A clearing in the trees

August 25, 2014

The Economist (print edition), 8/23/2014

In 1998 Fernando Henrique Cardoso, then Brazil’s president, said he would triple the area of the Amazonian forest set aside for posterity. At the time the ambition seemed vain: Brazil was losing 20,000 square kilometres (7,700 square miles) of forest a year. Over the next 15 years loggers, ranchers, environmentalists and indigenous tribes battled it out—often bloodily—in the world’s largest tropical forest. Yet all the while presidents were patiently patching together a jigsaw of national parks and other protected patches of forest to create the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA), a protected area 20 times the size of Belgium. Now, less than 6,000 sq km of Brazil’s Amazonian forest is cleared each year. In May the government and a group of donors agreed to finance ARPA for 25 years. It is the largest tropical-forest conservation project in history.

This matters because of Brazil’s size: with 5m sq km of jungle, it has almost as much as the next three countries (Congo, China and Australia) put together. But it also matters for what it may signal: that the world could be near a turning point in the sorry story of tropical deforestation.

Typically, countries start in poverty with their land covered in trees. As they clear it for farms or fuel, they get richer—until alarm bells ring and they attempt to recover their losses. This happens at different stages in different places, but the trajectory is similar in most: a reverse J, steeply down, then bottoming out, then up—but only part of the way. This is usually called the “forest transition curve”. Brazil seems to be nearing the bottom. The world may be, too.

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A New Entry Is Shaking Up Brazil’s Vote

August 21, 2014

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 8/20/2014

As the daughter of impoverished rubber tappers in the far reaches of the Brazilian Amazon, Marina Silva learned how to read as a teenager and worked as a maid before entering politics as an icon of the environmental movement. Now, with a trajectory appealing to big parts of Brazil’s electorate, Ms. Silva is stirring an acutely competitive presidential race.

After the plane crash last week that killed Eduardo Campos, the scion of a powerful political clan in northeast Brazil, Ms. Silva was chosen on Wednesday to take his place as the candidate of the Brazilian Socialist Party, challenging the ambitions of the leftist incumbent, President Dilma Rousseff, and Aécio Neves, a top challenger and favorite of the business establishment.

Leaping into the race with poll numbers suggesting she could edge past Ms. Rousseff in a second round of voting, Ms. Silva, 56, is emerging as one of the most disruptive figures in Brazilian politics in a generation, luring coveted support from Brazil’s fast-growing evangelical Christian population, young well-educated voters in big cities and some prominent business executives.

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Amazon tribe fights Brazil dam project

August 5, 2014

Sue Branford and Nick Terdre – BBC News, 8/4/2014

“If these dams are built, everything will end,” says Lamberto Painha, one of the chiefs of the Munduruku tribe in Brazil’s Amazon region.

“That village over there will be flooded,” he points. “Monkeys, birds, Indians – we’ll all lose our homes.”

Over the last few months some 13,000 Munduruku have been protesting against government plans to build a series of hydroelectric dams that will flood part of their land on the upper reaches of the Tapajos river.

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In Brazil, government, health groups work to shield isolated Indian tribes from disease

July 23, 2014

Dom Phillips – The Washington Post, 7/23/2014

Despite working for seven years with indigenous tribes in Brazil that have had no contact with the outside world, the closest Carlos Travassos had ever been to any was earlier this month, when he and his team treated seven Indians for the flu.

Travassos, who is the general coordinator of isolated and recently contacted Indians for the Brazilian government’s indigenous affairs department, FUNAI, had one word for the encounter: “tense.”

Late last month, the group of seven Indians first walked into a village called Simpatia — or ‘Niceness’ — deep in the Brazilian Amazon, near the Peruvian border, in the Kampa Indian reserve in Acre state. The Ashaninka — a so-called contacted tribe because its members have had encounters with outsiders — live there.

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Brazil: congressional bill would be “unmitigated disaster” for Indians

July 30, 2013

Survival International, 07/30/2013

Brazil’s Congress is currently debating a controversial bill to open up indigenous territories for mining, dams, army bases and other industrial projects. If it becomes law, the bill would be an ‘unmitigated disaster’ for Brazil’s Indians.

Most indigenous peoples rely on their lands to sustain themselves physically and culturally. Uncontacted Indians are particularly vulnerable and without their forests intact, they will not survive.

The Brazilian constitution currently guarantees the Indians’ right to exclusive use of their land, except in extreme circumstances of ‘relevant public interest’.

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Brazil: indian protestors to return to villages

June 12, 2013

Associated Press, 06/12/2013

Brazil’s government says more than 100 protesting Indians are expected to abandon the offices of the federal indigenous affairs agency and return to their villages Wednesday.

The chief administrative officer of the Brazilian presidency says 140 Mundurucu Indians occupied the offices of Funai on Monday to protest the construction of a huge hydroelectric dam in the Amazon rainforest.

Gilberto Carvalho says the government will ask a court to issue an eviction notice if the Indians refuse to leave.

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Brazil “on alert” over an oil spill from Ecuador

June 10, 2013

BBC UK, 06/10/2013

Brazil is “on alert” over an oil spill that originated in Ecuador and is travelling downstream towards the Brazilian Amazon.

In a statement, the Brazilian foreign ministry said the navy and other agencies had been informed, and help was offered to Ecuador and Peru.

Last month, an estimated 11,480 barrels of oil leaked from a damaged pipeline into the River Coca in Ecuador.

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