Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Does Brazil Own the Amazon? And Who Owns Yellowstone?

What an odd question! Certainly, Brazil owns the Amazon River basin...right? It's the largest watershed in the world, providing drinking water for millions upon millions of people, it's the lifeblood of the rainforest and some scientists state the environmental health of the entire planet is linked to the health of the Amazon. That's why Brazil passed several of the world's toughest laws to block development on the Amazon and protect it as a precious, natural resource.

What if Brazil no longer owns its portion of the Amazon?
Yet Brazil has embarked on a number of mega-dam projects in the Amazon basin with little regard for these environmental laws or for the damage likely to be done to the watershed and its inhabitants. The World Bank watchdog Bank Information Center describes one egregious example here where these laws were blatantly ignored. Another article here describes the same project as "The Worst Engineering Project in the History of Brazil" and questions why the project was devised in the first place. It seems to be quite an unnecessary project and certainly offers little benefit to the people of Brazil.

But then we learn of a $17 billion dollar loan, the largest and at the lowest interest rate in the history of the Brazilian National Development Bank. And since this dam can only produce electricity for four months out of the year, it makes even less sense unless you're on the receiving end of the loan system's largesse. And the interweaving of these loans coupled with the dismantling of environmental safeguards to promote and permit development, a.k.a. deforestation, destruction and human displacement, is described well in this article. It appears Brazil's stringent laws either do not apply to the Amazon River basin or they were adjusted to develop the region. Or maybe they do not apply there because the Amazon River basin is no longer owned by Brazil?

This dam project is just one link in a long chain of IMF/World Bank loans put upon the backs of the Brazilian people. The loans are followed in sequence by threats to default, restructurings and then actual defaults. And then what happens?

It may have been just such a default that triggered the transfer of ownership of the Amazon River basin to the World Bank. Was the resource-rich area offered as collateral? That would help explain the massive waste, corruption and illogic involved in the myriad engineering, mining and deforestation projects in the Amazon. Quite a plot, but at least it's the Amazon and not the Delaware, Colorado or Mississippi River, right?
"Brazil is just a backward, third world nation, it would never happen here in America," you say? Brazil, in fact, has the seventh largest economy in the world by nominal GDP and is to host the summer Olympics in 2016 - not so third world.

Yet according to Oregon Senator Doug Whitsett, our federal government has been quietly setting aside resource-rich areas and safeguarding them from development so the land may be offered as collateral for our runaway debts. He details the process here. It is also suggested that this is not restricted to Brazil or to the USA but is actually a worldwide phenomenon occurring under the auspices of the UN - that these 936 valuable sites around the world are to be set aside not merely for their historic value but as collateral for more loans.

It naturally leads one to wonder if our federal government has restricted oil drilling, mining and other land development because we've already handed over our resource-rich lands as collateral.

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