Increased population growth rate in the Northern Region of Brazil endangers the Amazon rainforest

June 23, 2011 • Climate Change & Mitigation, Brazil, Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Paula Simas of Sustainable Population Brazil for this article.  See

Increased Population Growth Rate in the Northern Region of Brazil endangers the Amazon rainforest.

According to preliminary results of the 2010 Census, the growth rate of population of the Northern Region of Brazil contradicts the downward trend of the remaining regions of the country. Between the twenty year period analyzed by the census of 2000 (1991 – 2000) and the census of 2010, the growth rate in the region jumped from 1.63 to 2.09. Probably due to internal migration, but also because fertility rates of four of the seven states of the region also increased (Rondonia, Amazonas, Amapa and Tocantins). Which means that in these states the number of children each woman has during her lifetime also increased.

As population and cities in the region grow, the need to expand and build a network of basic sanitation, roads, public transport, schools, and hospitals also increases. The sustainable model of the gatherers and subsistence farming becomes insufficient to leverage the region’s economic development. The forest has to make room for crops and pastures. In order to be self-sufficient, the region needs to become industrialized. With industries, large scale food production and urban growth comes the need for energy. This process is already under way in the Amazon Region and the decision to enhance economic development or to reduce human occupation in the region is mainly political.

In the context of economic growth, the hydropower plant of Belo Monte is vital, and the forest, secondary. Once the region is occupied, a difficult choice must be made between the welfare of man and the survival of biodiversity of the region. In the Northern Region of Brazil, public policies of population reduction with neighboring countries would be the wiser than economic development.

It is difficult to predict whether this trend of population growth will continue, although the IBGE states that as from 2030, Brazilian population will stabilize. Other factors – besides the fertility rate, which can be reduced with public health and education policies – act on the growth of a region’s population. Aging, for example, will also occurs if health and education conditions improve, internal migration within Brazil and immigration, which will likely occur because of the region’s economic growth and lack of skilled labor.

Despite evidence that man is primarily responsible for rapid degradation of the environment, the Amazon Region has public policies, which aim at occupying “the strategic unpopulated regions” to ensure national sovereignty. The Calha Norte Program created in 1985 to occupy the Amazon frontier with other South American countries has expanded, and the resources and the range of the program grow every year. The program builds bridges, roads, hospitals, schools, and military posts. All measures aimed at improving the well-being of the inhabitants, but the question remains: is populating the Amazon Region the best way to protect the forest? The Amazon Rainforest exists for millions of years and is only being destroyed because of population growth and occupation of man.

The program also mentions the protection of the region against drug trafficking and other illicit activities among its objectives. In fact, it is possible that the construction of roads, bridges and urban infrastructure will make drug trafficking, mining, and illegal logging easier. News from the border refutes the purposes of occupation: “In the villages, Indians grow marijuana, are addicted to a variation of crack and work in drug trafficking, says the headline in the Brazilian newspaper O Globo on April 20, 2011. It was our incursion into Indian Territory that led to this headline. Would further occupation change this reality?

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