Sunday, 21 June 2009

The Howler

I don’t have to relate here about the events and emotions in Iran. The Pullitzer-Prize-worthy blogging of Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic and Nico Pitney at HuffPost are appallingly complete and deeply moving. They embody Obama’s words: “We are bearing witness”.

Using Andrew Sullivan’s words: “Did you notice how many times he [Obama] invoked the word "justice" in his message? That's the word that will resonate most deeply with the Iranian resistance. What a relief to have someone with this degree of restraint and prudence and empathy - refusing to be baited by Khamenei or the neocons, and yet taking an eloquent stand, as we all do, in defense of freedom and non-violence.”

In stark contrast to Obama’s eloquent stand and the cautiousness of the European government leaders, Lula, the great world leader, saw fit to defame the standing of Brazil and its people in the world.
As a belligerent child, who sees his beloved toy taken away from him, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva declared in Geneva, that based on personal experience, the protests currently taking place in Iran are a reaction of losers, and that the controversy surrounding the re-election of Ahmadinejad will not change his intention to travel to Tehran in the near future.

In this hour of desperation, while the Iranian people are demonstrating in the streets for their democratic rights, Lula can only talk about trade between Brazil and Iran.
"I want to go to Iran, I pretend to fix a date and visit Iran because we are interested in building a partnership with Iran, interested in trade with Iran," he said.

At a press conference, to emphasize his understanding of world politics and the definition of democracy, he stated that Iranian’s actual president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has 61 or 62% of the votes. How can you imagine fraud with such an impressive popular support?, he wondered.

"I do not know anyone other than the opposition, who should have disagreed with the Iranian election results. There are no figures available, there is no proof. For now, it's just, you know, something between “flamenguistas and vascaínos," (referring to two rivalling Brazilian football clubs).

Lula, the popular leader of the Brazilian dream, prototype of the common man that reached the highest levels of society, collided head-on with equality, with equal rights and obligations, with the principles of equality and democracy. With his imbecile statements he shook off his carefully built-up image as a reformist and took the cloth of the repressor and anti-libertarian.

The Brazilian president's view on the election in Iran does not make the slightest difference - either in Tehran or anywhere else in the world, but it is revoltingly gross to compare the peaceful demonstrations for justice of the Iranian people to two rivalling Brazilian football clubs.

Seeing his jaunt to Iran going beyond reach, he probably had meant to say to the Iranian people: "Sifu" (fuck you).
Note 1: Lula used this obscene expression (Sifu meaning fuck you) during a meeting with governors. The TV-News outlet ‘Jornal Nacional’ qualified the words as "extravagant", which was very generous of them.
Note 2: With the peaceful demonstrations getting approached with violence by the Iranian authorities and the hospitalized injured arrested by the Basiji, several foreign embassies in Tehran are helping to protect the victims and are taking in injured. Why is the Brazilian Embassy not on the list?


Friday, 12 June 2009

Brazilian Supermarkets Require Deforestation-Free Meat

The major supermarket chains stepped forward to protect the rain forest. A crucial step. WalMart, Carrefour and Pão de Açúcar will work with certificates of origin for beef which they offer on the shelves of their stores. Recently, Greenpeace released a study showing that the biggest slaughterhouses in Brazil, which receive financial funds from the BNDES (Brazilian Development Bank) and other public banks, buy from farmers in illegally deforested areas. The NGO studied the entire distribution chain. (see also my yesterday's post: The Folly of an Economy Going Against the Environment)

Last week in an interview with Míriam Leitão the president of Abras, Sussumu Honda, said that the supermarket chains were taking the denunciations very seriously and would take a decision. Decision taken! The supermarkets published the following statement:

Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Pão de Açúcar suspend purchases from farms involved in the deforestation of the Amazon, and will work with audits and certificates of origin.

In a meeting of the Brazilian Association of Supermarkets (Abras), on June 8, the three largest supermarket chains in the country, Carrefour, Wal-Mart and Pão de Açúcar decided to suspend purchases from farms involved in the deforestation of the Amazon. The action is a repudiation of practices condemned by Greenpeace. The supermarket sector, by means of Abras, can’t associate itself with the denounced wrongdoings and will act vigorously.

The position defined by the supermarkets includes notification of the slaughterhouses, suspension of purchases from farms denounced by the federal public prosecutor of the State of Pará and the requirement of Certificates of Origin attached to the invoice/transport bill. As an additional measure, the three supermarket chains require an independent and internationally recognised
audit to ensure that the products they sell are not from deforested areas of the Amazon.

This is a joint sectorial response to the report published by Greenpeace earlier this month and the subsequently civil action by the federal public prosecutor of Pará, who sent a recommendation to the large supermarket chains and 72 other buyers of animal products so that they should recede buying meat products originating from the destruction of the rainforest. *
end of statement

At least some companies take their ‘social responsibility’ seriously.

