[permaculture] Soy, China, & Brazil
genest at pivot.net
Fri Nov 11 09:47:41 EST 2005
Man, that is depressing.
I don't see how it can be stopped. Any of it. In my province of
Quebec, 99% of the territiory is slated for clear cut forestry. I
think permaculture has more to do with training up as many people as
possible to be ready to rebuild once the inevitable consequences of a
cancer consuming its host come home to roost.
On Nov 11, 2005, at 6:43 AM, Jerome Rigot wrote:
> I thought this might be of interest to people on this list.
> No question that this is depressing news.
> However, it brings up questions that might be
> important to address, such as how permaculture
> can counter-balance such large-scale
> deforestation (and any other people-mediated
> ecological disasters), on a short-term and long-term basis.
> What can be done by people with a different
> vision of what a sustainable/regenerative future
> could be, to mitigate such large-scale, greed-based development?
> Many more questions come to mind. Jerome
>> Date: Thu, 10 Nov 2005 14:00:18 -0500
>> From: Sarah Garlington <sarahbgarlington at hotmail.com>
>> Subject: [COMFOOD:] Soy, China, & Brazil
>> Thought this might be of interest.
>> Jonathan Watts in Santarem, the Amazon
>> Thursday November 10, 2005
>> The Guardian
>> The new China
>> A hunger eating up the world
>> China's insatiable demand for proteins as well
>> as oil is turning Brazil into the takeaway for
>> the workforce of the world. In the second part
>> of our series, we reveal how the soya trade is
>> creating a gold rush which is deforesting the Amazon
>> A smoky haze blurs the frontier between the
>> world's mightiest forest and its biggest threat:
>> the humble soya bean. The four-month burning
>> season in the Amazon is when the giant trees
>> felled to make space for crops are slowly
>> reduced to ashes. Even after being slashed and
>> burned, the trunks of the tauari and maçaranduba
>> are so huge that their embers glow on and off
>> for more than two years. Some are left to burn
>> where they stand, creating giant pillars of
>> charcoal stretching 30 metres into the sky.
>> You cannot see the wood for the beans in an
>> ever-widening expanse of the Amazon, and it is
>> increasingly thanks to China. Brazil's boom crop
>> and China's growing appetite are clearing more
>> forest than logging, cattle farming and mining.
>> It is one of the more remarkable developments of
>> a globalised world in which Brazil is rapidly
>> becoming the takeaway for the workforce of the world.
>> Travelling from Beijing to a farm in the heart
>> of the Amazon showed how far China's reach has
>> extended. It took five flights and nearly three
>> days to reach Santarem, followed by a two-hour drive.
>> The farmers had also come a long way and at
>> great risk to be here. The Bonettis are from
>> Italian stock. Just as their forebears gave up
>> everything to move from Europe to the new world,
>> they too quit their jobs two years ago and sold
>> their land in the south of Brazil so that they
>> could join the soya gold rush thousands of miles
>> north. They now live in an Amazonian wilderness,
>> where the father, a former computer programmer,
>> hunts wild boar for supper while his wife keeps
>> their child from roaming into a jungle of
>> tarantulas and jaguars. Legally their position
>> is tenuous, as the government has granted no
>> approval for clearance of land in this area.
>> But for the pioneers it is a risk worth taking.
>> Amazonian land is cheap. An area the size of a
>> football pitch costs £200. But how could they be
>> sure the soya boom would continue? "Because of
>> China," said Mr Bonetti, whose name has been
>> changed to protect him. "All over Asia, and
>> especially in China, the market is expanding."
>> The confidence of the families who are moving to
>> newly cleared land near Santarem reflects a
>> giant shift that is taking place in the global
>> food trade as Brazil becomes a leading supplier
>> of protein for China. From space you can see
>> why. Since 1995 satellite images show the Amazon
>> has shrunk by 1.7m hectares (4.2m acres) a year
>> - equivalent to a forest almost the size of
>> Israel being turned into farmland every 12
>> months. During the same period China has lost
>> more than 6m hectares of arable land to cities,
>> factories, roads and deserts. Self-sufficient in
>> most food and energy commodities 15 years ago,
>> China must now import millions of kilocalories
>> to fuel its workers just as it needs lakes of
>> international oil to keep its production lines
>> running. Most of the protein comes in the form
>> of soya beans from Brazil, which are used to
>> fatten pigs, poultry and fish that end up on the
>> dinner tables of the world's most populous country.
>> Even by China's standards, the growth has been
>> phenomenal. Since 1995, soya bean imports from
>> Brazil have increased 10,685%. The pulses are
>> now by far the most important item on the
>> bilateral balance sheet, last year worth $2bn
>> (£1.15bn), or more than a third of Brazil's sales volume to Beijing.
>> According to Lester Brown of the Earth Policy
>> Institute, this could herald the formation of an
>> axis that will dominate the world food market.
>> For years, he said, the most important trade
>> route for food was between the US - the world's
>> biggest exporter of grain, soya and meat - and
>> Japan, the main importer. But last year for the
>> first time Brazil became the top exporter and China the top
>> importer of soya.
