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Temps de lecture : 3 minutes  


Rio de Janeiro-Copacabana-Brésil © Yann Arthus- Bertrand

Brazil has a surface area of almost 8 550 000 km2 and a population of 200 million inhabitants from various ethnic groups. It is the biggest country in Latin America. Its territory is home to 60% of the Amazon Forest its biodiversity is one of the richest in the world. 1/5 of the world’s freshwater supply is in Brazil.

Its main economic resources are oil extraction as well as sugar cane, soya and coffee farming. This line of business based on developed farming estates has made Brazil one of the leading emergent countries, sometimes at its environment’s expense.


Deforestation: The expansion of industrial agriculture and the development of large-scale breeding are the main causes of the Amazon’s deforestation. The surface area covered by sugar cane has sharply increased due to the country producing a third of the world’s ethanol. Moreover, monocultures and the overexploitation of pastures add to land degradation and erosion. Today, almost 18% of the Brazilian Amazon forest has been destroyed; that is about 700 000 km2 (the same surface area as Morocco). Many species of animals and plants have disappeared along with it. There are constant confrontations between those who want to protect the forest and multinationals who want to exploit it. The assassination of Chico Mendes in 1988 and more recently, the assassination of Sister Dorothy, show how dangerous this ongoing fight is.

Greenhouse gas emissions: The destruction of the primary forest is the main cause of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. It is the fourth biggest polluter in the world. According to the commitments it made in Copenhagen, President Lula made a voluntary commitment to the country reducing its emissions by 40% by 2020.

GMOs: Brazil is the third world producer of GM soya, cotton and corn. These crops account for a quarter of the 62 million hectares of the country’s arable land. The coexistence between GMO and conventional crops shows Brazil’s willingness to set out a third path, between economic development and environmental protection.

Hydraulic dams: After the Three Gorges Dam, the Itaipu dam is the hydraulic plant that produces the most electricity. Dams contribute to the country’s development but their construction is criticised because of the ensuing consequences on indigenous populations and the environment. Indian tribes have now strongly rallied around chief Raoni to stop the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant from being built. If it is built, it will be the third largest dam in the world.


Marina Silva has won the Goldman and Sophie prizes for her commitment to the environment. She organised the first peaceful demonstrations against deforestation with Chico Mendes. These efforts which made it possible to protect thousands of hectares in the Acre state. She was the Minister of the Environment in 2003 and resigned in 2008 to protest against policies favouring growth at the environment’s expense.

CDI (Comitê para Democratização da Informática) created by Rodrigo Baggio is to bring Information Technology to poor areas and thus fight digital exclusion and include the poor population in economic development. CDI includes 554 communities in the favelas and 200 outside it. The NGO supports 1 250 000 people in 11 countries and since 1995, it has allowed 58 500 young people to graduate.

Guy and Neca Marcovaldi’s Tamar Project aims to save Brazilian sea turtles. The couple have developed 22 ecotourism companies along the coast which now employ 500 people. This has encouraged local populations to protect turtles rather than hunt them. Since it began in 1980, this project has saved about 10 million young turtles.

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