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Perspectives 3: Conflicting Needs For Developing Nations

From the vantage of a powerful nation like the United States, it's hard to understand why deforestation has been allowed to become such a problem in the Amazon. Are the governments of Amazonia blind to the problem? As usual, there is no simple answer. Many government officials are well aware of the value of rainforest conservation, but they are also committed to helping their nations develop for economic and humanitarian reasons.

Brazil, in particular, is taking an aggresive approach to development with "Avança Brasil", a multibillion-dollar campaign to expand its infrastructure into the Amazon frontier. For this assignment, you're asked to consider both the positive and negative aspects of such initiatives. Will the Mission 2006 design focus on preservation of the Amazon rainforest, or conservation of this resource?

Frontier Expansion in the Amazon (Environment Magazine, April 2002). A good introduction to past and present Brazillian government policies.

The Future of the Brazilian Amazon (Science Magazine, January 19, 2001). W.F. Laurance and colleagues argue that Avança Brasil may have devastating environmental effects. Also see the erratum published in the February 9 edition of Science.

Re: The Future of the Brazilian Amazon (Science Magazine, January 26, 2001). A rapid, defensive response from Roberto Goidanich, Environment Attaché at the Brazilian Embassy to the United States. Also read the reply.

Development of the Brazilian Amazon (Science Magazine, June 1, 2001). A more thoughtful comment on the Laurance et al. article by the planning coordinator for Avança Brasil. Also read the reply.

Predicting the Effects of Amazon Development on Deforestation (Science Magazine, May 31, 2001). Environmentalists Schwartzman and Bonnie question some of the conclusions of Laurance et al. and caution that careful science is necessary to make convincing pro-preservation arguments to policy makers. Also read the response. Do you see why an effective monitoring program would play a key role in the development of rainforest policy?