Our intrepid account guy is still wandering the rainforests of South America, and is starting to get a little worried by the state of some of the region’s environmental policies… but at least he has a solution…
South America is one of the key areas to watch over the next decade, in terms of how the continent’s leaders take on the task of making their economies environmentally viable so as to contribute to a more secure global future.
At present Venezuela is in a state of emergency because the severe droughts there have caused Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan presidente, to take drastic measures and cut electricity supplies to key city Caracas. The country’s dependence on hydro-electric power means that the planet’s current climate fluctuations, and the usual El Niño, are playing havoc with their economic situation.
Which belies the question, can we seriously expect developing nations to follow Western examples when it comes to ´green´ economies? Clearly they are going to do everything in their power, even at the expense of the planet, to compete economically with the West.
A nightmare scenario has just been announced and authorised in Brasil. The Belo Monte dam project has been in the offing for quite some time now, but government officials now say it is has the go-ahead.
This proposed hydro-electric dam is to be sited in the middle of the Amazon jungle and will result in the deforestation of approximately 500 sq. km of virgin rainforest. The Belo Monte dam, which is to be constructed on the Río Xingu and will rival the world’s other largest dams such as the Three Gorges Dam in China (which involved flooding sections of the Yangtze River basin), will mean a considerable addition to greenhouse gases in the region and ultimately contribute to global warming.
However the Brasilian government, quite rightly, argues that the Belo Monte dam is a necessary addition to the nation’s infrastructure in order to support 180 million people, especially the more deprived Amazon regions. The dam will provide electricity to 23 million homes which is vital to the nation’s economic growth.
All this really serves to highlight is the fact that most developing nations have absolutely no long term vision when it comes to consolidating the environment, and rationalising usage of key resources. For the president who has a forthcoming election all that matters is short-term gain that satisfies the people and burgeons a growing tiger economy.
What should the West be doing to help this situation? Brasil already has a population which prefers ethanol to gasoline to fuel its cars, and the country is certainly no stranger to wind power. What other uses could this ethanol made from sugar cane waste be put to?
The West needs to begin extreme funding measures to support the development of these economies in ways which will not further damage the environment. If we seriously expect these nations not to further exploit their own natural resources then we need to learn quickly that developed Western nations will be the ones to pay the price. Otherwise there will be no incentive for them to make any changes for the better whatsoever.
Failing that we need to show them more cost-effective ways of powering their developing economies if we really can’t bring ourselves to justify expenditure which will ultimately help them compete against the West in the free market.
This is not a straightforward situation but it is one that needs to be confronted quickly.