to Save the Amazon," discusses several of these initiatives: large-scale incentive programs that provide well-paying jobs for people who might otherwise turn to illegal logging; "certified" forests, in which trees are cut in rotation to protect species; and alternative uses of the land, from jute production to exotic fish farms.

By the authors' own admission, these solutions are imperfect, and none is a panacea. They are, however, examples of honest attempts to protect the Amazon by people who are determined to use it. In the end, striking that balance may offer the measure of hope that The Last Forest seeks to find.

Candice Millard is the author of "The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey."

February 18, 2007
Joseph Page

In 1983 Brian Kelly and Mark London published Amazon, a comprehensive report on the plight of the largest jungle left on Planet Earth. In it they described efforts by the Brazilian government, big companies and dogged freelancers to extract as much as possible of the abundant natural resources in the region, with scant regard for ecological or human consequences.

The generals then ruling the country feared that if the 2.5 million-square-mile Amazon basin remained underpopulated, Brazil might lose control of it. So the military regime lured settlers with promises of land and technical assistance. The newcomers received neither and faced an uphill struggle to survive. The deforestation to which they contributed raised worldwide alarm about potentially adverse effect on global weather patterns.

Now the authors have taken a fresh look at the dilemma in The Last Forest and discover a complex world that has rendered irrelevant once-chic, well-meaning, simplistic pleas from abroad that Brazilians keep their rain forest intact in order to preserve its precious resources and protect the world's climate.

Twenty million people now inhabit the vast Amazon basin, and they are not going anywhere. With the benefits of modern technology, cattle-raising and soybean cultivation in the region make vital contributions to the economy, as Brazil has become the world's leading beef exporter and trails only the United States in soybean shipments. In addition, the discovery of extensive oil and natural-gas reserves threatens to open parts of the jungle once thought to be impenetrable. Deforestation continues, some of it planned, some of it illegal, much of it senseless. The government has adopted measures to protect the environment but lacks the resources to enforce them.

Kelly and London begin with an account of recent discoveries indicating that the Amazon region was home to permanent settlements more than 10,000 years ago, and that a relatively advanced society of perhaps 100,000 people developed a system of sustainable agriculture that served them for a millennium. For the authors this proves that large numbers of humans are capable of living in the rain forest without destroying it, an assertion undercut by the huge discrepancy between the size of the prehistoric community and the current over-population.

Moreover, some 70 percent of the people in the region now live in cities, many of which replicate the grinding poverty to be found elsewhere in urban Brazil. Manaus, a thriving city of 2 million on the Amazon river in the heart of the jungle, owes its good fortune to the heavy government subsidization of industry in the area. Without this massive public support, the jungle metropolis would return to being a jungle outpost. In the countryside the lack of a working system of land title registration and the absence of law enforcement have stymied would-be settlers, who remain at the mercy of land speculators and large corporations seeking to expand their agricultural and livestock enterprises.

The authors describe efforts by the Movement for Landless Workers to organize the rural poor and invade unproductive land, in order to force the government to expropriate properties and distribute them to the occupiers. This has provoked armed resistance by owners, and a number of Movement leaders and rank-and-file have lost their lives.

The authors see the peaceful achievement of this type of land reform as a way for man and nature to coexist in Amazonia. They argue persuasively that much deforestation involves slash-and-burn efforts by individual settlers desperate to feed their families, without any permanent stake in the land and with little grasp of how to make productive use of the rain forest. But it remains to be seen whether time has bypassed Brazil's chance to create a stable, thriving class of independent farmers, and whether the avowedly collectivist goals of the Movement, which the book ignores, will frustrate this vision.

On the ecological front the authors stress the recent finding that the Amazon basin has always absorbed as much oxygen as it produces. Therefore, the region is not, as some have claimed, the ''lungs of the earth.'' Indeed, instead of contributing to global warming by cutting trees, the people of Amazonia may be victims, as demonstrated by a devastating drought in 2005. Curiously, the authors make only a passing reference to the calamity, which seems to have resulted from the same warming process that caused the flooding of New Orleans.

The Last Forest makes an important contribution to the literature on the Amazon basin. The authors take pains to present the Brazilian side of the international controversy over the destruction of the rain forest and find positive signs in the ways Brazilians have been laboring to reconcile economic growth and environmental protection. The critical question, to be answered over the next 25 years, is whether this response can overcome past mistakes.

Joseph A. Page, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, is the author of The Brazilians.

