Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category


Brazil in the news

February 28, 2010

Every Sunday you will find here the latest news about Brazil published by the international media.

The EconomistThe Money Trail – “Corruption in Brazil: Many corruption scandals stem from the high cost of politics, and unrealistically tight campaign-finance rules”

Financial TimesBrazil to reverse easing as inflation fears rise (you need a free registration to read this)

The New York TimesStronger Fidel Castro Meets With Brazil President

Washington Post US presses Brazil on Iran sanctions

The TimesThe gun-toting boys from Brazil who rule Rio’s ‘Corner of Fear’

BloombergGol Says Brazil Demand to Grow Up to 18% as Economy Expands

Banco do Brasil Plans Capital Boost, May Sell Shares

Brazil May Create Company to Boost Fertilizer Output

Brazil to Build an Additional Million Homes for Poor

Brazil’s January Unemployment Rate Rises to 7.2%

Brazil’s Real Heads for Biggest Advance in World This Month

Brazil February Inflation Rose to Fastest Since 2003

ReutersANALYSIS-Brazil economy well-placed for election year swings

JPMorgan may buy stake in Brazil’s Gavea: report

Brasil Foods export sales plummet in 2009

Brazil’s CSN sees 2010 steel sales up by a third

Brazil cenbank: ready to act to keep stability

Petrobras makes two oil finds in Campos Basin

Clinton seen pushing Iran on Latin America trip

Green Futures magazineRainforest revival: has Brazil turned the tide on deforestation?


Brazil, 20 years from now

February 24, 2010

From the Chrystal Ball series:

The Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology released today a study that outlines how the country and the planet will (probably) evolve in the next 20 years. Produced by the Centro de Gestão e Estudos Estratégicos, the document offers a time line based on several sources. It is meant to help government plan its future strategies.

Part of its content is easily predictable, considering recent tendencies. But there are some surprises.

Among its main forecasts:


  • In four years, Brazil will go back to its tradition of successive commercial balance deficits
  • Brazilian Gross Domestic Product will be 925 billion dollars in 2015 (which means, less than our present GDP, around 1.6 trillion dollars. It is not very clear how Goldman Sachs, the original source of this information, came up with this number)
  • Brazil, the brand, will increase its value. The demand for products associated to the country’s cultural diversity will grow

Keep reading


Animals for export

February 12, 2010

by Sylvia Estrella, guest writer*

Arara azul, Blue macaw

Arara azul (Blue macaw)

According to the United Nations, animal traffic is the third main illicit activity practiced in the planet, after drugs and weapons traffic. It is a 20-billion-dollar a year business and one tenth of it is in Brazil. Practically all the wild animals trade in the country is illegal and approximately 30% of it is for export.

Birds of exuberant feathers, monkeys and turtles are among the main victims of this commerce. Generally, they are captured in the Northeast of Brazil and brought to the Southeast – mainly to the states of Rio and São Paulo. Then, they are smuggled to neighboring countries by road or waterways.  Finally, they are flown to their final consumers in the developed countries. Frequently, they are hidden in boxes without ventilation and food. In many cases, the tips of their wings are cut or their eyes are blinded, in order to avoid escapes. Thanks to these exhausting trips, around 90% of these animals die before reaching their destination. It is still very profitable: a blue macaw can be sold for 60,000 dollars in the international market.

In Brazil, a convicted animal smuggler may spend from six months to one year in jail  and pay a fine up to 5,500 reais (around 2,900 dollars).

*Sylvia Estrella is a Brazilian journalist and translator specialized in the Environment and also Aviation.

Onça (jaguar), the biggest Brazilian feline


Weekly Headlines

February 6, 2010

This week, Veja covers the 45 days of non-stop rain in the Southeast region (that includes Rio and São Paulo), that it attributes to a “rare conjunction of meteorological factors”, including the elevation of the temperature of the South Atlantic waters. I wrote about the violent resulting floods recently. Época goes with the progress of the bionics science and Isto É goes for an unexpected topic: government officially  liberated the use of an hallucinogenic tea by the followers of Santo Daime, a cult that developed in the end of the 19th century in the Amazon and, today, is also practiced in the US and Europe.


Brazil in numbers

February 4, 2010

From  useful to futile, numbers that help explaining the country.

  • 43% of adults that live in state capitals are overweight.
  • Those who have access to the internet spent 2.8 days connected in the month of September.
  • 9% of the kids born in 2008 were not registered.
  • 473 million reais ( 256.6 million dollars or 184.5 million euros) were collected by the government of the city of São Paulo thanks to driving and parking tickets. 99% of the Brazilian cities have budgets lower than that.
  • 57% of the inhabitants of the city of São Paulo would like to move away (Is this related to the previous number? Maybe).
  • Brazil is the 88th country in the education ranking produced by Unesco. Paraguay and Bolivia are in better shape.
  • 1 in 5 Brazilians that have a formal job works for the public service.
  • President Lula spent 87 days abroad in 2009 – a personal record.
  • 9 in 10 Brazilians have a cell phone.
  • 500 million reais (271.3 million dollars or 195 million euros) will be spent to fix up Maracanã stadium, in Rio, for the 2014 World Soccer Cup.
  • The Brazilian delegation to the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen last December had 743 members. It was three times bigger than the American delegation.
  • 1819 houses and buildings at Brazilian roadsides have been used for child prostitution. It’s one every 27 kilometers.

