Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Land Rights and Preservation

Bringing justice to the Brazilian countryside will protect the environment.

Although Brazil is among the 15 largest economies in the world, its land policies remain stubbornly stuck in a state of limbo between the modern and the archaic. Technological advances in agriculture have turned Brazilian farms into some of the world’s most productive; yet we have continued a pattern of exploitive rural settlement that dates back to the early era of colonization. While the transition to democracy from military rule has strengthened the basic rights of the urban population, millions of rural Brazilians—many of them indigenous—are still awaiting their turn. Now, emerging conflicts between workers and rural landowners have put the issue of land development squarely at the center of the national political agenda. At the same time, with concern about global climate change rising, the government’s failure to apply land-use protections that are already enshrined in our revised constitution to the Amazon threatens the fate of the planet.

It’s time to bring justice to the Brazilian countryside.

Understanding the current chaos requires a brief look at both Brazilian history and geography. Brazil’s 3.1 million square miles (8 million square kilometers) comprise six separate natural habitats or biomes: Amazonia, Pantanal, Cerrado, Caatinga, Mata Atlântica, and Pampa. These biomes are spread in a non-homogenous manner across five geographic regions of the country: North, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, and South.

How these biomes were settled is intimately related to their environmental destruction and to the social conflicts that persist today in Brazil’s regions. The history of Mata Atlântica in particular provides a painful and telling example…


Tags: Amazon rainforest, Brazil, Cerrado, land disputes, land policy, land preservation, land rights, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
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