The publication of The Council on Foreign Relations
March/April 2007
Richard Feinberg

A journalist-lawyer team return to Brazil to update their 1983 book, "Amazon", and find a world transformed: conservationists who hoped to fence off the Amazon have been swept aside, while deforestation and development proceed at a feverish pace. Yet London and Kelly strike a generally hopeful tone. Brazilians are increasingly engaged in debating how best to marry economic development and environmental sustainability in the context of "the world is flat" globalized markets. The authors introduce us to smart government planners, innovative scientists, and self-confident entrepreneurs experimenting with sophisticated syntheses; given the vastness and variety of microclimates in Amazonia, no single formula seems likely to emerge. Particularly fascinating are the comparisons with the opening of the American West and the serious threat that booming Amazonian agriculture — blessed with abundant sun, rain, land, and cheap labor — poses to subsidized U.S. farmers. Enamored of Brazil, the authors mimic local hostility toward the international environmental movement, even as they record its catalytic role in fostering Brazilian environmentalism. Although not always analytically precise, "The Last Forest" offers an enthralling, eye-opening journey through the planet's wealthiest, most contested remaining frontier.

Folha de Sao Paulo
March 3, 2007

Brian Kelly e Mark London visitaram a Amazônia nos anos 80 e escreveram um livro ("Amazonas: Um Grito de Alerta") que se tornou clássico no tema: foi o primeiro a alertar para o conflito entre desenvolvimento econômico e preservação da maior floresta tropical do mundo.

Após 25 anos, voltaram ao Brasil e constataram que o dilema persiste. Mas muita coisa mudou. Os dois autores, que há um quarto de século eram vistos como ambientalistas, agora lançam outro livro, "The Last Forest" (a última floresta, Random House, 336 págs., US$ 25,95, R$ 55), que talvez venha a chocar antigos admiradores.

O novo trabalho, por exemplo, já não corrobora a tese de que qualquer atividade econômica na Amazônia pode destruí-la e, portanto, deva ser evitada. A mudança de posição se deu por pelo menos dois motivos. O primeiro é científico. A tese de que a Amazônia não é capaz de sobreviver com atividades econômicas foi desmontada por pesquisas recentes de arqueólogos que provaram a existência de civilizações produtivas na região centenas de séculos antes da chegada dos europeus.

"A crença longamente sustentada de que a Amazônia é um Éden perdido foi destroçada", dizem eles. "Por muito tempo, grandes porções da Amazônia foram utilizadas sem destruição por povos inteligentes que conheciam modos de fazê-lo que nós ainda temos de aprender." Por mais de 10 mil anos, a Amazônia não foi -como se julgava- pura, primitiva. "Se civilizações mais antigas se estabeleceram com sucesso ali antes de os europeus chegarem com suas doenças e armas, por que isso não pode acontecer de novo?"

Chico Mendes

A segunda razão é prática. Não se pode excluir da floresta as pessoas que vivem nela e se mantêm graças a ela. London e Kelly dizem que foi a morte de Chico Mendes (1988) que colocou na foto da Amazônia os seres humanos. Antes, falava-se da floresta como se nela apenas existissem animais e plantas.

"Qualquer solução para os problemas ambientais precisa dar conta desse componente humano também. A solução extrema -cercar a floresta com arame farpado e manter todo mundo longe dela- pode ter atraído a imaginação de grupos em Londres e Washington, mas ignorava a realidade."

Há 25 anos, a população humana da Amazônia era 5% da brasileira. Atualmente, é 10% do total do país. São 21 milhões de pessoas que não podem ter seu interesse esquecido, dizem. Eles não minimizam a destruição que tem ocorrido, embora prefiram dizer que ela está sendo transformada em vez de destruída.

Quando fizeram sua primeira viagem à região, 3% da floresta haviam sido destruídos. Agora, são 20%. London e Kelly defendem que a devastação seja interrompida. Mas dizem que nas áreas onde já há plantações de soja, por exemplo, elas podem continuar a produzir.

Sistema de zoneamento

O que sugerem é um sistema de zoneamento que permita tanto a preservação de mata não-destruída quando a exploração sustentável onde já não há mais floresta, cerca de 40 milhões de hectares.

O zoneamento deveria nortear, por exemplo, a política de investimentos em rodovias. London e Kelly são contra a construção da BR-319, de Manaus a Porto Velho, porque ela seria um corredor novo para mais desmatamento, mas a favor da repavimentação da BR-364 (que vai do Acre a Mato Grosso) e do asfaltamento da Cuiabá-Santarém para facilitar a escoação do que se produz às suas margens.

A posição possivelmente mais controvertida do livro é a que diz respeito a Blairo Maggi, o governador do Mato Grosso. Considerado inimigo público número um da Amazônia por grupos ambientalistas, Maggi é visto com condescendência por London e Kelly. Para eles, Maggi "controla o desenvolvimento do futuro da Amazônia mais do que qualquer outra pessoa...

