Term Paper: Brazil Sustainable Development in Amazon

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Brazil: Sustainable Development in the Amazon

While it is generally regarded as true that developing countries offer more biodiversity than developed ones, and that the developed countries are not particularly receptive to 'native' products, there are exceptions. Two of these, pharmaceuticals especially and also ecotourism, are potentially lucrative avenues for Brazil to explore in order to minimize the disparity in income among its divergent populations. While there has been some development in both cases, more often, development has been of the industrial variety -- not even the technological sort -- and has brought with it vast damage to both populations and the rain forest. There are, however, in a post-modern 'transformational' economic model, abundant reasons to develop both of these industries, and Brazil is poised -- by virtue of its physical assets and the commitment of at least some of its bureaucracy -- to exploiting these in positive ways for the economy, the ecology and the population.

Introduction

The core principle in modern life, which most historians trace to Columbus' voyage, is that of continual expansion. Unfortunately, unless outer space truly, and quickly, becomes a frontier worth staking out, that paradigm is at an end. The fact that there are "no significant new territories to colonise or integrate into the world economy" has resulted in dire consequences, including:

Global environmental consequences for human activity

Weapons of mass destruction that threaten global extinction

Globalism -- not community -- is the frame for beliefs and actions of much of the world

Non-western values are becoming increasingly significant.

The result is a "social and political crisis that affects all regions and most countries of the world, albeit in different ways."

In addition, the principle of quantitative growth, which is based on measuring GDP per capita, became a dinosaur along with the idea of continuous expansion. After World War II, however, there had been the notion in play that decolonization and the competition between capitalism and communism would make at least the economy of capitalist states expand. This idea, obviously, was predicated on the notion that the expansion, no longer possible in terms of undiscovered (the West) land would instead be expansion into -- and Brazil's president Cardoso, at one time in his life, and others would say ownership of -- less affluent or richly endowed areas.

The politico-economic setting

Indeed, Cardoso was one of the developers of the dependency school in Latin America. The theory of dependency was based on Marxist political economy. In it, underdevelopment "was an deliberate process designed to perpetuate the exploitation of Third World economies by western capitalism."

This postulated that neo-colonial structures blocked development and could "only be countered by import-substitution strategies designed to increase national economic and political autonomy."

Like colonialism itself, this model was also shown not to be successful by the mid-1970s.

The future economic model began to be worrisome in nations such as Brazil, where exports led rapid industrialization. The result, in order to explain a phenomenon unlike others, was the new international division of labor (NIDL) approach. This model "argued that capital export and establishment of factories in low-wage countries was a way for the highly-developed countries to maintain global economic control" and at first glace, it appears to hold promise. However, according to Castle, it was compromised by the "economic and political independence of the oil-rich economies and newly industrialising countries (NICs)."

It looked as if there was no model to explain the economic profile of nations such as Brazil. In its pure form, neo-classical theory, which had become dominant in capitalism, might explain conditions because of its emphasis on "free enterprise and unfettered markets."

The only drawback to this, and one which could be significant in Brazil where indigenous tribes remain still uninvestigated and understood (despite being subjected to the depredations of the colonizers' epidemics and so on), is that, as a development model, it is "impaired by its methodological individualism, which tends to neglect the role of social and cultural factors in economic change."

Although the neoclassical approach also fails to include the effects of government action on economies, it is the concept assumed to make the world "safe for global investors and corporations," while at the same time failing to enact any policies that would protect workers, farmers or consumers form market irrationality. Indeed, the policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, "global policemen of capital" are predicated on this model and challenge any states that attempt "to safeguard economic autonomy or social equality."

Arguably, the information and technology revolutions accelerated economic and cultural globalization, which would have the affect of increasingly diffusing cultural values "based on an idealised U.S. consumer society. A leap in military technology shifted the global balance of power to the United States and its allies."

That, naturally, threw the economies of the nations that had struggled most with dependency issues, including Cardoso's Brazil, back into a situation in which dependency -- having been supplanted at least briefly or in part by other mechanisms of economic development or lack thereof -- was once again the operative economic structure to all intents and purposes. As Castle puts it, "The end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the partial shift to a market economy in China heralded the end of the Second World and the bipolar global system. Victorious capitalism appeared to be an uncontested economic model."

One could trace further dissections of this neo-colonial model because of the changes in world alignment of powers caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union and, notably, the booming economies in East Asia and some parts of Latin America and the Middle East. No longer was the dualism exemplified by the United States and the Soviet Union the basis for all economic theory; in that seemingly far-off world, smaller nations could hope for some relief from marginalization by playing the U.S. And U.S.S.R. off against each other to their at least temporary and 'applied from outside' relief from economic turbulence. Now, however, this opportunity is lost, and, as Castle notes, all former development theories become unworkable. In response, he believes, a new "North-South Divide" concept has emerged.

This divide, too, is subdivided into exploitative (example: Malaysian logging in Papua-New Guinea) or cooperative (example: international networking between nongovernmental organizations, NGOs, concerned with human rights, women's issues or environmental issues).

This alone allows for a number of permutations and combinations, but in the end, it all leads to dividing the globe into what Castle believes is the operative model for economics: transformation "Transformationalists regard contemporary patterns of cross-border flows (of trade, investment, migrants, cultural artifacts, environmental factors, etc.) as without historical precedent. Such flows integrate virtually all countries into a larger global system, and thus bring about major social transformations at all levels."

This does not indicated, to Castle, a rosy world in which all nations are brothers and all are equally endowed with wealth and prosperity; indeed, the opposite it seems is more likely. He proposes that within this transformation, there are pockets of exclusion (the classic haves vs. have-nots) and that they are:

Most widespread and severe in the South: virtually the whole of Africa, as well as large part of Asia and Latin America experience globalisation as disempowerment and impoverishment. Nor can globalisation be equated with a general reduction in the power of states. Rather, as the nexus between territory and sovereignty is undermined by globalising forces, new forms of governance emerge at the national, regional and global levels, with the military and economic power of the dominant states still playing a decisive role.

Indeed, it is arguable that the United States still plays a mighty role in the economies of South America in general, and of the Amazon basin in particular, and further, that this state of affairs extends back for a century and a half and is therefore entrenched all the more difficult to break.

In January 1853, Lt. William Herndon of the U.S. Navy, had taken a trip from the Andes down the Amazon. When his report was published, it was apparent in the U.S. that "The Amazon and the Atlantic Slopes of South America called for the opening of the great river to both the U.S. merchant fleet and to settlement by American planters."

Worse still, in the run-up to the Civil War, the Amazon was also viewed as a possible solution to the problems of slavery vs. abolition. Because slavery was still acceptable in the Amazon basin, slaves -- "recorded as assets on plantation books" -- could simply be shipped to new U.S. plantations in the Amazon, avoiding loss of capital. At the time, there were those who thought, "The time will come when [the free navigation, the settlement, and the cultivation and the civilization of the Amazon] will prove the safety valve of the Union."

While that did not occur in fact, it might well have occurred in spirit. By the time of the 1998 forest fires in the Amazon region, bureaucrats in Brasilia… [END OF PREVIEW]

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