Brazil: Transition on environmental policy making

Changing the command in a Brazilian Ministry used to be a domestic affair, but the resignation of the renowned rainforest defender Marina Silva from the Environmental Ministry has sparked global reactions. Ms. Silva’s replacement was quickly announced by President Lula, through the designation of Carlos Minc, former environmental secretary of Rio de Janeiro State and one of the founders of the Green Party in Brazil. Here are some comments from local bloggers on the shifting sands of public environmental policy.

By leaving the ministry, the ex-rubber tapper and ex-domestic worker, who learned to read only when she was 17 years old [and later to become Brazil’s youngest senator at the age of 36], has generated — inside and outside the country — a reverberation that overshadows those that eventually occurred with the fall of former powerful finance ministers. She hopes that her replacement in the ministry, Carlos Minc, will be able to assure the continuity of the government environmental policy, resisting the pressure that comes from Blairo Maggi, the governor of Mato Grosso State who is working against retaining the National Monetary Council resolution that will oblige the financial system to require conforming with environmental regulations as a precondition for access to rural credit in the Amazon…. Marina Silva has declared that when you are in a position of power, even if it is something small (the editor of a newspaper column, for example), we suffer the temptation to look at people from the top down. — “I’ve learned, and it was not now but with many people I had the opportunity to meet along my life, people like Chico Mendes and Dom Moacir Grechi, that we have to look from the bottom up. From the bottom up we are able to watch what is above us. The Amazon is above us. And with such a look we are able to see that, in order to do something that is really good, we have to put ourselves in the perspective of service, which can also mean the gesture of cleaning the path so that another person can take your place. I’ve said before that it’s better to see your son alive on someone else’s lap than to see him dead on your own lap.”
“The Amazon is above us”Altino Machado

Hey colleagues, get ready! Minc is coming. The new environmental minister will land in Brasilia to have lunch today with ex-minister Marina Silva, and later meet with Lula at the Planalto Palace. From now on, the ministry will not be a sole source of news. Minc is media-minded. He tends to use the Internet, as Marina leans to, should we say, the radio (no disregard here for the radio, on the contrary). He will bustle every single day, and the media will have to appoint reporters to follow him around. On one day, as it happened last week, he is capable of chastising his future colleague Mangabeira Unger from the Special Secretariat for Long Term Actions, the man designated by Lula do run the Sustainable Amazon Program. On another, he is ready to suggest the name of Jorge Viana, an ex-governor from Acre state, to take Mangabeira’s post. Next day, he is ready to praise Unger saying that he is apt to do a great work. Minc is good at manipulating words, ideas and concepts, just like his new boss, Lula. Take a good look at what he said yesterday when asked about the record number of environmental permits to big infrastructure projects granted by him as environmental secretary of Rio de Janeiro State: “You can be fast and rigorous. It is not because it took 3 years that a permit will guarantee protection to the ecosystem. You can wait 3 years lost in bureaucracy and obtain a loose licensing.” The reporters just took note of what he said, and nobody contested. Reporters have little time to think about what they hear, and many of them just don’t know what to think. In this case, Minc has limited himself to banter the provocation addressed at him.
The Amazon is ours? Bullshit!Blog do Noblat

With his loose vest and long hair, although those are under the risk of extinction, the man is a media event, a machine gun of bombastic sentences. Compared to his predecessor, the discreet Marina Silva, someone who reminds us of an orchid in its fragile exuberance and a very symbol of the cause, Carlos Minc is closer to a mad chainsaw sweeping a soybean plantation.
A matraca solta de MincLuis Nassif Online

There has been much speculation about the reasons that led Marina Silva to resign. She has mentioned the lack of political support, and some commenters talk about clashes with Lula’s powerful cabinet chief Dilma Roussef, responsible for the government’s flagship program for accelerated growth. Another strong rumor tells about the designation of Roberto Mangabeira Unger to coordinate an Amazon sustainable development plan as a last blow to the former minister. In fact, the role of Mangabeira — a former Harvard law professor — in the Brazilian environmental policy decision making has become a whole issue unto itself for bloggers.

There are two versions offered for Mangabeira’s designation [to coordinate the Amazon Sustainable Plan – PAS]. The current version inside the PT [Worker’s Party], tells about Lula intentionally pushing the former minister [Marina Silva] out with the move. But in the surroundings of the Planalto Palace another tale is being told, which does not completely contradict the other version, but shows signs that the move came as an ‘insight’ from Lula… after all, Mangabeira was not directly involved in the dispute [for the PAS coordination] (among the ministries of Environment, Agriculture, Agrarian Development and National Integration). Lula would have claimed that he could not designate one of these ministrys [to coordinate the PAS] because they would “draw the embers next to their sardine” [put their interests first]… Marina’s ministry has never paid any attention to Mangabaeira’s talks. He tried to have her attention but was ignored, and the Agrarian Development Ministry also showed no enthusiasm for his ideas. Nevertheless, Mangabeira had his allies and reached out to the Amazon — an issue under international scrutiny — to find inspiration for his first writings…. The speech articulated by Mangabeira about the Amazon though, is the speech adopted by the government for the region…. Mangabeira has earned points with Lula when he presented a project which proposes a new relationship model between capital and work.
In less than a year, Mangabeira has amplified his scope, but he is still not confirmed at PASAcerto de Contas

Managabeira’s new model
asserts that the Amazon must be saved from disorganized economic activity, that it needs a planned relationship between preservation and development. “The only way to preserve the Amazon is to develop it.” And, of course, it is the role of Brazil to do this. Interestingly, a NYTimes article published last weekend (‘Whose Rain Forest Is This, Anyway?‘) played an interesting role in the debate, bringing back things like an Al Gore 1989’s remark saying that “contrary to what Brazilians think, the Amazon is not their property, it belongs to all of us”. Bloggers, as expected, respond and comment.

