Brazil: Environmental Crisis – How long do we have to wait to start making changes?

Brazil: Environmental Crisis – How long do we have to wait to start making changes?
Brazil: Environmental Crisis – How long do we have to wait to start making changes?

Article published in Da Folha de S. Paulo

Environmental crimes and tragedies are repeating themselves in Brazil with increasing frequency. Droughts in the Amazon, floods in Maranhão and Recife, fires in the Pantanal, deforestation and lowering of the water table in the Cerrado, affecting the water reserves of the three largest river basins in the country.

The tragedy in Rio Grande do Sul is just the tip of the iceberg of so many attacks that affect millions of people and force society, and especially governments, at all levels, to reflect on the need for urgent changes.

It was a tragedy waiting to happen. The scientific community has long been warning that grain monocultures and pastures lead to an imbalance in the distribution of rainfall.

The modifications to the Forestry Code, defended and approved by the ruralist bench in the 2000s, reduced the size of the areas of vegetation cover on the banks of streams and rivers and exempted the replacement of deforested areas. Without any oversight, it was a party.

The Rio Grande do Sul government has also changed hundreds of articles of the state environmental law. All to benefit agribusiness, which does not even leave wealth in the state, because it exports agricultural commodities without paying a cent of the tax on the circulation of goods and transport services (ICMS), thanks to the Kandir Law of the Rio Grande do Sul government. Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Added to this are the predatory actions of mining in all corners, from sand extraction to large iron ore mines, in addition to the crimes committed by illegal miners.

Finally, the use of agrochemicals is perhaps the greatest aggression against nature. Brazil is the country that uses the most agrochemicals, including products banned in Europe, which destroy biodiversity, alter the balance of nature and contaminate the aquifer. But who cares if this is controlled by half a dozen transnational companies that do not pay taxes, but finance politicians?

The crimes are there, in plain sight. And the worst affected are always the poor, who pay with their lives. They are the inhabitants of unsuitable places, pushed by real estate speculation from the cities to the hillsides; they are the riverside dwellers; they are the family farmers.

What to do? We do not need to cut down more trees to plant or raise cattle. Zero deforestation must extend from the Amazon to other biomes such as the Cerrado, the Atlantic Forest and the Pantanal. This policy must be combined with a large national reforestation plan in these biomes, in cities, along roads and on the banks of streams and rivers. State-owned companies should create nurseries and distribute seedlings of native and fruit trees.

We need to put limits on the advance of agribusiness, on the predatory model that only enriches transnational exporting companies and a few landowners.

Only family farming can “cool” the planet, protecting biodiversity and fighting hunger.

To achieve this, we must promote polyculture of healthy foods, with a large agroecology program that distributes necessary inputs to family farmers, with a reindustrialization policy that provides adequate agricultural machinery and organic fertilizers.

Agrarian reform is a fundamental policy to guarantee access to land for farmers who do not have it – many of whom have been forced out by the advance of agribusiness – and to relocate those affected by the climate. In cities, it is essential to guarantee decent housing in safe places with a future.

All this costs a lot of money, but it is better to prevent and save lives and nature than to cry later. Rio Grande do Sul will now need R$ 60 billion just to replace the losses.

Are we going to continue looking for reparations or are we going to prepare for a better life for everyone?

This post is also available in English and Français.

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