SAVING THE AMAZON
A few civil servants and an old satellite have given Brazil a (small) success story
The people of the Amazon basin live by a cruel calendar. Each year starting in January, farmers, ranchers and loggers topple a swath of forest the size of Hawaii. In July, when the rains stop, they set the remaining debris on fire. But this July morning, deep in the frontier state of Mato Grosso, the sky is as blue as a robin’s egg, the chain saws are silent and not a bulldozer is in sight. Beneath the wings of a twin-engine Cessna, the steamy wilderness scrolls by as boundless and unblemished as Brazil itself must have looked when the Portuguese arrived half a millennium ago.
After years of nothing but dire news about the destruction of Amazonia, the world’s greatest tropical rain forest, it seems at last that something is being done to reverse the trend. Don’t get too excited – the Amazon is hardly out of danger. Slashing and burning are habits as old as Brazil. Last August, wildfires had bucket brigades hustling over an area the size of Europe, including some stretches of Mato Grosso. But illegal burnings don’t occur nearly as often as they did a few years ago. The reason: a few honest civil servants, using an existing technology (satellite imaging) and some straightforward gumshoe work, have begun to accomplish what countless United Nations meetings have failed to do: come up with an enforcement method that works.
MARGOLIS, Mac. Newsweek, Sep. 2002, p. 40. [Adaptado].
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