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Day Five - Valuing the River of Life,
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18/07/2006 19:00

Day Four - Valuing the River of Life

By Monday morning the Grand Amazon and its convoy had sailed 18 hours northwest up the Rio Negro to the Jau national park. Here, the Symposium held its third session: Valuing the River of Life: ethics, equity and economics.

Mary Evelyn Tucker, in the chair, observed that science and policy were not enough to tackle the problems of the environment: “Values of people need to be part of the equation.”

Ana Valeria Araujo spoke of the limits of national sovereignty, a concept which, she said, belong to a world before the global environmental threats we know today. In a world of supranational imperatives, “everybody is responsible.” Brazil had its share of responsibility, but so did the United States and Europe; and so did the large international companies which are financing deforestation.

Tarcisio Fetosa da Silva described the desperate struggle on the front line of deforestation. He and others were under constant threat of death, while the state was too weak to bring the rich farmers to heel. “We are in the middle of a war,” he said. Public action, when it came, always seemed too late, after the land was stolen and the forest had been razed.

Herbert Girardet linked events in Brazil with those elsewhere, particularly in the world’s cities. London’s ecological footprint was 275 times its surface area, and “if everybody lived like New Yorkers we would need five planets”. We must rethink our cities, and in particular their energy uses.

Hylton Murray Philipson looked for a way to tackle the Amazon’s problems by bringing the logic of markets to bear. Nature had been taken for granted for too long, he said, and it was time to put a price on it. Using European carbon pricing figures he calculated the value to the planet of keeping the Amazon’s carbon where it is at $6 billion per year. Three times that would solve the tropical forest problem worldwide. While this might seem a large sum it was nothing compared with the annual cost of the Iraq occupation or the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. The money could be found, and it should be found “as a matter of urgency”.


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