Descartá-lo como um oligarca provinciano do Terceiro Mundo seria uma bobagem". Na sua opinião, há uma enorme diferença (para melhor) entre o projeto agrário de Maggi e o Jari, do bilionário americano Daniel Ludwig, que nos anos 60 e 70 previa extrair árvores de um território de 260 mil hectares amazônicos.

"Maggi é um brasileiro nacionalista que opera num mundo multilateral e sem fronteiras... Seu legado é simples: ele aprendeu como criar soja num lugar em que ninguém imaginava que fosse possível e descobriu como enviá-la de locais inacessíveis aos consumidores do mundo inteiro. Nesse processo, iniciou uma revolução que está transformando a floresta inteira -se para o bem ou para o mal, ainda está para se definir."

Defesa da soberania

Se esse discurso pode criar celeuma no Brasil, outro adotado por London e Kelly será bem recebido aqui. Eles são decididamente contrários à noção de que a Amazônia possa ser internacionalizada. Defendem que o Brasil é responsável pelo território amazônico e deve ser soberano para decidir o que fazer ali.

"A Amazônia representa um desafio para o Brasil em seu processo de construção, uma oportunidade para robustecer sua cidadania e criar um sentido positivo de participação coletiva... O desafio também apresenta ao Brasil a oportunidade de se desincumbir de uma enorme responsabilidade na família das nações -a de servir como guardião do maior repositório do mundo de biodiversidade e fonte de água fresca, assim como de um grande fator de estabilidade para o clima."

Para que o país possa se sair bem dessa tarefa, advogam que a comunidade internacional proveja o Brasil com recursos materiais para tanto. Argumentam que se os EUA e outras potências mostram-se dispostas a pagar à Coréia do Norte para que ela desista de seus projetos nucleares e, assim, evitar uma catástrofe mundial, por que não fazer algo similar com o Brasil para evitar uma tragédia climática?

"A Amazônia hoje é muito diferente do seu estereótipo histórico. Há uma luta que ocorre entre seus habitantes para transformar oportunidade num mundo produtivo e para criar um sentimento de pertencimento em relação a esse mundo. A resistência contra tal esforço deve ser quebrada. O resultado dessa luta vai influenciar o destino do ambiente de todo o planeta e de milhões de pessoas em busca de participar da economia global."

ONDE ENCOMENDAR - Livros em inglês podem ser encomendados no site www.amazon.com

CARLOS EDUARDO LINS DA SILVA é diretor de relações institucionais da Patri Políticas Públicas. É membro do Grupo de Análise de Conjuntura Internacional da USP, do Centro Brasileiro de Relações Internacionais e do conselho editorial da "Revista de Política Externa".

February 2007

At best, the future of the Amazon River basin and its once plentiful and diverse flora and fauna - not to mention its lush rainforests, which represent a full one-half of the Earth's remaining forests - looks bleak. Or so we've been told. Now, Mark London, a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C., and Brian Kelly, executive editor of U.S. News & World Report, have arrived on the scene to assure us that all is not lost, as Brazil's emerging democracy is likely to have a positive effect on environmental policy. Having already co-written Amazon, London and Kelly are no strangers to the region, and also to those willing to exploit it for financial gain. Back in 1980, when the pair visited the Amazon basin to research Amazon, 3 percent of the rainforests had disappeared. Today, that figure has risen to 20 percent. As a result, the team has spent a great deal of time chasing down and interviewing environmentalists, government ministers, developers, rich land owners and the poor to better understand what's in store for the Amazonian rainforests. What follows is an in-depth analysis into the question of whether the Amazon can provide a means of economic support for 21 million Brazilians, while still remaining the world's last great forest. As we discover, it is imperative that such a balance is found, and soon. London and Kelly's ability to so thoroughly convey the complexity of the Amazon problem while successfully embedding it within a truly riveting narrative is admirable. Highly recommended.

February 2007

In developing countries, wars between environmentalism and economic growth continue to rage. Brazil's Amazon Basin, which contains half the remaining forest acreage on earth, has become the focus of international attention and lobbying. But according to two influential writers on the region, most conventional wisdom about the Amazon rainforest is wrong. Mark London and Brian Kelly argue, for instance, that the region is not on the brink of ecological disaster. Indeed, they insist that sustainable rainforest development is not only possible but necessary to protect the future of over 20 million Brazilians who live in the area. A persuasive, optimistic critique.


The Amazon in the
Age of Globalization

By Mark London and
Brian Kelly

Random House

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