Environment Month and the economic activities in Brazil

By Gabriel Burjaili de Oliveira

In June we celebrate two important dates for the environmental sector: the World Environment Day, on June 5th, and the Ocean’s Day, on June 8th. Both celebrations were created by the United Nations, the first more than forty years ago, and the second in 2009, and its common focus is to raise global awareness as to the situation of the environment, which is on the verge of collapse, as stated by UNEP (https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/video/its-time-nature).

Both dates refer to the way we handle plastic pollution and are connected by the Sustainable Development Goals # 12, 13, and 14[i], which drive sustainable consumption and production, climate action and life underwater. These two projects have interesting claims: “Time for Nature” and “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean”, suggesting we (as Earth’s inhabitants) cannot afford wasting more time on changing some habits to conserve our home, as there is no alternative planet.

Under economic and legal perspectives, actions toward environmental protection are usually deemed as counterproductive to economic activities and use of goods, implying that the protection of the environment could impose unfair limitation of rights and negative consequences to economic activities. But it is critical to understand that there must be a more balanced path to follow, which preserves, at the same time, rights connected to title and ownership (of both movable and immovable goods) and the recommended levels of natural resource protection.

In Brazil, for example, there are laws and regulations which, whether for cultural (v.g., historic buildings or sites), or environmental reasons, impose general duties to any individual who owns or possesses real property, specially in rural areas. Generally, the Brazilian Forest Code (as of 2012) imposes different preservation percentages of native vegetation according to the biome, varying from 80% of preservation rate in the Amazon Forest to the minimum rate of 20% of preservation in other ecosystems, except in the cerrado region where the preservation rate is of 35%. Other preservation duties may apply, usually in areas of relevant environmental interest (as indigenous or ecological reserves) or areas linked to water sources or water courses.

Such preservation rates seem reasonable and allow owners and possessors to develop economical activities within such properties and, at the same time, to preserve a portion of the ecosystems where such properties are located, aiming the so-called sustainable development by balancing production and preservation.