The Sierra Ricardo Franco park was meant to be a conservation area shielding rare wildlife
To understand why the Brazilian government is deliberately losing the fight against deforestation, all we need to do is retrace the bootmarks of the Edwardian explorer Percy Fawcett along the Amazonian perimeter with Bolivia.
During a failed attempt to intersect a stunning tabletop plateau here in 1906, the adventurer nearly expired on the first of his many trip-ups to South America. Back then, the area was so far from human habitation, the foliage so dense and the terrain so steep that Fawcett and his party arrived close to starvation.
He returned home with narratives of a tower, inaccessible mesa teeming with wildlife and irrigated by secret waterfalls and crystalline rivers. By some reports, this was one of the tales that invigorated his pal Arthur Conan Doyle to write The Lost World about a fictional plateau jutting high-pitched above the jungle that served as a sanctuary for species long ago extinct elsewhere.
In their wildest fictions, however, neither Fawcett nor Conan Doyle are likely to have imagined the modern reality of that plateau, which can no longer be certain of protection from geography, the law or Brazils international commitments.
Today, orange soil roads, cut into the forest by illegal loggers, lead you to the north-western flank of the heightened hilltop. Now called the Serra Ricardo Franco state park, this is nominally a preservation area put up with support from the World Bank. Instead of forest, however, you find swaths of property infested by farmers, stripped of trees, and turned over to grassland for 240,000 moo-cows. There are even private airfields inside the parks bounds, which exist on maps only.
Far from being an isolated area where a nomad might starve, this is now despite its questionable legal status one of the worlds great regional centres for food production. In recent months, it has also rose as a symbol of the resurgent affect of a landowning class in Brazil who, even more than in the US under Donald Trump, are cashing in on the extermination of the wild.
Locals reply the states members of President Michel Temers cabinet chief of staff Eliseu Padilha owns ranches here on hillsides stripped of forest in a supposedly shielded park. The municipal ombudsmen told the Observer the kine raised here are then sold in contravention of pledges to lawyers and international consumers to JBS, the worlds biggest meat-packing corporation, which is at the centre of a huge bribery scandal.
These allegations are denied by farmers but there is no doubt authorities to easing powers as it opens up more property for ranches, dams, roads and soy domains to meet the growing desire of China. Last year, Brazil reported an alarming 29% further increase deforestation, developing doubts that the country will be able to meet its global commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Rather than an aberration, there seems to recognize a return to historical criteria for a number of countries that has been built on 500 years of land seizures that were later legalised by the politicians who benefited from them.
The concurrent erosion of legal authority and natural habitatcan be seen in many Brazilian countries: the newest soy frontiers of Maranho, Tocantins and Bahia; the hydropower heartland of Par and the wild west mining and logging regions of Rondnia and Acre. But this is the case in Mato Grosso that the political forces behind deforestation links with corruption, violence, weak regulation and deliberate obfuscation of land ownership reveal themselves most clearly.
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