On April 25th, the Brazilian government passed sweeping reforms to the country’s forest protection law severely weakening protection for the Amazon rain forest. President Dilma now has 14 days to veto the reforms before they become law.
Sao Paulo social media sites have been buzzing with the ‘Veta Dilma’ campaign urging the president to halt the reforms only weeks before Brasil hosts the Rio +20 environment summit.
The new bill would allow landowners to cultivate riverbanks and hillsides that were previously exempt, and would provide an amnesty from fines for illegally clearing trees before July 2008.
Greenpeace have been highlighting a University of Brasilia study which estimates a 50 percent increase in deforestation in the Amazon up to 2020 under the new rules if they pass. Brazil could lose 22 million hectares of rainforest to deforestation, that’s an area nearly the size of the UK or the size of the state of Minnesota.
Further destruction of the Amazon would increase the risk of irreversible climate change and leave forest communities and Amazon wildlife even more at risk from the interests which have already destroyed 18 percent of the Amazon.
Farmers, whose industry represent more than five percent of Brazil’s GDP, argue that the existing legislation is confused, putting economic development at risk and costing valuable investment. They say the new code would promote sustainable food production and bring an end to severe environmental restrictions that have forced many smaller farmers off their land.
On the Mother Nature Network website, Paulo Moutinho of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) warned that if Rousseff did not use her veto, years of successful efforts to rein in the ruination of the Amazon would be jeopardized.
“Without a veto by President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil will lose the gains of the last few years which led the country to curb deforestation. We will lose leadership and credibility,” Moutinho said.
Over 200,000 have signed a petition for a zero deforestation law to protect the rainforest and celebrities such as Brazilian footballer Kaka have joined the campaign.
Greenpeace have also launched a Brazilian Friend Finder App on Facebook in an attempt to get 1.5m Brazilian’s to back the law. Unfortunately when I attempted to use it it told me I had no Brazilian friends – maybe it knows something I don’t. Trouble is, the twitter version didn’t work either so it looks like they’re going to struggle.
Fortunately, if you feel strongly about this issue, you can use the site to write to President Dilma directly