Keep Your Mouth Closed: Aquatic Olympians Face a Toxic Stew in Rio

Andrew Jacobs – The New York Times, 07/27/2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — Health experts in Brazil have a word of advice for the Olympic marathon swimmers, sailors and windsurfers competing in Rio de Janeiro’s picture-postcard waters next month: Keep your mouth closed.

Despite the government’s promises seven years ago to stem the waste thatfouls Rio’s expansive Guanabara Bay and the city’s fabled ocean beaches, officials acknowledge that their efforts to treat raw sewage and scoop up household garbage have fallen far short.

 In fact, environmentalists and scientists say Rio’s waters are much more contaminated than previously thought.

Brazil Alleges Environmental Crimes in Response to Fundão Dam Collapse

Paul Kiernan – The Wall Street Journal, 01/14/2016

Brazil’s Federal Police have accused seven people and three companies, including mining giant Vale SA and its joint-venture Samarco Mineração SA, of environmental crimes in response to a major dam collapse in November.

The move, which has no exact equivalent in the U.S. legal system, will trigger the beginning of a deeper investigation by police. It typically represents a step toward formal charges, which in Brazil can only be filed by prosecutors, often after police have presented their findings.

The accusations mark the latest response by Brazilian authorities to what some have called the country’s worst-ever environmental disaster. On Nov. 5, Samarco’s Fundão tailings dam suddenly collapsed, releasing a flood of sludge that buried rural villages, killed 19 people and polluted more than 400 miles of the Rio Doce basin.

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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.

Read more in Portuguese…

Brazil plans to ‘nationalise’ rainforest in pioneering plan to protect Amazon

Donna Bowater – The Independent, 5/10/2015

The Brazilian rainforest could be effectively nationalised under a draft bill being considered by the country’s MPs.

The proposed legislation would recognise the sovereignty of Brazil over the Amazon’s natural resources and set up a national Amazonian policy council with the aim of enshrining environmental protection and regulating economic activities in the rainforest.

Should the law be passed, companies wanting to operate in the area would require approval from the new state entity in return for shares of the proceeds – in a similar way to that which oil exploration concessions are granted through state-controlled company Petrobras in return for royalties.

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‘We’re going to resist’: Brazil’s indigenous groups fight to keep their land in face of new law

Claire Rigby – The Guardian, 4/23/2015

From downtown São Paulo, the Pico do Jaraguá – the crest of a mountain ridge on the city’s north-western horizon – looks like a broken tooth, crowned by a towering TV antenna. Just beyond the rocky peak and down a steep, deeply rutted, unmade road, lies the nascent village of Tekoa Itakupe, one of the newest fronts in Brazil’s indigenous people’s struggle for land to call their own.

Once part of a coffee plantation, the idyllic 72-hectare plot is currently occupied by three families from the Guarani community who moved onto the land in July 2014 after it was recognised as traditional Guarani territory by Funai, the federal agency for Indian affairs.

The group had hoped that would be a first step on the road to its eventual official demarcation as indigenous territory, but they now face eviction after a judge granted a court order to the landowner, Antônio ‘Tito’ Costa, a lawyer and former local politician.

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Why Brazil has a big appetite for risky pesticides

Paulo Prada – Reuters, 4/2/2015

LIMOEIRO DO NORTE, Brazil – The farmers of Brazil have become the world’s top exporters of sugar, orange juice, coffee, beef, poultry and soybeans. They’ve also earned a more dubious distinction: In 2012, Brazil passed the United States as the largest buyer of pesticides.

This rapid growth has made Brazil an enticing market for pesticides banned or phased out in richer nations because of health or environmental risks.

At least four major pesticide makers – U.S.-based FMC Corp., Denmark’s Cheminova A/S, Helm AG of Germany and Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta AG – sell products here that are no longer allowed in their domestic markets, a Reuters review of registered pesticides found.

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