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Election cycle impacts the destruction of the Atlantic Forest area in southern and southeastern Brazil

Publicado em 23 setembro 2021

A study conducted at the University of Sao Paulo (USP) in Brazil and reported in an article published in a journal Conservation letterShows that Atlantic Forest deforestation will increase during the election year.

Researchers have collected data from the Election High Court (TSE) and MapBiomas, Brazil’s Annual Land Use and Land Cover Mapping Project, for 2,253 municipalities in the southern and southeastern regions covering the period 1991-2014. Correlated. They found that on average, 3,652 hectares of Atlantic Forest were cleared annually in federal and state election years than in non-election years. The average annual increase in local elections was 4,409 hectares.

They also detected a periodic downward trend deforestation Rapid increase due to political initiatives that utilize natural capital in exchange for voting. “This phenomenon has been more intense in the past and has been declining over time. Perhaps as democracy matures, media coverage in question improves and politics behave optimistically as voters better understand it. Because they tend not to reward their homes, “Patricia Ruggero, the author of the article first explained.

This study was part of a PhD in Ruggiero. The University’s Faculty of Ecology research awarded her an award for her best treatise on this topic, supporting the FAPESP Research Program (BIOTA-FAPESP) on biodiversity characterization, conservation, restoration, and sustainable use. It was carried out below. It was funded by FAPESP through four projects (13 / 23457-615/16587-617 / 20245-9 When 14/11676-8). It was also supported by the National Council for Science and Technology Development (CNPq), the Coordination of the Ministry of Education for the Improvement of Brazilian Higher Education Staff (CAPES), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“Deforestation is usually considered to be caused by economic and social factors. Our study is Political motivation Alliances also affect deforestation in areas with strict environmental regulations. In other words, natural resources are subject to periodic manipulation. The study, well known in political economy, highlights a phenomenon previously unnoticed by researchers in the field of nature maintenance. “

Based on an analysis of the data, the author of the article wrote about the impact of the election cycle in terms of “opportunistic behavior affecting natural resources and the environment affecting biodiversity, carbon storage, and other ecosystem services.” Emphasizes the need to limit.

“Deforestation is often associated with large-scale hydropower development and agricultural expansion, but it is also associated with political negotiations. In this case, deforestation favors certain voter groups and societies. In Brazil, there is a fact. Jean-Paul Metsger, a professor at the Institute of Biological Sciences (IB-USP) at the University of Sao Paulo and a member of the Steering Committee of BIOTA-FAPESP, said: It states in.

According to Metsger, the increase in election years may seem small, but its long-term consequences are annoying. “This represents 3% of the annual destruction of the Atlantic Forest in the south and southeast, or about 136,00 hectares, but the restoration of 4,000 hectares of Atlantic Forest requires a great deal of effort.” He said.

For Ruggiero, the biennial increase in deforestation pressure can counteract the impact of major advances. “For example, programs such as payment for environmental services require technical competence, funding and political networking. Social initiatives and efforts are underway to achieve environmental benefits, these are one or two elections. It could be wiped out for political reasons in a year, “Ruggiero understands.

Strengthening democracy reduces deforestation

Studies conducted in other countries have shown a correlation between democratic maturity and the decline in deforestation spikes seen during elections, according to Ruggiero. “It’s too early to confirm that this is the cause here, which we plan to investigate,” she said. “However, during the period of the analysis, we find that we have reached a certain threshold in the sense that environmental governance and social awareness of environmental issues regarding the Atlantic Forest have improved and there is less room for deforestation. Generally speaking, legislation to protect protected Atlantic Forests has been in force since 2006, and society is more actively demanding the conservation of these areas. “

In 2014, deforestation increased first in all biomes, then peaked in 2020 and increased even further. “What is happening now goes beyond this cyclical phenomenon associated with elections. If hypothesized, the trigger is forest in terms of both political discourse and changes made to laws and institutions. It’s a positive signal for the person responsible for the destruction, “said Ruggero.

Natural capital as a bargaining tip

The study showed that the electoral alliance also influenced these cycles. Deforestation increased significantly in municipalities that were already under intense pressure on deforestation when candidates were coordinated in federal and state elections. Municipalities with less pressure on deforestation were more affected by local elections.

“Elections create a climate that encourages such action,” Ruggero said. “Candidates need to win votes and tend not to propose or implement unpopular measures as elections approach. Another aspect is funding the campaign. Campaigns have always spent a lot of money in Brazil. rice field.”

In future studies, the author will test three potential explanations for increased deforestation during the election year. The first is to deliberately reduce the enforcement of environmental protection laws so that potential voters can expand their economic activities. “Surveys by political scientists have shown that unpopular measures tend to take place earlier than late during the term of political leaders, especially when they seek re-election. As far as the opposite is true, “Metsger said.

Another driving force could be an increase in environmental licenses for logging entities. “More licenses may be granted to certain sectors, such as large construction companies, to clear forests. Subsidized agricultural loans could be another factor,” he said. Suggested.

It may also explain changing the perceptions of those who destroy the forest. “We should not rule out the possibility that landowners and others who use the land believe that politicians and government agencies are obsessed with campaigns to win votes. selection As we approach the year, find an opportunity to clear the forest, “Metsger said.

In addition to testing these hypotheses, the group plans to conduct similar studies on all Brazilian biomes to investigate the link between elections and deforestation in the northeastern Atlantic Forest region. doing.


Elections may catalyze deforestation, new research suggests


For more information:
Patricia GC Ruggiero et al, Election Cycle Affects Deforestation in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, Conservation letter (2021). DOI: 10.1111 / conl.12818

Quote: The election cycle affects the destruction of the Atlantic rainforest region of southern and southeastern Brazil (September 22, 2021).

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Election cycle impacts the destruction of the Atlantic Forest area in southern and southeastern Brazil

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