Business, Finance & Economics

Amazon: the value of preservation

It's not difficult to find people with opinions about the Amazon. There's at least one fact which is hard to dispute: you would pay about five times less if you tried to buy land in the Amazon with forest. This ecologist has learned some hard truths about doing business in the Amazon, he says the forest is seen as an impediment and cleared forest is used for soybean fields or cattle pastures, and the world like soybeans. This analyst says soybean production has gone up 14 times over the last twenty period. the recent surge in food prices only makes soybean and cattle production more attractive and that ties in with Brazil's economic agenda. But the rainforest breeds illegal activity too, illegal deforestation. The penalties for illegal deforestation are rarely paid and the sheer size of the rainforest makes enforcement nearly impossible. This police leader says there are only four local police stations. Bottom line: cutting down the forest nets profits, illegally or legitimately. So it's hard to make the argument that the rainforest could make more money if it's left standing, but that's what needs to happen says this Brazilian government official. The governor of one state in the Amazon is trying to change perceptions about the Amazon and his theory is that if people don't need to cut down trees, they won't. the trick is coming up with a policy to match. This is the capitol city of the Amazonian state and we're in its richest hotel. This economist is trying to work on methods of making the forest more valuable and he says making anything and everything that can be produced in a sustainable way should be pushed. The second approach he says is to increase the value of environmental resources, things like carbon and other intangibles which cannot be put in a bag, but are enjoyed by people around the world. The governor says the value of all those services cannot be ignored. So the state has set up a program called Forest Exchange. The idea is to compensate legal forest land owners for not cutting down their trees. The first is a monthly payment that goes to the family and to apply the family must attend environmental awareness classes and a commitment to sustainable development . The plans has its critics, some say the payments are too small and others say the plan was never consulted with analysts. In any case the plan is in its early days and only exists in one Amazonian state. Other states have worse problems with deforestation and they need large scale reforms, and with funding not just from Brazil. One international program that's attracting attention is RED, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation. It's a carbon trading system. Put another way he says preserving the rainforest is a cheap way to reduce carbon emissions. But this governor says he's sick of talk and he now wants action. He's not the only world leader saying that. This analyst says the world needs to walk the walk on preserving rainforests and that's not happening yet.

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