Photos from top to bottom: Hypermarché Carrefour Pinheiros - São Paulo - Meatproduct section; WalMart's Nacional store Brazil and Carrefour Bairo Santo Amaro - São Paulo. - Courtesy: WalMart and Carrefour


Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Folly of an Economy Going Against the Environment

From economists it is expected that they are in favour of production at any cost and against environmentalists. But it has to be the opposite. The Brazilian economy will suffer immensely if it continues the deforestation of (among others) the Amazon rainforest.
It is a shot in the foot. Export of Brazilian beef, for example, will face difficulties if the exporters are not guaranteeing the world market that the cattle did not come from deforested areas. The same problem producers will face with supermarkets, as they will require a ‘clean origin’ of the meat. Consumers also are awakening. As a consequence it is irrational, from an economic point of view, to go against the protection of the environment.

The Medida Provisória*) No. 458 (Decree MP 458), which passed Congress is foolish. It permits regularization of the lands for those who illegally invaded the Amazon rainforest. It regularizes illegality.

The confrontation between farmers and environmentalists is completely unreasonable. Even if the matter is discussed only in terms of economy, the environmentalists are right. Farmers celebrate victories that will turn against them in the future. The slaughterhouses will have to prove to supermarkets in Brazil and elsewhere that they did not buy cattle from (illegally) deforested areas.
The world is moving in one direction and Brazil running in the opposite direction with eyes fixed on the past, turning the clock back.

The debate, the proposals in Congress, the approval of MP 458, the mistakes of the government, the complicity of the opposition, show countrywide lack of understanding.
The tragedy is a multi-party action for burning down the Amazon.
Even China starts to change. In the United States, the Bush government is dumped in the trash bin of history. President Barack Obama steers the country in another direction. Presented US Congress with a set of federal parameters for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. What was once just a Californian dream, is now the outlook for the entire country.
At a time when the environment begins to accelerate attention in the world, Brazil still thinks it can bring down the planet's largest tropical forest, as if it were an obstacle.

MP 458, now only pending presidential sanction, is worse than it appears. It is disastrous. It legalises grileiros, who illegally invaded and burned down a part of the Amazon. He, who stole 1,500 hectares before the first of December 2004 could buy it without bidding and without inspection. He has preference over the land and can pay in the most friendly way: in 30 years with three years of grace. And if at the end of the grace he wants to sell the land, the MP allows it. In three years, the property can be passed on. For up to four hundred ‘stolen’ hectares, the period is ten years. And if the grileiro stool the land and left the daily work to his labourers as he himself lives somewhere else? He has also the right to stay with it, because even if the land is run by a "figurehead" the grileiro can buy it. And if it is a company? No problem at all.

Supporters of MP 458 in the House and the Senate say it is to regularize the situation which was initiated by the Military Regime and later abandoned.
Bullshit. As the deadline to acquire land is set by the first of December 2004.
They said it was to benefit the small settlers. Bullshit. As it does allow the sale of land run by a figurehead, and the sale to corporate entities.

The bill creates indecent loopholes for privatization in the worst way of the patrimony of all Brazilians.

Former Minister for the Environment and presently senator Marina Silva said that the day MP 458 was adopted in Congress, it was her third worst day of her life. She feels as if Brazil has lost all the advances of the recent years.
It is almost impossible to agree with Marina Silva as there hasn’t been much progress shown in the last years. The Lula government has always been ambiguous in relation to the environment, and Fernando Henrique, his predecessor, kept silent. If they had shown some stature, Brazil wouldn’t have lost what it lost.
In just the first two years of the Lula government, 2003 and 2004, 51.000 km2 have been deforested. Compare this to the size of the Netherlands (41.528 km2). And many grileiros who were part of that attack at the rainforest will now be ‘regularized’.

Last week Greenpeace released a devastating report, showing that 80% deforestation of the Amazon is due to livestock. Greenpeace published the names of the perpetrators, of which Bertin, Marfrig, Friboi JBS are the largest. The Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) is their partner and finances the ‘illegal’ operation. The mentioned companies provide meat to numerous retail chains, among them, large supermarkets as Carrefour, Wal-Mart and Pão de Açúcar.

During the Globonews’ programme ‘Espaço Aberto’, the coordinator of the study, Andrew Muggiatti met with Sussumu Honda, the chairman of ABRAS (Brazilian Association of Supermarkets). The BNDES was also invited, but did not show up.
The good news that came out of this programme was the positioning of the supermarkets. According to Sussumu Honda, they are preoccupied and will use their power to pressure the slaughterhouses to prove the origin of the cattle which meat is put on the supermarket shelves.
Brazilian meat exporters have threatened to sue Greenpeace. They should do the opposite and refuse any supplier linked to deforestation. The world will not buy Brazilian beef at this price. Exporters will face barriers. That's for sure.