Now, after Europe and North America have polluted the planet as they wished, and that the US refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol that would help the protection against its polluting industries, they want to land their hands on “the lungs of the Earth”. Which is our Amazon.
NY Times criticizes Brazil for defending the AmazonAos Quatro Ventos

If the Amazon Region, from a humanist’s point of view, has to be internationalized, then we should internationalize the oil reserves of the entire the world as well. Oil is just as important to the well being of humanity as the Amazon Region for our future. Nevertheless, the owners of oil reserves feel it is in their right to increase or decrease oil production and to raise or lower the price. The rich of the world, feel they have the right to burn this valuable possession of humanity. Similarly, the financial capital of the wealthy nations should be internationalized. If the Amazon Region is a natural reserve for every human being, then it could not be burned down by the decision of a landowner or a country. To burn down the Amazon Region is so tragic, as the unemployment provoked by the arbitrary decisions of world wide speculators. We cannot permit that the world΄s financial reserves serve to burn down entire nations according to the whims of speculation…. We could internationalize the children treating all of them, regardless of their birthplace, as a posession which deserves the care and attention of the entire world. Even more so than the Amazon Region. When the world leaders attend to the world΄s poor children as possessions of Humanity, they will no longer permit that these children work when they should be studying, that they die when they should be living. As a humanist I accept to defend the internationalization of the world. So long as the world treats me as a Brazilian, I will fight so that our Amazon Region will be ours. Only ours. [this is a re-blogged piece of a classical article by former Brazilian Education minister, Cristovam Buarque]
Cristovam Buarque: Internationalization of the world – Cristovam BuarqueVi o mundo

The most buzzed issue of the last days, in all news rooms in Brazil, is the Sunday report from the new New York Times correspondent in Brazil, Alexei Barrionuevo, which presents a suggestive title: “Does the Amazon Belong to Brazil – or the whole world?”. From the military base, we can almost hear the unease coming from old generals and colonels in pajamas. But, those who read the text free from prejudices and pre-conceptions, are able to find out one thing: it is an honest piece. It is the typical issue a foreign correspondent recently arrived in Brazil would catch. The article describes the always present local paranoia that someone, somewhere, wants to steal the Amazon from us. It does not speak about a real threat. Those who have known Brazil for a while are not surprised with this debate; those arriving from abroad get startled by the notion embelished in the conspiratory theories from the right….
Yes, Brazil does hold a responsibility before the world to preserve its forest. It is also a responsibility before ourselves. Without the Amazon, there will be no rain from the center-west to the south to irrigate the plantations that are supporting the economic growth, or to fill the hydroelectric reservoirs that lights São Paulo and Rio. So, from a pragmatic point of view, there is no doubt that preserving is good and sound business. How to preserve? Should we close it all and don’t let anybody in? How to distribute land titles to the ones already there? How to implement the law in a land where representatives or policemen kill people with chainsaws? How to develop Brazilian research centers to fixate top scientists from the region or from abroad? Nobody will take the Amazon from us — international politics does not fit such move. But behind the resignation of ex-minister Marina Silva there is just one simple fact. Brazil doesn’t know what to do with its biggest forest. While we do not know what to do with the forest it will continue to be destroyed, and some people among us, induced by this guilty feeling, will keep thinking that someone will take it by force. Maybe because, deep inside, way deep inside, they know that we are indeed guilty for all that.
The Amazon is Ours?Pedro Dória Weblog

Along the spectrum that lies between
preservation and development in regard of public policies, we can still find different aproaches focusing on the cultural richness that bonds the Amazon together in its full splendor. These aspects are shouting to be recognized by everyday facts, but they are not priorities in any of the available political discourses.

It is known today that the knowledge about great part of the Amazonian richness is deeply assimilated in the culture of its native people, addressing the issue of its rational economic exploration directly to the [need to] respect and preserve the ethno-botanical heritage of the forest and its dwellers. Such a concept associates the local wealth with the knowledge acumulated by ancestral cultures of the region, uniting flora, fauna and culture into an intimate connection that presents a synergistic relationship of knowledge, respect, use and preservation. But while the physical and tangible preservation of the ‘people of the forest’ entangles the natural, immunological and medical aspects, the preservation of the cultural aspect holds a strong political component, much more mild and manageable from the point of view of state intervention. Cultural preservation, in common language, means to maintain the conditions for the indigenous populations to keep following its proper way of life, based on ancient beliefs from its ancestors. At the foundation of all this sits these groups’ very ‘cosmic vision’, including their ‘teological myths…. We have the urgent need to conceive the Amazon, and its huge economic possibilities, as an amalgam of inseparable components which necessarily includes the natural and the cultural: the forest and the man.
The forest and the man of the forest, by George Felipe Dantas – Vi o mundo