Monday, April 12, 2010

Improvement from Cattle Ranching Companies

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Brazilian cattle companies have made tremendous progress in mapping their supply-chains in the Amazon, however they are slacking on their promise of zero deforestation in the region. The cattle companies signed the agreement last October. Under the agreement the companies were to register and map all ranches supplying cattle from the Amazon directly to slaughterhouses by April 1, 2010. This would make it possible to assure consumers that cattle products were not the result of deforestation. The major companies, Marfrig and Minerva, failed to the terms, and both requested a 3 month extension. The companies have agreed to map and register their indirect suppliers by November 2011.

According to Greenpeace, the deforestation for cattle ranching is still occurring. They state, from October 2009 to January 2010, 140 kilometers of forest have been destroyed in slaughterhouse areas.

"Cattle ranching is the biggest driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. In recent years cattle pasture has been the fate of about 80 percent of deforested land, making ranching the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil. Brazil is now the world's largest producer and exporter of beef. Its herd in the Amazon is nearly the size of the entire U.S. herd", Rhett Butler, said.

James Cameron visits Manaus

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American film director, James Cameron took a trip down to Manaus recently to take a deeper look into the Belo Monte hydro electric dam project. Cameron is concerned for the people living near the dam, he says it will end their way of life. He is trying to get the Brazilian government to reconsider the project.

After tacking the problem of environmental destruction in Avatar, Cameron is now adding his own voice to the cause of the rain forest preservation. Belo Monte would be damaging to the environment; if constructed, the project would divert 80 percent of the flow of the Xingu River drying up the lifeline of tens of thousands of people who depend on the local water supply. Despite widespread opposition, the Brazilian authorities recently approved Belo Monte's environmental license and consortiums will bid on the project in April.

Monday, March 29, 2010

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There are many endangered species due to the deforestation of the Amazon, but one primate stands out today. The golden-headed lion tamarin survives in only a single protected reserve in the largely degraded Atlantic forest in Brazil ( Some are found in unprotected patches threatened by urbanization and agricultural expansion. Today, a natural gas pipeline is being built right through the monkey's habitat. Activists are trying to find forest large enough to house populations of the tamarin.

Less than 7 percent of the original Atlantic Forest remains. What does that mean for the golden-headed lion tamarin? Researchers only found four areas of land big enough to house the tamarins in. But still disease and fire can take place. Sadly, the researchers expect deforestation to continue in the region. Shade-grown cocoa, a good habitat for golden-headed lion tamarins and many other species, is also threatened to be cleared for plantations given the low price of cocoa (

Is Livestock Bad for the Environment?

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Most people do not think about livestock contributing to the greenhouse gas crisis. I was surprised how much impact they had.

Livestock production has increased dramatically over the last thirty years, due to the massive demand for meats. Meat used to be known as a "treat" to have in a meal in different parts of the world, but now people eat it all the time. According to, two recent studies looked at the global impact of the livestock industry, one alleges that its environmental impacts in relation to greenhouse gas emissions has been overestimated, while the other takes a holistic view of the industry's environmental impact.

The first study questions livestock's share of emissions: According to Dr. Frank Mitloehner, from the University of California-Davis, meat-eating does not cause high amounts of carbon emissions. This is based on faulty data, at least in terms of comparing the importance of cutting down meat consumption to making the transition from fossil fuels to green energy.

He doesn't suggest that we cut down on meat and diary, that will only end badly for poor countries. Instead the industrialized world must focus on the way it produces and consumes energy. He advises that "the developed world should focus on increasing efficient meat production in developing countries where growing populations need more nutritious food. In developing countries, we should adopt more efficient, Western-style farming practices to make more food with less greenhouse gas production."

The second study still thinks livestock is the problem: While livestock is not the biggest cause of greenhouse gas emissions, it does put a large strain on the environment. Some examples are pollution, water-consumption, deforestation, and land-use. According to "Livestock in a Changing Landscape, a report by scientists, "livestock impact on land-use is massive. Currently, a quarter of the world's land is used for 1.7 billion livestock animals. This ongoing shifting from wild lands to pasture has impacted biodiversity and ecosystems worldwide. For example, cattle ranching in Brazil has led both directly and indirectly to deforestation in the Amazon rain forest".

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Amazonian Experts Argue BU Press Release

A few days ago Boston University issued a press release on a scientific study about the Amazon's resilience to drought. The press release stated that the study had exposed the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's) theory that climate change could turn approximately 40 % of the Amazon into Savannah due to declining rainfall. According to, nineteen of the world's top Amazonian experts have issued responses to the press release saying it was "misleading and inaccurate".