The backward steps will not eliminate the external market. But that is of less importance. The tragedy is that Brazil is losing its future.
Ironically Brazil adopted MP 458 during the Week of the Environment.

This is a free translation and interpretation of an article which Míriam Leitão wrote on her blog on 05 June 2009

Medida Provisória In Brazilian constitutional law, a Medida Provisória (presidential decree) is issued by the President of the Republic, at his discretion, without the participation of the legislative branch. The measure has the force of law, albeit not being really a law in the strict technical sense of this term. Only in cases of importance and urgency the Chief Executive may issue decrees, which he should submit later to Congress. The decree stays in force for sixty days, extendable for another 60. After this time, if Congress does not approve it, and convert it into law, the measure will lose its force.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Indians Tembé-Ténêtéhar: The Guardians of the 'Carbon Storage' in the Amazon

The indigenous Tembé-Ténêtéhar people, who live in the north-west of the federal state of Pará ,will sign the first carbon credit contract to preserve their forests.
The Indians living in Terra Indígena Alto Rio Guamá will receive money from a foreign company to keep the forest within their reserve standing as it is.

The contract for the sale of carbon credit was due to be signed last Friday, World Environment Day. Only heavy rain postponed the ceremony, which was planned to take place in Belém. The agreement will bring together the American company C-Trade and the Indians of Terra Indígena Alto Rio Guamá.

C TRADE, is an international developer of Carbon Trade Credits (aka CERS - Certified Emission Reductions) for renewable energy projects that offset the use of fossil fuels, such as solar, wind turbines, energy efficiency, forest carbon sequestration and waste-to-energy power plants.

Ronald Shiflett, C-Trade’s Director, International Utility Efficiency Partnership, is in Belém and will meet his new partners in a traditional business suit, as the Indians will show up in their traditional outfit, with cocares (feather headdress) and body paintings, done based on the jenipapo (black) and annatto (rood) fruit pulps representing their ethnic traditions.

”The C-Trade proposal is beneficial for us,” says Valdeci Tembe, community leader of Susuarana, one of 14 villages in the south of the Terra Indígena Alto Rio Guamá on the banks of the Rio Gurupi, and with Muxi Tembe, leader of the Tekowau village, one of the promoters of the proposal.

Considered one of the poorest Indian people in Pará, according to the National Indian Foundation (Funai), the Tembé-Ténêtéhar live permanently under threat from illegal loggers. Without hardly any source of income, the sale of logs from illegal cutting is one of the only income sources for some of the 216 families. Furthermore (illegal) loggers invade the reserve, and part of the reserve is already taken by marijuana plantings run by drug traffickers.

Conservative calculations of the C-Trade project show that the Indians could have a financial return of BRL 1 million (€ 350.000) annually. The offer stipulates that the Indians will receive 85% of the value of the sales of carbon credit in the international market, while the remaining 15%, will stay with the company. Only one quarter of the reservation will be subject to the contract. For each hectare of preserved forest, it is estimated that four tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) will be avoided in the atmosphere.

In Terra Indígena Alto Rio Guamá some 145.39 tonnes of carbon are stored per hectare. The volume is so large that it turns the Tembé-Ténêtéhar people in real guardians of a huge "carbon storage" of the Amazon rain forest: 40.8 million tonnes of carbon stored in an area of 279 hectares, on the border with Maranhão.

The Tembé-Ténêtéhar with their 281 indigenous lands scattered throughout the Amazon and their more than 61 extractive reserves in the region stock a total of 15 billion tons of carbon. This signifies 30% of the 47 billion tons of carbon stored in trunks, branches, leaves and soil of the Amazon forests, according to calculations of the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (Ipam = Environmental Research Institute of the Amazon). Experts warn that if this volume is released to the atmosphere, the effect would be a further worsening of the climate crisis.

Defining the key target of the negotiations, Juscelino Bessa, the regional administrator of Funai (Fundação Nacional do Índio is the Brazilian National Indian Foundation, or protection agency for Indian interests and their culture) said in Belém: “We are selling the idea of preservation. In addition to profit, the contract may add a social and ethnic content to the products of the forest.”

Felício Pontes, federal prosecutor with the Public Ministry in Pará, who was crucial to the negotiations, concluded: “If Brazil is a signatory of the Kyoto Treaty, nothing more is just then that the Indians receive payment for environmental services rendered to the country.”

The Federal University of Pará, also an important partner in the negotiations, established a management model for the use of the sold resources of carbon credits. The project envisages the creation of a Bolsa Floresta, similar to the Bolsa Familia, which will supply the Indians monthly with money to develop sustainable projects in the reserve.