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Brazil to open 860K acres of protected Amazon rainforest to logging, mining, etc (independent.co.uk)
281 points by SimplyUseless 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments

The article didn't talk about the political context: the current president is facing corruption charges and a threat of impeachment and is buying support from congress by opening the government coffers (or what remains of it) and ceding to various lobbying groups.

Take a commercial flight where you have a chance to look down on the rainforest in Brazil or Peru.

You'll be absolutely astonished and sickened at how much is already gone.

The same for Europe, although it was all cut down longer ago. The same of parts of the US.

The trees and land are a resource for these countries with vast numbers living in poverty. Telling them they cannot use these resources just isn't going to work.

If we non-Amazon countries want them to stop deforestation, we have to dig into our pockets. But we we don't. Ecuador tried it, requesting funds for not drilling for oil. They were offered next to nothing, so the drilling is going ahead, which means roads and roads mean deforestation.

I speak for someone from the UK. We cut down our forests for the industrial revolution. We reached and passed peak oil in the north sea for the (supposed) benefit of the country as a whole. How can we expect other countries to not use (abuse) their resources the same?

> Ecuador tried it, requesting funds for not drilling for oil.

Another perspective would be that they attempted to blackmail the rest of the world by threatening to open Yasuni National Park to drilling, a World Heritage Site, home to uncontacted Waorani people, and one of the last locations with large land mammals left in the western Amazon.

I spent a lot of time in the park and in Block 16, an area to the west that was opened to drilling in the 1990s. There are no easy solutions, just a lot of gray, corruption, and suffering. The whole no drilling thing was a complete charade. They were already building the roads.

> Another perspective would be that they attempted to blackmail

How is it blackmail if it's a viable option they are going ahead with? Are you suggesting they are/were bluffing?

> home to uncontacted Waorani people

It is unconscionable we do not contact these people and bring them basics like modern medicine and education about proper hygiene. Basically they are animals in a zoo for our pleasure atm.

> It is unconscionable we do not contact these people and bring them basics like modern medicine and education about proper hygiene.

And destroy their culture and way of living in the process? Why? We don't have any right to force on them what you think is 'better' for them. That's happened so often in history, it's time that people finally realize that they do way more harm than good by forcing their views and 'standards' on others.

> The same of parts of the US.

Actually, there are more forests in North America than there were 100 years ago. Caveat: there are fewer old-growth forests and the tree diversity is not as great.


Yes, trees and land are a resource. But unfortunately, it brings wealth for too little people because unlike in UK we aren't using these resources to fuel industries here in Brazil. In fact, our local industry is currently shrinking and we are just exporting natural resources and importing products created by foreign industries. I don't know any country which became rich just with farming and wood. It would be possible only in a country with a lot of land and little population. Otherwise, you can't build a lot of GPD per capita with just these activities.

There was some clojure(IIRC) talk on youtube where the speaker took a picture of old english forest. It was random, dense and beautiful, like a painting. Then a picture of post industrialization forest, where trees where replanted aligned to help processing, it felt like a loss.

I remember my cousin pointing this out to me when we were in Idaho—the new trees are smaller, knottier, and all-around not as 'normal' looking, but they sure grow fast.

The model where rich countries keeping paying to poor countries in exchange of not cutting down their own forests is unworkable. If people there are looking for genuine progress then they have to build schools, bridges, cities and so on. You won't be able to say that hey you guys live like how you used 1000 years ago and here's few dollars.

However the bigger issue I think are the few evil people in those countries who look at its natural resources and see dollars instead. They just want to log, mine as much as they can, export it all out and basically make free money. Their business strategy is simple: buy off government personals, acquire natural resources that was supposed to belong to people and sell it off to other countries in the world. You are not going to be able to prevent this either.

One effective way to discourage this is put a worldwide ban of exported wood from Amazon. If major countries can come together on this then this could actually work.

"[..]the few evil people in those countries who look at its natural resources and see dollars instead."

The evil people are not only from those countries.

Those are the biggest mining companies: http://www.mining-technology.com/features/featuremining-gian...

Just an extract:

"Anglo American's wholly owned Minas-Rio iron ore project in Brazil and Sishen mine, part of its Kumba iron ore operations in South Africa are among the world's 11 biggest iron ore mines."

