The effect of any particular campaign or policy on the environment is extremely difficult to quantify. On the one hand, Brazil’s rainforests have decreased in size every year since the 1940s, the years of heaviest “save the rainforest” agitation included. On the other hand, the rate of rainforest removal slowed in 1992-93, about the same time that Brazil’s deforestation became publicized as a global issue. What has arguably had a larger effect on slowing Brazilian deforestation than public relations campaigns of the 1990s has been the Brazilian government’s setting of targets to convert its energy infrastructure to biofuels. The rate of rainforest removal dropped dramatically between 2004 and 2007 as a result of these policies, although even at that improved rate deforestation continues at a pace unmatched almost anywhere else in the world. The main problem is that the vast majority of Brazil’s people are economically disadvantaged. Agriculture and the jobs it provides are the easiest way to increase the standards of living for large numbers of people, and Brazil has been balancing this against its very real concern for environmental responsibility. The fact that a public perception is forming that Brazil is a “success story” at least in terms of its transition to biofuels seems to indicate, at least to me, that progress is being made, but obviously there remains a host of problems that will need to be addressed at many levels (including internationally) before Brazil’s environmental future is fully stabilized.
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