Image: Felix Mittermeier


It is essential to expand the sustainable use of the gigantic socio-biodiversity of tropical forests as a value that must be at the base of any and all economic decisions, in any region of the world.

One of the most frequent and harmful mistakes about the direction of growth in the Amazon is to confuse bioeconomy with extractivism. It is undoubtedly essential to expand the sustainable use of the gigantic socio-biodiversity of tropical forests (and their rivers). The peoples of the Amazon, scientists, responsible businessmen, activists and organizations that promote entrepreneurship have made immense progress in this direction. But the bioeconomy has to go far beyond forests.

O Brazil Origins Seal brings together local communities and dozens of companies of various sizes, which process and sell products from protected areas, with the support of the Socio-environmental Institute. IMAFLOR and several other non-governmental organizations. O Amazon Project 2030 has published works showing the potential of forest socio-biodiversity products both in global markets and in strengthening gastronomy and tourism. Amazon Entrepreneurship Center, connection, BelTerra, IDESAM, Amazon 4.0, are just some of a growing number of organizations aimed at valuing the work of forest peoples and the potential it contains in terms of food, new materials, pharmaceutical and cosmetic uses.

But it is clear that, when the destruction currently promoted by the federal government is interrupted, the economy of the forest will not be enough to allow the economic growth of the Amazon to translate into improvement of living conditions in the Brazilian region with the worst social indicators. . One cannot treat the bioeconomy as an attribute limited to the forest, as if it were an economic sector, a dome within which nature will be protected, along with the peoples who directly depend on it and who seek to preserve it.

Bioeconomy is, literally, the economy of life. In this sense, more than one sector among others, it is a value that must be at the base of any and all economic decisions, in any region of the world. The challenge for humanity in the XNUMXst century is to reduce inequalities, eradicate poverty and hunger, based on economic growth models that regenerate the natural fabrics hitherto devastated by the predominant forms of production of goods and services. Orienting economic growth towards the fight against the climate crisis (as countries that are relevant in the global political and economic scenario have been doing) is to place the defense of life as a vector of human activities.

But it is clear that this starting point, these ethical-normative values, are translated differently in each region. In the case of the Amazon, it is not just a matter of protecting the forest so that it fulfills its global ecosystem functions and improves the activities and living conditions of the populations that live there. When destruction is removed from the social landscape of forests, the multiplier effects of forest socio-biodiversity will appear more clearly, as well as its impacts on the work and income of the population. The industrialization of forest products and the application of the best science to its knowledge are also fundamental sources of innovation and economic growth. the work of Choices Institute shows that the Manaus Free Trade Zone can gain dynamism if its industrial and technological capabilities are turned towards the sustainable use of forest socio-biodiversity. But that will be insufficient.

chapter on bioeconomy of the Scientific Panel for the Amazon shows that the economy of life is fundamental for the region as a whole. In the first place, it must guide urban policies in the Amazon, since municipal headquarters gather almost 70% of its population. Only the metropolitan regions of Belém and Manaus have 5,5 million of the 30 million Brazilian Amazonians.

Addressing the deficiencies in education, health, sanitation, waste management, housing and internet connection in these regions requires approaches inspired by the increasingly important idea in multilateral organizations of “nature-based solutions”. These solutions have to enter the strategic matrix of urban policies in the Amazon.

An example, in this sense, is the urgency to promote greater use of wood in urban infrastructure works, instead of concrete, whose impact on ecosystem services is highly destructive. Using wood is not synonymous with destroying the forest. On the contrary, this use assumes the sustainable management of forest areas, promoting integration between urban needs and strengthening socio-biodiversity. Urban afforestation (as is being promoted in Belém) is another example of solutions based on nature, especially in regions with such high temperatures.

But “nature-based solutions” will also have to inspire commodity farming and family farming in the Amazon, which already has a rich experience in this regard, as shown by the works by professor Francisco de Assis Costa. The world will accept fewer and fewer agricultural products linked to the destruction of nature and the impoverishment of the ecosystem services it provides. In addition to respect for protected areas, productive methods must be implemented that use socio-biodiversity products, that do not pollute rivers and soil and whose added value lies not only in their low costs, but above all in the ability to track their regenerative effects. Agroecology, which has become an official policy of the European Union, offers promising paths for the Amazon.

These are the rudiments of an idea that needs to be deepened and whose main inspiration is that the economic growth of the Amazon, the fight against poverty and inequalities cannot suffer from the split that consists in affirming the ecosystem value of the forest and, at the same time, advocate conventional modes of economic growth for cities, the supply of commodities and family farming.

If the economy of life is the vector of global economic growth, it is obvious that, for the country that holds the greatest socio-biodiversity on the planet, it offers opportunities that the strengthening of democracy, the fight against inequalities, science and the peoples of the Amazon and the Cerrado will know how to take advantage.

*Ricardo Abramovay is a senior professor at the Institute of Energy and Environment at USP. Author, among other books, of Amazon: towards an economy based on the knowledge of nature (Elephant/Third Way).

Originally published on the portal UOL


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