Keeping Brazil Green

Alex Holmes

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On Oct. 22, Dr. Fausto Nomura spoke about the “Green Brazil,” describing the environmentally friendly aspects of Brazil. Nomura teaches at Federal University of Golás in Brazil and is a tadpole biologist but works on conservation as well.

Visiting assistant professor of biology Matthew Venesky said he has been working with Nomura on a series of research projects on frog tadpoles for over two years.

Brazil is the fourth largest greenhouse gas emission producer and has a very high biodiversity that they are striving to maintain by creating laws that limit the greenhouse gases and other habitat harming activities. The greenhouse gases that are emitted from Brazil are 75 percent from deforestation and only 25 percent from industry.

Much of the land in Brazil is not used for cities or farming. In fact, 32 percent of the land is being used for agriculture and only five percent is urban areas. That leaves 63 percent for forested areas, all according to Nomura’s talk.

In the Amazon area of Brazil, deforestation is linked to agriculture. But the deforestation rate is decreasing and the Amazon is not considered to be a hotspot- an area of extreme deforestation and greenhouse gas emission- because there has not been extreme deforestation.

According to Nomura, Brazil is considered to be a green country for four reasons: responsible agriculture, renewable fuel, energetic matrix and biodiversity laws.

Agriculture in Brazil uses only 32 percent of the land and that percent is mostly cattle ranches. Brazil has twice as much cattle as the United States but creates only half of the emissions of the United States. With all of the cattle ranches, only 20 percent of the beef is exported.

In addition to cattle, sugarcane is a major agricultural factor in Brazil. Sugarcane can be used for food, burned for electricity, used with ethanol for fuel and made into bioplastics. Hybrid cars use gasoline and sugarcane ethanol to run in Brazil and the bioplastics that are used are biodegradable.

Although there are many benefits to using sugarcane for all of these things, there are also concerns. “Deforestation and habitat loss to make more room for fields of sugarcane is a great concern,” Nomura said.

In order to maintain the land quality and conserve the forests, there are laws  stating where farmers are allowed to plant and where there cannot be crops grown. Below 100 meters and between a 25 and 45 degree slope is for sustainable forest management, consolidated agriculture activity and public utility (soccer stadiums, parks, etc.). Land above 100 meters and 45 degree slope is permanently protected and if that land has been converted to other use, must be reforested.

All of the power plants in Brazil are connected. Through this system, energy can be sold between northern and southern plants when there is not a high enough quantity being produced. Energy supply in Brazil is 42.2 percent renewable and of that, 81.9 percent of Brazilian power is hydroelectric. Brazil is home to four of the five largest hydroelectric plants in the world. Damming the water for these hydroelectric plants leads to morphological, physical, chemical and metabolical damages.

“A worry for the future is that if the climate changes and the amount of rain decreases, there will not be enough water to run the hydroelectric plants,” Nomura said.

Brazil has a three-step process to receive an environmental license before people are allowed to do anything that would have an environmental impact.

The first step is to get a preliminary license which means approval of location and design. This preliminary license can last for a maximum of five years and according to Nomura, it is the most complex phase because of a lack of government planning, lack of clarity, delay in issuing the license and a lack of suitable resolutions.

The second step is the installation license authorizing development. The third and final step is the operating license, renewable for four to ten year licenses, allowing the selling of products and beginning of work.

This process is meant to guarantee environmentally friendly methods for new businesses but Nomura considers the standards lower than appropriate, making the licenses more trouble than they’re worth.

“Dr. Nomura discussed one of the main problems related to conservation in Brazil being a lack of understanding the issues surrounding conservation. This problem doesn’t only exist in Brazil. U.S. citizens do not often understand the complex relationships about conservation. The general message is applicable for everyone in the world,” Venesky said.

Venesky added that conservation is very important because humans are currently depleting non-renewable resources that provide direct and indirect benefits for humans and other animals.