Source: recent editions of Veja magazine


Biopirates attack!

January 20, 2010

by Sylvia Estrella, guest writer*

Brazilwood exports, as seen by André Thevet, 1575

Only 12 countries are considered mega-biodiverse, that is, they have 70% of all the species of vertebrates, insects and plants known by Science. Brazil is the leader of this ranking. It is estimated that it has around 150,000 described species, or 13% of all the plants and animals known in the planet. But 90% of this potential is still to be identified.

The Amazon is home of most of these biological resources, with more than 2,500 species of trees. It is also the region with most freshwater fish species –  between 1.4 million and 2.4 million, according to the ecologist Thomas Lewinsohn, from Unicamp (Campinas University).

But the abundance of life in the Amazon and in Brazil as a whole is also an Achilles heel. The great majority of these species are unknown to local scientists. Thus, they are vulnerable to the being patented in the international market by  foreign labs, corporations and research institutes that can patent their genetics in the international market.

Another famous biopiracy episode, extremely harmful for Brazilian economy, was the smuggling of seeds of rubber tree in 1876 by the British Henry Wickham. They were taken to Malaysia and, years later, that country became the main latex exporter in the world.

More recently, in the 70s, Squibb Laboratories patented the drug Captopril, for hypertension, after a Brazilian research developed with the poison of jararaca snake (Bothrops jararaca), from the Atlantic rainforest. Then, in the late 90s, the name cupuaçu (a fruit from the Amazon related to cocoa tree) was registered by a japanese corporation. Later, this register was canceled, thanks to the efforts of several non-profits from the Amazon region.


The  only way of refraining this is by investing in the research and description of new species, as well as in biotechnology. It is essential to develop a Brazilian pharmaceutical industry able to generate drugs and active principles patents, inspired by the traditional knowledge of natives and other rainforest people. That is the only way to avoid the losses related to biopiracy in the country. In 2003, during a Congressional investigation about this subject, it was estimated that the country loses, every year, more than US$ 5.6 billion because of the illegal animal, genes and traditional knowledge traffic.

*Sylvia Estrella is a Brazilian journalist and translator specialized in the Environment and also Aviation.


Floods in Summerland

January 6, 2010

It happens every single summer, in many cities of South-Southeast Brazil. The rain season literally destroys whole communities, namely those installed on river margins or on steep slopes. Those who cannot afford to move to less risky areas.

Once I interviewed this lady who lived by the Tamanduateí, in São Paulo, a river whose margins are paved in such a way that the overflow has nowhere to go but into people’s lives. She described how her husband carried her into the house when they got married – not because he was romantic, but because the first floor was flooded. Then she showed me how she managed to survive under water – she installed several platforms to keep the phone and the TV out of reach and a pulley to lift the furniture whenever it rained strong.

Two huge tragedies in the last few weeks showed that even very touristic cities are not at bay. In Angra dos Reis, the resort in the state of Rio known for its hundreds of islands and yacht clubs, a landslide destroyed an upscale pousada (a small resort) and killed at least 30 people. In São Luiz do Paraitinga, a cute little town in the state of São Paulo, known for its traditional music and cachaça (sugar cane alcoholic beverage),  at least 50 buildings in the historic part of the city may fall. The two main churches, the city hall, the archives, the library – all of them were destroyed.

These episodes aren’t accidental. Every year, specialists come up with explanations that combine the following causes:

  • Expansion of housing projects and shanty towns into areas that are regularly flooded (cheap and available land). Local governments seem to have little power to refrain these settlements and sometimes even stimulate them, emitting building permits where no one should ever build.
  • Deforestation of river margins and slopes. Once there are no roots holding the mud, it slides to the bottom of the waterways, reducing their capacity of absorbing the water.
  • Making the soil impermeable by cementing every inch of free land. Once the water hits the cement, it has nowhere to go, but into the buildings. By the way, this is a huge cultural problem: everywhere you go in Brazil, poor or rich neighborhoods, you will notice homeowners choose to cement their yards and driveways, removing all the vegetation.
  • Bad planning and miscalculations of hydro power dams. These constructions frequently change the course of rivers and remove lots of vegetation, unbalancing the water cycle.
  • Climate change, that makes the weather unpredictable and generates more storms in regions where they were not so frequent.

All these causes don’t seem to get any better, year after year. Next Summer, Brazilians will be enjoying the beach – except for those that will be mourning their deads and their losses.

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