Deforestation in Brazil Could Double From New Law

Treehugger takes Brazil to task over changing their deforestation laws:

Currently, farms and settlements have to conserve 80% of the forest on their land (so-called ‘Legal Reserves’), and use it for sustainable timber management – they cannot destroy it. Under the proposed new Forest Code, this could be reduced to 50% in large areas, and as far as 0% in small areas (up to 400 hectares). If all of these areas are deforested, they would release at least 30 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere – that is 7 times more than the emissions Brazil committed to cut in Copenhagen.

<History Rant>

Historically speaking, Western settlers have set up nations like Brazil, and others with thriving forests, for complete economic instability.  Westerners, in this case Portugal, came in with one goal only.  Set up plantations to grow export crops with almost total disregard for native subsistence, while searching the interior for a mythical vast mineral wealth e.g. El Dorado.

The result was less than optimal.  Portugal never quite paid off their venture, meanwhile other imperials contemporary with Portugal’s settling of Brazil (the Dutch, Belgium, England, France) all accumulated vast mineral and agricultural wealth from their colonies.  Spain and Portugal were the big losers during the mercantile boom leading up to the late Renaissance and the Enlightenment.  Mostly because of this terrible lack of profit from their colonial venture, they never bothered to industrialize their colonies the same way England did in the American Colonies, or France did in theirs.  Coupled with a few other factors – like punishing merchants for being seculars or Jews (because Christians were not allowed to be merchants)* – we have the total formula for the following generations of political upheaval and search for economic vitality in South America.

So maybe you understand my immunity to white-liberal-guilt about our own forest-raping policies being compared with those of a nation that was designed from day one to fail.  Is it sad? Yes.

Is whining about them changing their laws the proper route? Instead, any liberal-guilt nation ought to offer tax-credits or financial investment or aid money to governments that vow to enforce strict deforestation regulations.


*Dr. Archer put it this way to my class on South American development/globalization.  Essentially, because it was tantamount to illegal to be a merchant, all the investors in Portugal and Spain’s colonies were farmed out to Protestant nations and lax Catholics.  The Genevan’s, Italians, British, Dutch, etc all got stinking rich because Spain and Portugal essentially criminalized the merchant class.  They could not compete, economically, with nation’s who had a middle class while they only had peasants and rulers.

Think about the impact that had right from the get-go on South American colonies, now sovereign nations – to not have any of the groundwork that, say, the United States had due to England’s investment.  No defense from the French/Indians, no setting us up with East India contracts (as much as we would later resent them).


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