Sunday, August 23, 2009


Elisabeth Rosenthal has a piece in yesterday's New York Times (here) about programs to pay Brazilian landowners not to cut down forestland.

This article is part of an ongoing series in the Times about different approaches to combating climate change. Rosenthal reports that deforestation accounts for 20% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions; Brazil and Indonesia are the two countries where forests are currently being cut down the most.

Rosenthal cites to an example of a farmer being offered $12 per acre not to cut down his forest to turn it into soy fields. The farmer is skeptical that this price is enough to convince him to save the forest, and much of the article addresses the difficulty of coming up with a price that all sides will deem fair.

Neldo Egon Weirich is the secretary of agriculture of Mato Grasso (a region that is Brazil's leading producer of soy, corn and cattle), and he points out the inconsistent messages given to Brazilian farmers over time: thirty/forty years ago they were encouraged to move into the area and clear "useless" forest in order to enable crop production, and now they're being given the exact opposite message.

The article makes an interesting point about property law in remote parts of Brazil: oftentimes, clearning the forest is a way to establish one's ownership; if left unclear, the owner is much more likely to face the possibility of squatters.

The photographs are from the article and were taken by Damon Winter.

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