Amazonia – heading towards a new form of sustainable development?

The past few years have seen both the persistent exploitation of Amazonian resources, and several initiatives for an ecological and socially responsible form of development. Whilst the outcomes of these projects do not always live up to expectations given the enormous economic stakes in the region, they can nevertheless serve as examples worth pursuing further in an attempt to save this jungle which has become a victim of its own luxuriance. The Amazon basin covers 7 million square kilometres and is one of the largest nature reserves on the planet. In addition to its remarkable biodiversity, it contains a wealth of raw materials (precious wood, water, gold, oil, gas, and so on) that attract unwelcome levels of interest, as does the agricultural potential of the 6 million square kilometres which were initially covered entirely by the rainforest. In just a few decades the "planet's lungs" have been stripped of one fifth of their vegetation. The deforested land is used primarily for large ranches and the intensive production of economically profitable agricultural products such as soya and sugarcane. Biodiversity under ever greater threat The clearance of land is not limited to officially designated areas, and illegal deforestation is also sometimes carried out by migrants who, in their struggle to survive, are but little preoccupied by the impact of their farming practices on the soil. Thousands of plant and animal species have disappeared from the ...

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