Unprotecting 1 million hectares is not good business for agriculture01.06.2018 • Opinion
By André Guimarães and Paulo Coutinho*
Members of Parliament from the state of Amazonas and their followers who want to reduce protected areas created last year in the Amazon impose a considerable risk to a sector of the economy that they defend so much: agribusiness.
They claim – and do so fearfully – that more than 1 million hectares are “unprotected” because they would disrupt economic interests. Rather, they should listen to science.
Forest preservation plays a fundamental role in balancing the Amazonian climate. And, as every good countryman knows, bad weather makes any business unfeasible.
Recent studies by the Amazonian Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) and partner institutions show that, without forest cover, certain areas of the Amazon can overheat. In the region of the Xingu Indigenous Park, in Mato Grosso, for example, the average temperature increased between 2000 and 2010 by almost 0.5-degree Celsius. It may seem trifling at first glance, but it is enough to adversely affect the regional rainfall patterns, for example.
Also, the temperature of deforested areas around the park is up to 6 degrees Celsius higher than the temperature inside. This shows that without the forest, the climate would be so hot that production could be made unfeasible.
Bottom line: without forest, profitable agricultural production is depleted. That’s why this pseudo-dispute between production and forest conservation that some Brazilian rural actors insist on halting is old news. Neither science, nor international commodity markets, nor consumers, nor more modern actors in the agricultural sector accept it anymore.
The creation and maintenance of protected areas in the Amazon is an excellent business for agriculture for it secures constant irrigation for crops. Protected areas also help control climate change and preserve biodiversity, two assets in the current world economic debate, in addition to organizing land use in areas where deforestation tends to grow, such as the sites planned for the construction of large infrastructure projects.
Whenever internal disputes arise to reduce the safekeeping of protected areas and indigenous lands, with them comes the doubt of who would gain from it. The Brazilian population and responsible agribusiness certainly would not. For the sector itself recognizes that there is sufficient open area for production to grow.
The federal government has been selling Brazil, especially in international forums, as the country that produces food while respecting nature. Brazilian agriculture, at least out there, is pop and green. At the same time, it gives space, internally, to those who still see the forest as a problem rather than a solution.
It is time for the government to show whether the speech given abroad is real or if it just tries to look more modern than it actually is. Because even though there are differences between the contemporary and the retrograde Brazilian agribusiness, the government cannot agree with a schizophrenic position that does not bring anything substantial to the country’s growth.
* André Guimarães, agronomist, is the executive director of IPAM, and Paulo Coutinho, biologist, is a senior researcher. This article was originally published on Blog do Planeta, Revista Época.