>> Along with rising demand for the beans in Europe
>> and a poor crop in the US, this contributed last
>> year to the second biggest deforestation of the
>> Amazon in history. Loggers and farmers have
>> already cleared 600,000 hectares and tens of
>> thousands more are added every month.
>> Ecological madness
>> Greenpeace and other critics say it is
>> ecological madness to cut down rainforests that
>> are home to more than 100,000 species. Soya
>> advocates say the dangers are overblown.
>> "Foreign environmental activists worry too much
>> about a few trees, a few species and a few
>> tribes. They don't want us to develop. All we
>> want is health and money," Jomar Nascimento
>> Neves, an economics professor at the local
>> university, told a recent conference sponsored
>> by several big agricultural firms.
>> According to Ibama, the Brazilian state
>> environmental agency, only 2% of the
>> deforestation is authorised. But with only six
>> inspectors to cover an area three times bigger
>> than the UK, there is little they can do. "There
>> is no such thing as sustainable management of
>> forests. It is all predatory," said Nielson
>> Vieira at Ibama's Santarem office. "All we can do is minimise the
>> As in China, the losers of modernisation are
>> local farmers, who are priced or pushed off
>> their land. Maria dos Santos, of the
>> smallholders union in Santarem, said 500
>> families had been relocated, a fifth of them by
>> force. Benoir Jean of a French NGO, Groupe de
>> Recherche et d'Echanges Technologiques, said
>> people were being shot and homes burned in the
>> drive to secure land for soya. "It has created a
>> climate of fear in which people are afraid to talk."
>> In an attempt to minimise the social and
>> environmental impact of soya, the Nature
>> Conservancy, a US-based NGO, has joined with
>> local officials, producers and traders such as
>> US agribusiness Cargill to establish a system
>> that endorses plantations which follow best environmental practices.
>> However, Wang Huijun, deputy director of China's
>> department for American and Caribbean Affairs,
>> said: "Since 2003 China has pursued a policy of
>> sustainable development. But how Brazil protects
>> its environment is up to them."
>> All over Amazonia, China's footprint is getting
>> bigger. Near the northern port of Belemon, an
>> alumina plant is being built to process raw
>> materials for China's producers. Inland, Chinese
>> merchants are negotiating timber deals in
>> Manaus. To the east, forests are being chopped
>> down to provide the charcoal needed for pig-iron
>> exports. The world's biggest iron ore producer,
>> Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, has signed a $1.5bn
>> deal with Baosteel of Shanghai to build a mill
>> with a capacity of 8m tonnes of steel sheet a
>> year. Brazil's state oil firm Petrobras is
>> building a pipeline with a $1bn investment from
>> China's Sinopec. The government also wants
>> Beijing to upgrade its transport system to speed
>> raw materials from the interior to ports.
>> "We are looking at a possible Chinese investment
>> in the north-south railway. This passes through
>> an area that has great potential for soya
>> exploitation," said Luciano Desira, commercial
>> counsellor of the Brazilian embassy, which is
>> about to almost double the number of diplomats it stations in
>> The two countries are discussing what could be
>> an even more significant deal - the transfer of
>> biofuel technology, which uses sugarcane, soya
>> and other crops to produce petrol substitutes
>> such as ethanol. Brazil is the world leader in
>> this field, which is increasingly attractive to China as crude
>> prices surge.
>> Exports growing
>> Largely thanks to soya, South American exports
>> to China have grown 570% since 1999. In the
>> process China has overtaken Argentina, Japan and
>> Britain to become the second most important
>> destination, after the US, for Brazilian goods.
>> With economic clout has come political
>> influence. Brazil's left-leaning president, Luiz
>> Inacio Lula da Silva, has courted Beijing to
>> offset US influence. Last year he headed a
>> 450-member trade mission to China, where he said
>> the two countries could form a relationship
>> unhindered by colonial animosities. "We are two
>> giants without historical, political or economic
>> divergences, free to think only about the future."
>> The story is the same throughout Latin America.
>> Argentina has benefited from a 122% surge in
>> trade. Peru has received cash for its energy and
>> food sectors. Chile, the world's biggest copper
>> producer, reports that China overtook the US
>> last year as the main copper buyer. Most
>> contentious has been Beijing's courtship of
>> Venezuela, which has the biggest oil reserves
>> outside the Middle East. Castigated by the US as
>> "authoritarian", President Hugo Chavez has been
>> more than willing to accept the embrace. Last
>> year he signed a deal that is expected to double
>> bilateral trade in 2005 thanks largely to energy
>> exports. The first tanker of Venezuelan oil arrived in China this
>> Such developments have not gone unnoticed in
>> Washington. "I believe we should be cautious and
>> view the rise of Chinese power as something to
>> be counterbalanced, contained and perhaps go so
>> far as to consider China's actions in Latin
>> America as the movement of a hegemonic power
>> into our hemisphere," Dan Burton, the Republican
>> representative for Indiana, told a house foreign relations
>> The soya barons are so convinced that demand
>> will continue to grow that they are planning to
>> clear millions more hectares. "We don't trust
>> China as a partner," said Pio Stefanello, a
>> plantation owner and Brazil's leading
>> distributor of soya seeds. "But it is a huge
>> contributor to growth. They are big consumers for everything."
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