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AP/Andre Penner
Roberto Mangabeira Unger

Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Amazon Rainforest Devotee

April 22, 2009
by Sarah Amandolare
Unger has drawn both praise and ire for his views on the Amazon rainforest. Technically Brazil’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, Unger has been called “the Minister of Ideas” for unabashedly proposing alternatives to accepted environmental policies. In honor of Earth Day, findingDulcinea salutes the innovative Roberto Mangabeira Unger.

Unger has been in the news for encouraging Brazil to protect the Amazon and enhance agriculture by converting land used for low-intensity ranching into arable land for growing crops.

According to Bloomberg, Unger said that it would not take a large portion of ranching territory for an impact to be felt. Brazil could see up to three times its current agricultural yield, and no trees would have to be cut down, he indicated. Unger also plans to “disprove the notion that development and preservation can’t co-exist,” and hopes to use an accelerated development model in certain parts of the Amazon to provide more work opportunities for the 25 million people who call the rainforest home. On the preservation side, Unger intends to “discourage wildcat mining, logging and cattle ranching,” all of which cause damage in the Amazon.
Unger’s latest plan echoes the sentiments he expressed in February 2008, when he discussed his desire for responsible development in the Amazon rainforest. According to an article in The New York Times, Unger said that environmentalism without corresponding economic goals would be “self-defeating” for Brazil.

Unger is on leave from Harvard, leaving him uniquely positioned to create change in his homeland. His ideas extend beyond the Amazon to the business sector, which he hopes to realign with increased emphasis on small enterprises, bolstering Brazil’s middle class from the bottom up.

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