A bold and beautiful portrait of Brazil

Nicole Crowder – The Washington Post, 04/22/2015

Ahead of the upcoming 2016 Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Washington Post staff photographer Bonnie Jo Mount traveled to Piquiá de Baixo to document a community of residents in clay-brick and wooden houses suffering from the heavy pollution from nearby pig iron factories and the noisy Carajás railway that runs through the Amazon region transporting ore.

Away from the busy rail tracks and gathering dust, Mount documented a more personal portrait of the country via her Instagram, one that reflects a serene, even majestic Brazil. Vibrant tiles jut out from a red wall near contrasting green glass window shutters in Rio. A young man walks past a facade of wooden blue doors and iron balconies, oxidized over time by the elements in the historic district of São Luís. And while the southern coastal region of the country has suffered one of its most severe droughts in nearly 80 years, Mount’s vignettes are able to capture the soul and beauty of Brazilian landscapes, from its energetic beaches of Ipanema to aerials of the Amazon rainforest.

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Brazil’s deforestation rates are on the rise again

Richard Schiffman – Newsweek, 3/22/2015

In a world hungry for environmental success stories, Brazil has been the closest thing we have to a golden child. The nation, Latin America’s largest economy, has been growing at an impressive clip, weathering the global financial crisis while cutting deforestation rates in the Amazon to historic lows. Citing its success in protecting the earth’s largest rain forest, President Dilma Rousseff boasted that Brazil is “one of the most advanced countries” for sustainable development, on World Environment Day last June.

But it is too soon to declare victory in the Amazon. Corruption, lawlessness and massive land fraud are now threatening those gains, and an aggressive new development push in the region may soon open remote areas of the forest to being cut.

Between 2005 and 2010, Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions plunged by 39 percent, declining faster than in any other country. Brazil accomplished this by slashing its deforestation rate by more than three-quarters, mostly in the Amazon basin. (Burning forests to clear them is the second biggest source of greenhouse gases after the combustion of fossil fuels, accounting for 30 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by human activities, according to one U.N. study.)

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Brazil’s king of deforestation dethroned in drive to beat land clearers

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 3/2/2015

For most of the past six years, Ezequiel Antônio Castanha had seemed a pillar of the community in the small Amazonian city of Novo Progresso. As the owner of a supermarket, hotel and car dealership, he provided more jobs than anyone else. Outside his municipality, few had heard of him. Neighbours described him as a “pessoa normal” (regular guy).

Today, however, the thick-set, middle-aged man sits in jail with a notoriety across Brazil as a Tony Soprano-like character whose businesses were used to launder money from one of the biggest land clearance syndicates ever uncovered.

Castanha was arrested last weekend, along with 15 associates, in what has been hailed as a major breakthrough for environmental enforcement. The local media have described the detainee as the “king of deforestation”. According to the environment ministry Ibama, he and his gang were responsible for about 10% of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon last year.

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Rio Olympics Won’t Help Brazil’s Economy if the World Cup Is Any Guide

Raymond Colitt – Bloomberg, 1/16/2015

The 2016 Olympics will be no panacea for Brazil’s faltering economy if last year’s World Cup is any guide. Contrary to government projections, Brazil has failed to lure to its beaches and jungles many of the 3.5 billion TV viewers that followed the tournament.

The flow of tourists to the country, which spent more to host the mega-event than any nation before it, has remained flat from a year earlier since the final match July 13, according to tour operators and an online search engine. Spending by foreign visitors fell 7.4 percent from August through November, compared with a year earlier, central bank data shows.

From the rhythms of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro to the Amazon forest and Iguassu Falls, Brazil boasts some of the world’s outstanding travel attractions. Yet several hurdles, from high costs and violence to poor marketing and logistics, mean many potential visitors choose to go elsewhere, said Diogo Canteras, partner at hotel consulting firm HotelInvest.

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Brazil: Amazon Deforestation Increases for First Time in Ten Years [PHOTO REPORT]

David Sim – International Business Times, 11/24/2014

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is on the increase for the first time in ten years. Deforestation rose last year by 16%, as current policies appear to be failing to deter forest destruction caused mainly by illegal logging and cattle expansion.

Brazil had success in the last decade combating deforestation, consequently cutting carbon emissions. But the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions were almost 8% higher in 2013 than one year earlier. The Observatorio do Clima, or Climate Observatory, said in a report that greenhouse gas emissions amounted to 1.57 billion metric tons in 2013 compared to 1.45 billion metric tons in 2012.

The increase was a reversal in a trend of declining levels that started in 2005 as emissions of greenhouse gases dropped year by year as deforestation fell. However, compared to a peak of 2.86 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted in 2004, the 2013 number is still 45% smaller.

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Brazil Military Drills to Defend Amazon

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 11/8/2014

Brazil’s army is deploying troops this month to the far reaches of the Amazon in a military exercise simulating a foreign invasion of the rain forest, focusing attention on sensitivity over sovereignty in a region rising in importance as a strategic pillar of Latin America’s largest economy.

The troop mobilization, starting on Monday and called Operation Machifaro, points to a deepening of a central element of military doctrine in Brazil, which holds the defense of the Amazon as a top priority. The Amazon’s mineral wealth and vast reserves of fresh water place the region “in the context of potential threats,” military officials here said in a statement.

“The operation will provide ways for optimizing a strategy of resistance in the region,” said Gen. Guilherme Cals Theophilo Gaspar de Oliveira, chief of Brazil’s Amazon Military Command. He also emphasized that the exercise was aiming to “consolidate a doctrine of jungle combat.”

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Brazil must target smallholders to curb rising deforestation

Anastasia Moloney – The Guardian, 10/20/2014

Farmers with smallholdings are not responsible for most of the destruction of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, but their contribution to deforestation is rising and must be addressed if the country is to hold on to recent gains, according to an environmental research group.

Government efforts led to a 77% fall in deforestation in the Amazon between 2004 and 2011, but progress has slowed and deforestation is rising, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) said in a report.

The report said that between 2004 and 2011, landowners with more than 500 hectares (1,235 acres) of property were responsible for about 48% of the deforestation. Areas owned by smallholders accounted for 12% of the forests destroyed during the same period. However, since 2005, the contribution to annual deforestation by the largest landowners has fallen by 63%, while that of smallholders has increased by 69%, the report said.

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