Foreign Policy Blogs

Lula, the Amazon and Western hypocrisy

Over the weekend FP’s Josh Keating linked to a piece that quotes Lula as stating, with regards to criticism of the proposed Belo Monte dam, that no “gringo should stick their nose in where it does not belong”.

Keating’s post reminded me of a recent article I came across in CIP citing a World Rainforest Movement (WRM) statement which is highly critical of Norway’s self-defeating actions in the Amazon. A leading donor to the Amazon Fund, a project of the Brazilian Development Bank, Norway is also invested heavily in bauxite extraction and aluminium refinement in the state of Pará.

WRM doesn’t mince words in describing the impact that developing these industries will have on Brazilian communities. According to the WRM, “The Norwegian government cannot ignore that bauxite mining, its refining into alumina and smelting to make aluminum metal are highly destructive processes, including deforestation, contamination, displacement of local communities and severe impacts on livelihoods and health. At the same time, some of those processes – particularly deforestation – are significant contributors to global warming.”

Playing on the angst over US-European interventionism – and general antipathy towards celebrity rainforest activists – to bolster his case for Amazonian development is a cynical tactic. Still, though Lula may an opportunist, the hypocritical actions of the Norwegians lend weight to his case.

The real problem is that Norway’s two-faced approach to environment protection undermines legitimate criticisms of Brazil’s development project coming from Western and Brazilian sources alike.