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Brazil’s Deforestation Bill

by Jordi Sánchez-Cuenca

Last Tuesday, the Brazilian Parliament passed a bill that eases restrictions on deforestation, and then granted amnesty to those who have illegally deforested up to 2008. Despite the Government's international commitments (80% deforestation reduction by 2020) and the president's explicit position against the bill, it was passed by a margin of 410 to 63.

Deforestation in Brazil. Source: Greenpeace

According to Greenpeace, the bill represents a death sentence for 86 million hectares of Brazilian forests, far more than the amount deforested in the entire history of the Amazon region. Fortunately, the battle to save Brazilian forests from such an ecological catastrophe is still not lost, as the bill still has to be approved by the Senate and the president has veto power (which is rarely used because of its negative political implications).

Deforestation is part of the urban ecological foodprint, a phenomenon that is masterfully illustrated in the film Green. Urban areas are by far the main consumers of tropical wood and paper from deforestation, as well as meat, soybeans (mainly used to feed animals raised for meat production), and biofuels, the main products coming from deforested areas in Brazil. The bill is a direct threat to the world's most biodiverse region, among the last of nature's pristine frontiers and, according Brazilian members of the IPCC, "with the deforestation, there will be an increase in the release of carbon to the athmosphere, afecting the microclimate, influencing the rain regime, and provoking soil erosion." Indeed, deforestation accounts for almost 20% of CO2 emissions, and if we consider that it is primarily done to gain space for agriculture, then it accounts for more than 30% of CO2 emissions.

Deforestation should be taken into consideration in urban planning and city management as an indirect consequence of unsustainable urban lifestyles and development. Through unrestricted consumption of biofuels, wood, paper, and meat, citizens, planners and local officials are responsible for what is happening in Borneo and the Amazon region, and in other forests around the world.