New Horizons in Environmental Economics series
Edited by Albert Breton, Giorgio Brosio, Silvana Dalmazzone and Giovanna Garrone
Chapter 3: Economic Growth and Environmental Protection in Brazil: An Unfavourable Trade-off
3. Economic growth and environmental protection in Brazil: An unfavourable trade-oﬀ Clóvis Cavalcanti 1. INTRODUCTION A characteristic of Brazil’s history over the last 500 years1 is that it has produced a succession of actions with huge negative environmental implications (Viola, 1987; Cavalcanti, 1991). The present picture conveys a sense of the irresponsibility with which the natural resources of the country have been systematically exploited since the conquest. Moreover, it also exhibits instances of many of the same evils which aﬄict ecosystems throughout the world – slash-and-burn agriculture, soil degradation (recently accelerated by the expansion of the cultivation of soyabeans in Amazonia, preceded by deforestation and logging), contaminated water, and so on. In the Brazilian case, the problem is aggravated by the ‘pollution of misery’ and a very unequal income distribution. These problems, by the way, were presented in the Stockholm UN Conference (1972) as arguments justifying more pollution of the conventional type (Viola, 1987: 83–4). The military who ruled the country at that time, and had a nationalist project of development, justiﬁed the need for polluting industries to move to Brazil on grounds that, although they polluted, they also raised the prospects of rapid growth. The international press and the literature on environmental issues do not exaggerate when they oﬀer dramatic information about the relationship between Brazil and its ecology. This has been especially true in the last decades with problems such as those we have witnessed in the Amazon. Frontier expansion in that unique region...
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