The potential of biodiversity

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By RICARDO ABRAMOVAY*

The Amazon becomes bigger than Brazil in the struggle for development

The role that the Amazon is playing in national political life is unprecedented in the history of Brazilian democracy. It is there that the first Green Recovery Plan (PRV), an initiative of the Consortium of Amazonian Governors, today chaired by Governor Flavio Dino (PSB) and which represents the most important programmatic document aimed at solving Brazilian problems. The text, prepared under the competent coordination of Laura Carvalho, an economist at FEA-USP, has two fundamental virtues.

The first is that it manages to bring together different – ​​and even opposing – political strands around a common objective. It is the practical demonstration that rationality, qualified information and content discussion can be stronger than aggression, stereotypes and prejudices whose success in the public arena (and not only in Brazil) is growing. If in Brasilia the President of the Republic confirms his repulsive status as a global pariah when he receives the leader of the German party linked to Nazism, in the Amazon the nine governors accredit themselves as relevant international actors by formulating a Green Recovery Plan. It is something whose scope goes far beyond a region, however important it is.

The second virtue is that the PRV reinserts Brazil into the world. He intends to eliminate deforestation in the Amazon — whose progress puts Brazil against the grain of the global effort against the climate crisis. For this, it is essential to recover the value of the democratic multilateralism that had resulted in the Amazon Fund, where two democratic nations (Norway and Germany) support the country based on results (and not on promises) in the fight against deforestation.

The plan rejects the obscene posture – typical of the militia culture – of blackmail contained in the idea that if money does not come from abroad, deforestation will continue. In its place, the PRV signals the fact that the ecosystem services provided by the forest to humanity can and should be remunerated based on internationally agreed mechanisms, by governments, the private sector, civil society organizations and forest peoples. The expansion of protected areas and their defense against the attacks that have been suffered by organized crime is a decisive part of this first objective of protecting the forest.

In addition to this goal, the plan has a set of guidelines to face one of the biggest Brazilian paradoxes, which is the fact that where the country's most important socio-biodiversity is located, its worst social indicators are also found. And this challenge can only be overcome by economic growth models and technologies that strengthen the vigor of the forest and rivers of the Amazon, but which also stimulate the sustainable development of its cities, where most of its 30 million inhabitants live.

Of course, as is happening all over the world, this will require discussing the nature of the infrastructure needed for the development of the Amazon. Contemplating the needs of the populations of the Amazon in terms of health, education, housing, mobility, energy and, above all, a high-quality connection to the Internet, in cities and in rural areas, is decisive for stopping the current destruction. In place of expensive, inefficient hydroelectric plants and sources of corruption, roads that become vectors of deforestation and illegal and polluting mining, the Amazon needs technological innovations capable of promoting well-being for its forest, rural and urban populations.

But in addition to the PRV, it is also around the Amazon that two hundred scientists of immense international prestige met virtually, for eighteen months, producing a diagnosis and a set of proposals aimed at “save the amazon“. The initiative, led by the American economist Jeffrey Sachs, by the Brazilian climatologist Carlos Nobre and by the Ecuadorian biologist Andrea Encalada, resulted in a dense report, released for public consultation on the last 14th of July with the presence of Juan Manuel Santos, former president from Colombia.

No region in the world has ever received so much attention from the scientific community, and as pointed out Jeffrey Sachs During its launch, negotiations are already under way for the model of the Scientific Panel for the Amazon to be replicated for the two other great tropical forests on the planet: Indonesia and the Congo Basin. At this time, the Panel's 33 chapters are still in English, but within a few days the texts (and their executive summaries) will be available in Portuguese and Spanish. The document, after this public consultation, will be launched at the Glasgow Climate Conference in November this year.

In addition to these powerful political and scientific mobilizations, it is in the Amazon that an important and diverse group of businessmen, activists, representatives of forest peoples, scientists and political leaders gather, since the beginning of 2020, in Concert for the Amazon. From these discussions emerged documents on different topics related to the development of the Amazon — published regularly by Magazine Page 22, open for public consultation.

The Green Recovery Plan, the report of the Scientific Panel for the Amazon, the discussions and the texts of the Concertation show that the Amazon has become bigger than Brazil in a sense that is not just geographic. It is from there that collective and diversified reflection is emerging on the most important challenge facing the country and perhaps the continent: how can we make our biodiversity the fundamental vector for our insertion at the forefront of global scientific and technological innovation and, at the same time, in decisive factor in the fight against poverty and inequalities?

*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).

 

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