The battle against lawlessness and deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon
It sounds like something out of the American Wild West: gunfights, cattle ranching, mining, farming and frontier spirit in a dangerous, rugged wilderness. But it’s happening now and has been for many years in Brazil’s Amazon basin – one of the Earth’s most precious natural resources. The violent situation in this remote, semi-charted part of Brazil has made the enforcement of the South American country’s progressive forest protection laws virtually impossible in the area. This is something the government of Brazil intends to change, with the institution of a new law designed to bring security, order and accountability to the region – and hopefully in turn prevent deforestation. Finally, according to an article in the New York Times:
The Brazilian government is formally establishing who owns tens of millions of acres across the Amazon, enabling it to track who is responsible for clearing forests for logging and cattle — and who should be held accountable when it is done illegally.
But this is a Herculean task as at present only 4% of privately occupied Amazonian land in the country is clearly documented. False land titles abound and though poor, powerless farmers and workers may welcome the new law, well-off landholders are predictably against it. Those who benefit from lawlessness and the plunder of natural resources rarely find solace in rule of law, particularly when it favors the poor – as this new law appears to.
“This chaos of legal insecurity was the most important basis for the perverse incentives in the Amazon to pillage rather than to preserve or to develop, and constant incitement to violence,” said Roberto Mangabeira Unger, the former minister for strategic affairs who helped develop the new land law.
–New York Times
Whatever the outcome, it is hard to imagine the new law could make things any worse in a region where crime and bloodshed are daily facts of life. Bringing security to the victims of violence and protecting a natural treasure by preventing the deforestation of the Amazon marries two crucial areas: social and environmental justice. Let’s hope Brazil can be successful in this endeavor.