The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development,“Rio+20,” was held in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As heads of state, non-governmental organizations, and leaders from the private sector from around the world gathered to address possibilities for “a safer, more equitable, cleaner, greener and more prosperous world for all,” the host country Brazil faces significant struggles of its own.
One third of the world’s remaining rainforests lay within its borders. Brazil’s rainforests are home to diverse wildlife, including 56,000 plant species, 1,700 bird species, and over 1,200 species of amphibians or reptiles. Deforestation, which threatens all of these, is increasingly common in Brazil as developers clear forest to plant soybeans and herd cattle. In the last decade, Brazil has become the world’s largest beef exporter, and it is now second only to the US in soy production. Global demand for soy, combined with a newly developed soybean that can survive in the rainforest climate, have spurred “massive expansion in soybean cultivation,” according to the Earth Island report. Expanded soy production in turn spurs road building through the Amazon to access these farms, thus opening it up to further development.
The government of Brazil recently passed a plan to build approximately 60 dams along Amazon rivers to generate hydroelectric power. Among the dams planned is an $11 billion project, the Belo Monte dam, which, on completion, will be the world’s third largest dam. It will flood over 500 square kilometers, displacing indigenous communities, including the Juruna, Arara, and the Kayapo people, as well as threatening numerous species of birds, reptiles, and fish.
At the “Rio+20” conference, many environmentalists expressed hope for a better future. But the draft agreement resulting from the meetings left many wondering about Brazil’s future.
Source: Karen Hoffman, “As Host to Rio+20, Brazil Faces Own Environmental Struggles,” June 21, 2012, Earth Island Journal, http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/elist/eListRead/as_host_to_rio20_brazil_faces_own_environmental_struggles/
 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, “About the RIO+20 Conference,” http://www.uncsd2012.org/about.html
Student Researcher: Dexter Norup (Santa Rosa Junior College)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (Santa Rosa Junior College)