> One effective way to discourage this is put a worldwide ban of exported wood from Amazon. If major countries can come together on this then this could actually work.

Tell that to the ivory poachers. All a ban accomplishes is turning an industry that has demand underground, meaning they can now operate off the books, illegally, not pay proper wages, operate completely without regulation and if they run into competition, instead of working side one another they often kill each other.

Prohibition has literally never worked for literally anything.

>Prohibition has literally never worked for literally anything.

But, sanctions have.

This argument never really made sense to me. Sure Europe/USA did tremendous environmental damage to get where we are, but better alternatives were invented in the process. That knowledge is available to developing nations. They don't need to repeat the same mistakes as others.

I could not agree more. How dare we tell others what to do in their sovereign territory when we have never acquiesced and would never acquiesce to the same.

The "this time its different now that the whole planet is in danger" brigade really annoy the hell out of me. Say what you will about people who would plunder the earth for its resources, at least they're nominally honest about their dealings. But those who would tell the so-called less-developed what to do with their resources …

We've industrialized but they're meant to what? Survive on hand-outs? They're meant to skip the industrialization phase and leave their resources untapped. That's super fair. Given that the industrialized nations have caused the damage then why don't we roll out safe nuclear power and electric cars or something instead of trying to artificially hobble others who share our planet. Of course if you suggest that to the "save the rain-forest" brigade they'll start whining about how unsafe nuclear power is when all the time pollution from coal/oil/gas-powered stations and internal combustion vehicles ruins the lives of how many more each year?

I live in a country that used to be covered in dense medieval oak forests. Practically all gone now. How about we replant ours instead of telling others to stop cutting down their.

Exactly this. You can't sit in a land of plenty and ask hungry people to not use their most valuable land for personal gain.

Yes, we all share one globe. Yes it would be for the benefit of the globe to protect these regions. But most decisions like this are economic decisions, and the economics support slash and burn.

Taking a commercial flight over Southeast Asia is a very similar experience. Endless acres of once-rain-forrest that's since turned into palm oil plantations. Occasionally you'll see massive fires set by people who are too lazy to clear the land themselves. It's totally depressing. Since seeing that, I've now started reading labels and boycotting any product made with palm oil. Since it's not the healthiest stuff, it's mostly a win-win.

The same happened in North America, it was just before you were born so it's not in your memory.

For an amazing account of how mind-blowingly quickly it happened once heavy machinery was introduced, I recommend reading "The Golden Spruce: A true story of myth, madness and greed" [1]

[1] http://amzn.to/2t3hIpL

I've tried that during many different trips. At best I saw a carpet of green the one time that it wasn't either night or obscured by a layer of clouds.

Or just look around on Google Maps in Satellite view.

Yet it's my car that's blamed for a rise in global carbon dioxide. Makes sense.

sadly capitalism seems to be an incredibly effective and efficient way to completely destroy the rainforests.

there does not seem to be any solution.

I would like to remind you it's not capitalism, it's any economic system. In the USSR, they used to use (and still use) track vehicles to harvest wood and what have you natural resources in the Siberian tundra --heavy track vehicles crack and damage the permafrost[1] resulting in terrible enviro damage. Once the permafrost is cracked it does not heal.

The motto for the Soviets was pretty summed up as "git er done" no matter the cost. That meant lots of enviro damage --look at the Aral sea for another example.


Native Americans practiced setting fires as a forest management technique for thousands of years and the forests of the Pacific Northwest survived. It took less than a hundred years of logging by the USA following the Indian Wars of the 19th century to wipe all of those forests out.

The Caledonian Forest of Scotland was destroyed in roughly the same amount of time during the 19th century by the English following the Highland Clearances.

Obviously there are economic and political forms of organization that do not result in massive environmental destruction. Saying that "it's not capitalism because the USSR did it too" when clearly the example of the current situation in Brazil is capitalist is disingenuous.

Right, I also recall how the Mayans depleted their forests and farmlands which resulted in droughts and famines and eventual social collapse. It happened rather quickly too. You are so right.

Brazil likes to think of itself as socialist --the Worker's Party (o partido dos trabalhadores) was in power for pretty long till recently (during which lots of the rainforest plundering took place). So even in Brazil, the leftists didn't care about the enviro.