The study was about how the forest's level of greenness had not changed during the 2005 year drought. It was originally published in Geophysical Research Letters. It wasn't the study itself that upset Amazonian experts, but the press release, 'New Study debunks Myths about Amazon Rain Forests'. Th experts say there is no myth, only evidence that the forests are very susceptible to drought stress. To prove this the experts cite a recent study that found a "large surge" in tree mortality in 2005 that was consistent with the results of two experiments showing tree mortality after rain reductions.

The scientists say that the fact that climate change could 'flip' large portions of the Amazon, approximately 40 percent, into savannah, was not only accurately reflecting the research of the time, but "has been reinforced by new studies."

Native Brazilian Interview- Rafaela Faria

As I mentioned, I had to start this blog for a school assignment; our assignment was to pick a country and a current communicational issue present there. I have always loved Brazil. I have never been there, but my dear friend Lindsay Imwold resided there for a few years with her family and has shared many memories with me. The next part of my assignment was to interview a native of my chosen country.

Rafaela Faria, age 21, is a current Student at Flagler College, studying Business Administration. I meet her at a local student’s party in St. Augustine. I loved her outlook on life, and how fun she was, so when the assignment arose, I knew exactly who I wanted to interview.
Faria grew up in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina which is located in the south of Brazil. She says it is the fourth most visited Brazilian city, and is nicknamed “The Magic Island”. Her childhood was wonderful; she played in the street with her neighbors and like many American children enjoyed video games. When she was seven she discovered her passion, soccer.

Her passion for soccer led her to the U.S. In 2005, Faria played against an American team in Brazil. The coaches loved her skills, and asked her to come to America and play for their school, Charlotte High School. The exchange program paid for everything. “It was a surprise and unique opportunity for me, because soccer was paying for an exchange program that my family could not afford”, Faria said. After spending only one year in America, she returned to Brazil and graduated from High school. She attended Federal University of Santa Catarina for two years before transferring to Flagler College.

Faria’s impressions of the U.S. were similar to most people who have not ventured here, McDonalds, Disney World, Las Vegas, Coca Cola, President Bush, and war. “These were always words I associated with the U.S.”, Faria said. After she came, she was thrilled to see how the U.S encourages sports in high schools and colleges. She found that true is that Americans eat too much fast food, which I also agree.

Faria’s entire family lives in Brazil. Unfortunately their financial condition doesn’t allow them to visit her at Flagler. “It is one of my dreams to show them my dorm, the beautiful Flagler campus, visit my ex-America host family, watch me play soccer here… for now I share this with my own descriptions and pictures I take”, Faria said. She often thinks about returning home, she loves Florianopolis, her and her friends have realized there is no place on earth like it. It is not just the nature and beauty that make Florianopolis special, but the people greatly affect the city as well.

Brazil is very diverse and is divided into five regions, each having a different beauty, culture, and economy. Faria wishes Americans knew more about this. “People there are so nice, share great hospitality, and are always happy. Our music reflects this happiness as do our parties, especially Carnaval Feijoada, caipirinha, samba…. Like the music says “I live in a tropical country blessed by God and beautiful by nature” (Pais Tropical by Jorge Ben Jor)”, Faria Said. Most Americans she has talked to think they speak Spanish in Brazil, when their language is Portuguese.

I asked her about the topic of my blog, deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon. She feels very sad because the Amazon has already lost an area equivalent to France. “It is the richest rainforest in the world, having a huge biodiversity but men are destroying it to develop agriculture, to explore illegal wood… this has to stop because Amazonia is the liver of Brazil as well as the world. This deforestation has to stop”, Faria said.

The 2016 Olympics will be hosted in Brazil. Faria is not only excited about the Olympics, but also that the 2014 Soccer World Cup will also be in Brazil. She says it will be great for Brazil’s economy. They will take advantage of the events to boost tourism and create more jobs to cultivate the economy.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Brazil and the US Sign Deforestation Agreement

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Brazil and the United States have signed an agreement to work together to reduce deforestation in the rain forest. This agreement was arranged in early March as part of an effort to slow climate change as well.

On Wednesday March 3, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed the agreement in Brasilia. The agreement states that Brazil and the US will establish a Climate Change Policy Dialogue, which is a group that will meet once a year and work towards developing and implementing pragmatic solutions and policies for reducing emissions and development.

Because the US and Brazil have not seen eye to eye on efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation, this agreement is a wonderful outbreak and will hopefully prove to be significant. When the agreement was first suggested Brazil was not interested. “Brazil is not interested in giving industrialized countries cheap carbon credits from protecting the Amazon if they are not going to stop building coal-fired power plants”, says William Boyd, a professor at the University of Colorado. He has worked on REDD policy issues for some time.

Brazil feels that the US needs substantial reductions in our own industrial emissions, and now the two countries have altered their stances. The US has been talking to Indonesia, which is the world’s second largest deforester and biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions from land use change, about the REDD strategies and tactics.