Brazil loses around 10,000 square kilometres of rainforest per year. That is roughly equivalent to 3.2 football fields per minute. This figure is actually less than it was in the nineties and early 2000s, but it still seems like an incomprehensibly rapid rate of destruction. It has been claimed that the government of Brazil has actively discouraged action against illegal logging in the Amazon, leaving the illegal loggers to act with impunity.

Jair Bolsonaro, the right-leaning president of Brazil, he has said it is all lies - that the Amazon belongs to Brazil and 'European countries can mind their own business' since they have already destroyed their own environment.

Has he got a point? 

Brazil is a sovereign nation with a democratically elected government, and certain Brazilian citizens, mainly corporate ones, are laying waste to the rainforest . Except that 'laying waste' is a deliberately  emotive phrase; what they are, in fact, doing is clearing the rainforest to make way for farming. Mainly beef farming to be precise.

Why are they doing that?

They are doing it because they can make money from it.

And who owns the rainforest?

Brazil does.

Given that we all (the rest of the world) would prefer the rainforest to remain intact, how can we persuade the Brazilians to stop clearing it?

The situation seems quite clear - It's a case of :"It's my rainforest and I'll clear it if I want to - and I do want to because it makes economic sense, because I can sell the beef which I raise on the newly cleared land to other countries - like yours"

The way I see it there are two possible solutions:

1 : The rest of the world stops buying the meat, thus removing the economic incentive from rainforest clearance.

2 : How about this for an idea? - the rest of the world pays Brazil not to clear the rainforest. Simple - make it more economically rewarding for them to leave it where it is. A bit like the carbon credits thing which is done elsewhere - people pay to 'appropriate' the positive effect on the environment of a section of vegetation they previously had no association with. Makes sense to me. And if a Brazilian farmer can make more money leaving the forest alone than he can growing beef - what's he going to do?

You're probably thinking, why should I pay? 

The answer is why shouldn't you? 

We (the rest of the world) expect Brazil to forego the economic benefit of farming beef as opposed to trees - but we don't want to reimburse Brazil for the unrealised income?

Speaking as a vegetarian (actually a serially failing vegan), I think the best and certainly the cheapest solution might be option 1, but morally and ethically speaking we should probably pay Brazil to look after the rainforest on the world's behalf.

Maori have a word for it - 'Kaitiakitanga'. It means stewardship, guardianship, looking after the land which looks after you. 

Makes sense, don't you think?


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