Wednesday, January 25, 2012



During the last election campaign for President of Brazil the greatly esteemed eco-social theologian Leonardo Boff urged a popular front between the first-round victor, pro-development Dilma Rousseff and pro-environment Marina Silva who had garnered an amazing 20 million votes, both of whom shared common Labor Party roots.

Leonardo Boff proposed the pragmatic and visionary agenda of the alliance: The first task would be to defeat the pro-business and privatization-oriented candidate José Serra;  and, secondly to go on to manifest a
"... dream of a popular social democracy, and to reconcile ecological and human nature to ensure a happy future together for us and for a mankind that looks to us full of hope.

Serra was solidly defeated but there has been little progress toward the dream of reconciling ecological and human nature. According to Alexei Barrionuevo's report in today's NY Times:

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Brazil has made great strides in recent years in slowing Amazon deforestation and showing the world it was serious about protecting the mammoth rain forest.

The rate of deforestation fell by 80 percent over the past six years, as the government carved out about 150 million acres for conservation - an area roughly the size of France - and used police raids and other tactics to crack down on illegal deforesters, according to both environmentalists and the government. Brazil's former environment minister, Marina Silva, became an internationally respected defender of the Amazon. She ran for president in 2010 on the Green Party ticket and won 19.4 percent of the votes.

But since Dilma Rousseff was elected president in late 2010, there have been signs of a shift in the government's attitude toward the Amazon. A provisional measure now allows the president to decrease the lands already created for conservation. The government is granting more flexibility for large infrastructure projects during the environmental licensing process. And a proposal would give Brazil's Congress veto power over the recognition of indigenous territories.

"What is happening in Brazil is the biggest backsliding that we could ever imagine with regards to environmental policies," said Ms. Silva, who now devotes her time to environmental advocacy.

Now, a bill seeking to overhaul the 47-year-old Forest Code, a central piece of environmental legislation, is the most serious test yet of Ms. Rousseff's stance on the environment.

The debate over the law has revealed the stark disconnect between a population that is increasingly supportive of conserving the Amazon and a Congress in which agricultural interests in the country's rural north and northeast still hold sway. The furor comes as Brazil is set to hold a United Nations conference on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro in June. (continue to full article)

The furor may erupt tomorrow when President Dilma Rousseff addresses the World Social Forum which is meeting in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre.

Participants are raging against global inequality and the destruction of the environment, with specific criticism of Brazil's plans to build the massive Belo Monte hydro-electric plant in the Amazonian region and the country's new Forest Code which is being debated in Congress. Let's see how Dilma handles the expected challenge.

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