Monday, 14 April 2014

environmental justice atlas

environmental justice atlas - BRAZIL


The economic development of Brazil has gone through a long process of industrialization and diversification of its economy throughout the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century. Today Brazil is no longer a typical agrarian country and has become one of the ten largest economies in the world. Almost 30 % of the value added of its Gross Domestic Product comes from the industrial sector and 65 % from the service sector. Nevertheless, Brazilian exports reproduce the Latin American pattern and continue to focus on the exploitation of natural resources, with commodities growing in importance relative to manufactured goods in recent years (from 28.9 % in 2003 to 46.8 % in 2012).

From total exports of close to $250 billion in 2012, over 30 % correspond to agribusiness products (soy, beef, sugar/ethanol, pulp/cellulose, coffee and tobacco; 20 % to ore or semi-finished products such as crude steel, pig iron and aluminum; and 12.8% to oil and fuels. Thus Brazil’s participation in international trade is based on the export of commodities - agricultural, metal , energy and derivatives, especially those associated with dirty and electricity intensive stages of iron/steel and bauxite/aluminum cycles.

Environmental conflicts in Brazil that appear in the EJOLT Atlas reflect this development model adopted by the Brazilian state. Numerous conflicts are associated with the expansion of farming, mining, hydroelectric and of oil exploration in the highland and coastal regions. Areas particularly affected include the territories of traditional communities that have historically lived sustainably, exploiting local ecosystems. Such populations continue to live in the margins of the political system and without public policies that recognize and guarantee their livelihoods and territories. Land conflicts involve disputes between economic sectors and Indians, Quilombolas (Maroons), ribeirinhos (riparians), extrativistas (as the murdered rubber tapper Chico Mendes), artisanal fishermen and a large number of rural communities that traditionally collectively exploit the land and forest resources.

Meanwhile, many conflicts are also associated with the construction of logistical infrastructure and power generation such as highways, railways, pipelines, port complexes, hydroelectric and thermoelectric, and even wind farms. Furthermore, in areas characterized by semi-arid and arid climates, the conflicts are associated with basin transposition to meet the water needs of agribusiness at the expense of small farmers and other rural communities. In coastal areas conflicts are related to the privatization of common/public areas and common goods mainly for shrimp farms, aquaculture and the establishment of tourist infrastructure such as ecoresorts, ecoparks, marinas and luxury condominiums.

Environmental conflicts in Brazil also express resistances by social movements, especially those linked to movements organized around the Brazilian Network for Environmental Justice (RBJA), established in 2002. In recent years a project of national mapping of environmental conflicts in Brazil has been developed by this network (with the participation of Fiocruz and Fase), and others at state level (Minas Gerais) by the university (UFMG), which has contributed to give greater visibility to such conflicts.

Although still unimportant on the maps, urban environmental conflicts in the country are associated with polluting and technologically outdated industries that disregard environmental laws, plus some conflicts over the location of dumps and landfills. More recently, the negative effects of land speculation and the forced removal of poor communities (especially from slums and suburbs) situated in areas with new investments have also generated new conflicts. In recent years this includes some mega events in the country, such as the FIFA World Cup 2014 and Summer Olympics 2016.

— Marcelo Firpo Porto, Fiocruz 

Environmental Conflicts in Brazil

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