I could also bring up a litany of Chinese projects, North Korean projects, Vietnamese, Former Soviet repubs. I think you get the picture. Much of the degradation was due to utilizing outdated technology, other times, just complete disregard for nature in the name of progress --three gorges dam, for example.

Capitalism saved the forests in North America, Brazil has a lot of state power and the corruption that comes with it. If the people of Brazil value the rainforest at all, it is a lower priority than whatever they are dealing with in their day to day life.

In North America, there is more forest cover than there was 200 years ago, thanks to private ownership and maintenance of woodlands.

Because of how productive these private woodlands are, there's largely no reason to cut down old growth forest.

There's barely any old growth forest left to cut in the US.

There are large old growth forests in the Canadian boreal regions that are currently being destroyed by logging companies like Resolute. Since Canada has a strong government, Resolute can do things like file malicious lawsuits against non-profit organizations that are exposing this destruction:


Brazil, in contrast, has a very libertarian government, so companies simply hire private hitmen to assassinate non-profit environmental group activists:


Almost all of the old growth forest in the United States was destroyed by capitalism prior to World War I. For an extremely depressing photographic account I recommend the book Kinsey, Photographer: A Half Century of Negatives by Darius and Tabitha May Kinsey. It is a photo book of hundreds of photographs of the Pacific Northwest's giant tree forests being destroyed. The scale of these trees is almost impossible to comprehend today (only a few scattered patches of Giant Sequoias remain in California), and most of them were cut down to be made into small siding and roof shingles.

There are a handful of old forest groves left on private lands, and there are a few land trust organizations trying to save them. For example, I donate to the Save the Redwoods League, and their big project now is acquiring Mailliard Ranch.

I'm not sure why you're downvoted because you're correct. But I suppose microcolonel's point is that capitalism has converted them to private forests for harvest.

I should note that growing forests consume 10-11 times more CO2 than old growth forests, and the US is excellent at keeping growth rates as high as possible or a given tract of land.

when a forest grows, it consumes c02, when it dies, it returns it. its zero net.

Not necessarily, if one make bio-char from the wood the carbon is stable for ~10k years, even if buried in the soil (terra pretax). This can be done successfully during the gasification process for producing heat, syngas and electricity. Also any items made from the wood that do not rot will not release their CO2 for the lifetime of the product.

"If the people of Brazil value the rainforest at all, it is a lower priority than whatever they are dealing with in their day to day life."

You assume Brazilians are represented by their government. In theory, yes. In theory.

No, I'm saying that if they're going to fight for anything in their government, it's not going to be this first.

I think that is true for wood/ pulp for paper, but agriculture is a big component. In the US, we really didn't have to wipe out forests to make room for agriculture.

also, although unpopular, its easy to bull doze over our forests, do our thing, and let it grow back.

where i grew up every 15~ years tractors and such go through wiping out many of the trees and reshaping the landscape, but it doesnt take very long before you never would know they were there.

that doesn't apply as well in many parts of the Amazon

The solution is simple - buy up all the rainforest and preserve it. It's annoying that the US, EU, Asian nations etc don't do this.

It never made countries richer. Only poorer. In this case, it will make the planet poorer.

What responsibility does a typical reader of HN have?

What can a reader do?

Responsibility? I guess it depends on how responsible you feel.

What can you do? One of the easiest things is to stop eating meat.


Brazil is failing for roughly the same reasons as most of the rest of South America: excesses of state power, which are too attractive for business to pass up.

The economy is depressed by excessive policy, the people have bigger problems than the destruction of the Amazon. In addition, because the government owns the woodland, there's basically no reason to replant or maintain, which means that if you want lumber you have to go into old growth forest.

That's not the reason. Here in Bavaria most of the forests are in the hand of the state and there are growing forests since roughly 100 years.

More likely a driving force is the internalization of agriculture. All the cows and pigs raised in Europe are fed with south-American soy.

I wish someone knowledgeable about forestry could explain why replanting is not done. What are the costs and subtleties, beside political friction I mean. Or maybe it's only political.

Replanting is only done when economically viable and future "land use" is for regeneration of the harvested species. This is done is Pacific Northwest of the US for Douglas Fir. Replanting isn't used in US Northern Hardwood production as the stands are cut to retain trees that reproduce and in another 15-30 year period another variable retention harvest is performed [1]. Modern forestry leverages ecological theory such as disturbance regimes to mimic changes and diversify the timber stands for risk management and ecological factors [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_retention

[2] https://andrewsforest.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/lt...

