An indigenous man protests the Belo Monte hydropower dam in Altamira, Brazil, May 20.

Can Development Save the Amazon?

May 23, 2008 06:01 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
Brazil’s plans to build dams and a highway in the Amazon region have been railed by environmentalists, but others say development is necessary for conservation.

30-Second Summary

Brazil will spend $296 billion on projects in the Amazon jungle over the next two years to expand the country’s global economic presence. The controversial Belo Monte dam, which is “projected to produce 6.3 percent of Brazil’s electricity by 2014” according to ABC News, would damage the rainforest and ruin livelihoods.

The dam is one of several projects laid out in Brazil’s Plan for a Sustainable Amazon (PSA), a contentious strategy being implemented by Brazil’s minister of strategic affairs, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, according to the BBC.

Unger’s ideas clashed with those of staunch conservationist Marina Silva, who quit her post as environment minister earlier this month, frustrated with what she deemed the Brazilian administration’s anti-environmentalism.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also butted heads with Marina Silva. “We shouldn’t think of the Amazon as a sanctuary,” Lula da Silva said.

Instead, Lula da Silva is in favor of Unger’s strategy of sustainable development of the Amazon jungle. Regarding a recent deforestation spike, Unger told the New York Times, a “form of environmentalism that is not wedded to a coherent economic strategy for the occupation of the Amazon is self-defeating.”

Unger is in favor of conservation, but thinks development is a necessary part of saving the Amazon. He calls the region “a set of 25 million people,” not trees, who need economic opportunities, or risk destruction.

Headline Links: Development picks up in the Amazon

Background: Clashing ideas, similar ideals

Related Topic: Silva’s replacement


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