Brazilian Minister for the Environment Izabella Teixeira announced yesterday the creation of a high-level commission responsible for monitoring and addressing the deforestation crisis affecting Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. The commission will be filled by government specialists as well as by members of the Environmental Ministry and representatives from the states which have registered the highest levels of deforestation. According to satellite imagery, deforestation of the Amazon has increased from 103 square kilometers (64 square miles) in March-April 2010 to 593 square kilometers (368 square miles) this year—an almost 600 percent increase in one year. Minister Teixeira called the figures “alarming” while noting the concern as a main reason for establishing the commission.
The increase in deforestation is occurring mostly in Mato Grosso state where nearly 25 percent of Brazil’s soybean harvest is produced. Experts say that increased demand for soy and cattle are key factors in farmers’ decisions to clear more forests from their lands. However, activists like Greenpeace’s Maricio Astrini believe the deforestation is due more to a lack of significant legal protections and penalties for land-clearing activities.
At issue is the country’s Forest Code, which has detractors and proponents on both sides of the concern. As the Code currently stands, 80 percent of land in the Amazon region must remain forested while the percentage drops to 20 percent for all other regions. Proponents argue that the percentage must remain at its current levels or risk further deforestation or the appearance that deforestation will be met with amnesty. Opponents argue that the current percentage of deforestation limits economic development.
According to a joint bulletin released yesterday by three social development agencies, food price volatility has increased in recent months and will remain high for the time being. The document, “Price volatility in agricultural markets (2000-2010): Implications for Latin America and policy options,” produced by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), describes a current scenario in Latin America of wild and unpredictable changes in the prices of agricultural raw materials.
The report says price volatility will have varying effects, depending on country’s individual circumstances. For example, in countries that export food raw materials, price rises offer an opportunity to improve terms of trade, while the change may represent a significant threat to food security for net food importers. Other possible consequences include losses in economic efficiency and an increase in under-nutrition.
The FAO also recently released figures showing that global food prices have hit record highs, rising 2.2 percent in February from the previous month. Prices for global cereals such as wheat and corn have risen drastically (60 and 93 percent, respectively) over the past year due to a succession of weather problems that diminished harvest prospects. While the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says the relatively smaller increase in rice prices (3.4 percent) is helping to stave off a crisis on the scale of what occurred in 2008, the secretary of FAO’s Intergovernmental Group on Grains, Abdolreza Abbassian, says spikes in oil prices resulting from unrest in Libya and the Middle East could make an “already precarious” food situation much worse, possibly leading to a food crisis in 2011-2012.
While the three agencies acknowledge there are no universal solutions to the current situation, they emphasize increasing food production, mainly by supporting small-scale farmers. They also recommend investing more in the agricultural sector in the long term and creating more efficient marketing and delivery channels for fresh food.
Hosni Mubarak finalmente ha dejado el gobierno de Egipto luego de treinta años en el poder, obligado por la furia popular. Pero ¿por qué podría importar a un país como Bolivia un hecho como ese, sucedido a miles de kilómetros, al otro lado de mar, en un mundo completamente ajeno a no ser por los libros escolares de historia que nos cuentan de pirámides, camellos y faraones? ¿Tenemos algo en común?
Antes de la “era del Internet”—que a Bolivia llegó lentamente hace un par de décadas pero estalló de pronto como estrella de rock—Egipto era para nosotros probablemente lo mismo que la Cochinchina. Pero ha sido justamente el acceso a Internet, más que los medios de comunicación locales, lo que nos ha permitido no sólo conocer algo más de ese país sino seguir paso a paso, a través de Facebook o Twitter, la reciente revuelta social que acabó con el régimen de Mubarak. Y esa es justamente nuestra primera coincidencia: compartimos con Egipto la paradoja de vivir entre la (extrema) pobreza tercermundista y el ícono del desarrollo futurista del Internet.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.