A lot of the cleared land is used for cattle grazing.

You've been downvoted but your answer is spot-on.

While an important issue, the article states that it is still in the proposal phase.

The problem is that while there is a lot of variability at the project level, the H. sapiens as a species is clearly still moving in a very self-destructive direction. Chomsky recently called it "Racing To The Precipice"[1]. The fact that a massive deforestation project was considered as a proposal shows that the derivative is still negative.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TK0R_06zOOY#t=135

The article title does not match the submission title:

"Brazil to open up 860,000 acres of protected Amazon rainforest to logging, mining and farming"

As an average HN reader, I'm trying to understand the environmental consequences of these actions by the Brazilian government to Brazil and the World. Can someone ELI5?

The forces which threw out Dilma Roussef are behind this over commercialization. Dilma would never have let this happen.

So are you saying all the corruption charges against Dilma are fabricated?

I predict that in the future, brazil will be invaded to stop logging so that those trees can keep making oxygen.

I wonder, doesn't most oxygen come from those trees? I've read the expression "lung of the planet". Essentially it seems it's a matter of survival.

Although increased CO2 concentration might also accelerate the growth of trees, so I don't really know.

> I predict that in the future, brazil will be invaded to stop logging so that those trees can keep making oxygen.

As a Brazilian I say that this is just plain stupid in 3 different levels:

1) World diplomacy is or should be ruled by the principle of Westphalian Sovereignty: the idea that each nation is free to conduct its internal affairs as it pleases.

2) Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world, one of the 10 largest economies and the 8th biggest population. Who has the resources to spare and fight a war with Brazil?

3) During the 90's the main argument by farmers and loggers for deforesting the Amazon was exactly arguments like yours. Back then this bullshit you say was called "internacionalização da Amazônia" and those parasites argument was: "we need to occupy the Amazon before the gringos do it". So, basically, when you say this bullshit you are supplying arguments to the enemy.

Please, stop this bullshit. It is dangerous. It makes the fight of Brazilian environmentalists even harder.

I agree with you, but air has no borders.

And I'm not arguing for war.

> I wonder, doesn't most oxygen come from those trees? I've read the expression "lung of the planet". Essentially it seems it's a matter of survival.

No, the express is stupid. Amazon is an old forest and consume almost all oxygen it produces. Oxygen come mostly from algae in the ocean.

Amazon is important for climate control and biodiversity.


We detached this flagged subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14780900.

- European colonization of America (you know, all those Native Americans that still have to live in shitty conditions),

- Roman conquerors,

- Serbian conquerors,

- Holy Land crusades,

- Nazi holocaust..

The list goes on and on. And it always comes down to the same reasons. People wanting to exert power over other people, "liberating" them. The church in particular is especially known for that. Most wars were fought over "my god is the one true god and you have to worship him".

Does it ever stop? How can you know that those people will agree with you about what's best for them? How can you know they want to be a part of society at all?

I'm all for giving them a choice, but forcing them to live the way we think is best for them, e.g. making them give up their way of living entirely to live in brick and mortar houses and having to work factory jobs, isn't helping, it's exerting power and destroying a culture.

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> We objectively know in many cases medicine and health care that is better for them. Full stop.

Except many of the indigenous people die because of diseases brought by modern man. Look up Andamanese.

> the land those people occupy represents a large earning for the other impoverished people in the country

Will you be happy if your home was destroyed to help the poor people of your country?

This is great news!

Wow. A failing state pimps it’s resources. This is terrible.

There will be the usual walk through the park of unusable vectors to solve this.

The only thing that could stop this is direct action - meaning, editing organisms to resist humanity. Making trees fireproof, equipping animals with diseases. The only wulf to hold back man, is another man.

Have you read Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy? It's one of my all-time favourite works of science fiction.

Human beings have the (rarely used) capacity to improve the quality and usability of our surroundings. If at some point in the future, we should collectively decide to rehabilitate this planet of ours, mutant poisonous kudzu and HIV-reservoir mosquitoes will not make the work any easier.

Fire is necessary for healthy forests. And although I am excited about the emerging prospects of genetic alteration I'm pretty sure it's not going to get as far as making carbon based lifeforms fireproof.

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