Reversing the gains of the past*

belo-monte-protestersIndigenous peoples protest against the Belo Monte projectAfter months of inaction, the Brazilian government’s “first environmental package”, announced on the eve of Rio+20 in the midst of severe criticisms from the environmental movement, contains some important and necessary actions but remains light years away from what happened on the eve of Rio 92 and from Rio+10, when the Yanomami Indigenous Park and the National Park of the Tumucumaque Mountains were created, respectively.

To send the Nagoya Protocol to Congress for approval two years late, to start the process of legalising some indigenous land after even longer delays, to create and to extend conservation areas a week after reducing others to make way for controversial hydro-electric and mining projects is a clear demonstration of how the environment is subordinated to the development agenda, a lesser priority.

The recent incentives for the sale of cars reveal no concern for social and environmental impacts. Indeed, all environmental impacts have been disregarded in the Belo Monte hydroelectric project and in PAC [the government’s main development programme, the programme for Accelerated Growth]. President Dilma’s decision to issue a partial veto of the Forest Code shows that a temporary agreement has been made with landowners to suspend forest devastation, while the heads of other nations are in Brazil; it is evident that the devastation will recommence once they have gone. Brazil’s success in achieving the lowest level of felling of the Amazon forest in recent history was only possible thanks to legislation that has now been demolished.

The Brazilian government, hostage of a political system that is both funded by – and is a funder of – the oligarchies and backward economic groups, is missing the chance to lead the world towards a new world, that of sustainable development.

We are going to Rio+20 in an accelerated process of reversals. What will be announced at the conference is the shameful product of hesitating governments in front of an ever more aware and demanding society. The negotiations up to present suggest that what will emerge will be documents without effective goals or actions. But the global public wants more than this and what we are seeing are governments and their officials working hard to lower expectations.

All we can do is continue to warn the world about the serious problems that are arising from loss of biodiversity, desertification and global warming – all problems that 20 years ago were announced as the most serious risk yet faced for the continuation of life on the planet. For this reason, our demand for urgent measures, very urgent and effective measures, to tackle these grave problems must remain are the top of our ethical and political priorities.

* Published in the Folha de S. Paulo and translated by LAB