Brazil’s Special Forces wage uphill fight against Amazon destroyers

Vincent Bevins – Los Angeles Times, 7/10/2015

Carrying guns and wearing jungle fatigues, the three men don’t look like scientists as they push their way through the thick foliage of the Amazon.

They’re trying to reach a clearing they’ve seen on satellite images. When they finally get there, they discover that the largest trees have been uprooted by a tractor. The ground has been seeded with grass to create a pasture for cattle.

Rodrigo Numeriano, 31, finds a piece of a fruit peel, puts it up to his nose and sniffs.

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Brazil’s Amazon wilderness at risk from organised crime

Wyre Davies – BBC News, 7/09/2015

No country has done more than Brazil in recent years to tackle the previously rampant levels of deforestation but there is a good reason the agents have their guns drawn – we have seen statistics which show that rates of Amazon destruction are again on the rise.

There are big profits to be made from illegal logging and the fraudulent clearing of rainforest for valuable cash crops and these helicopter patrols are often shot at.

Trying to locate illegal logging operations in the midst of this dense jungle from the air is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

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Brazil to boost beef productivity by 82% to protect Amazon

Mathew Carr – Bloomberg Business, 6/26/2015

Brazil, which was overtaken last year by India as the world’s biggest beef exporter, is encouraging cattle farmers to boost productivity around the Amazon rain forest as it balances environmental protection with economic production.

The nation wants to increase output at beef farms to at least 2 head-of-cattle-per-hectare from about 1.1 head, Francisco Oliveira Filho, director of policies to reduce deforestation at the Environment Ministry, said Friday in an interview in London. Such an increase will ease pressure to fell more trees, he said.

“There is space to increase the productivity of the beef sector in the Amazon region” and the 2 head-per-hectare level has been reached in some of the nation, he said. “On one side you have people that want development at any cost. On the other hand you have people trying to protect everything. We are trying to find something in between.”

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Brazil’s latest growth agenda banks on slicing Amazon with railroad tracks

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 6/9/2015

Brazil’s latest infrastructure led growth agenda includes a R$40 billion ($13.1 billion) railroad that slices right through the Amazon rain forest. And it largely depends on China.

Now that China is interested in the now-called Trans-Pacific Railroad, Brazil decided to put it on its list of infrastructure concessions announced on Wednesday. The railroad is an old idea that’s been around since 2011. Back then, only Peru was in on the project. Now China has interest and, most likely, money to spend. But considering that this cuts through some of the rainforest, even guys at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will face serious opposition from non-governmental organizations in the area. In fact, this train is probably a train to nowhere even if the AIIB or the China Development Bank invested in the project.

The thing is, the railroad accounts for a sizable 20% of the new wish list of Brazilian infrastructure. Brazil’s government said today that it expects investments in railroads to sum to R$86.4 billion, almost half of it coming from the revamped railroad project announced earlier this month with China and Peru.

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Brazil cuts red tape stifling biodiversity studies

Herton Escobar – SCIENCE Magazine, 5/29/2015

When Carlos Jared tried to ship a jar of dead velvet worms collected in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest to a colleague in Germany in 2006, he had no plans to derive a drug or other product from the creatures. He just wanted to probe the reproductive system of a rare invertebrate that gives birth to live young. But Brazilian authorities denounced him as a “biopirate.”

The evolutionary biologist at the Instituto Butantan in São Paulo had run afoul of a law aiming to clamp down on what Brazil perceived as rampant pillaging of its biological resources. Jared hadn’t filled out all the paperwork required under law MP 2186, so the worms were confiscated. Worse was yet to come. “They dragged my name through the mud. It was a psychological massacre,” he says. It took him 6 years to get another permit for fieldwork, and he is still fighting in court thousands of dollars in fines.

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Preserve to Explore

Interview with Thomas Lovejoy – Veja, 5/20/2015

In an interview with the Brazilian publication Veja, Thomas Lovejoy, Senior Fellow at the UN Foundation, Professor at George Mason University and member of the Brazil Institute Advisory Board , argues that infrastructural development and environmental conservation can – and should – coexist in Brazil. Lovejoy elaborates on two fundamental pillars necessary for sustainable development:  research and development as well as political will. According to his extensive research in the Amazon over the last fifty years, Brazilian scientists  have gained credibility and prominence for their research worldwide. However it is essential for that ‘know-how’ to be implemented in projects locally, such as hydroelectric dams, enabling their construction and maintenance to  become as environmentally friendly as possible. Yet, Lovejoy argues that science is not enough. Rather, a “triple-bottom line” approach – focusing on the effects to people, planet and politics/profits of a project – is a way to preserve biodiversity in the Amazon. Thomas Lovejoy stresses that, although politicians have passed important environmental protection legislation in recent years, new energy project initiatives by the public and private sector need to recognize the value of the flora, fauna and indigenous populations surrounding rivers, instead of solely focusing on the energy-generating capacity of hydroelectric dams. Furthermore, Lovejoy argues that the lack of sustainable development – both locally and globally – have contributed to climate change, deforestation and loss of biodiversity in Brazil and worldwide.

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Brazil to Present Ambitious Climate Plan With More Renewables

Vanessa Dezem – Bloomberg Business, 4/16/2015

Brazil will increase the use of renewable energy, target zero net deforestation and push for low-carbon agriculture as part of its climate proposal, Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said in an interview.

In its proposal to the United Nations climate conference in Paris this year, Latin America’s largest nation will propose ambitious new targets to reduce destruction of the Amazon rainforest, boost reforestation and increase solar, hydro and wind energy. To do so, it will require more foreign capital and technology, Teixeira said in her office in Brasilia.

Over the past decade Brazil has been one of the world’s protagonists in combating climate change, slashing its greenhouse emissions by 41 percent between 2005 and 2012, according to official data. Making further cuts may be more difficult. Emissions from energy generation during the same period rose 36 percent, while the reduction of Amazon deforestation, a major source of carbon emissions, is slowing.

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