Ecoscience: Ecological Problems With Agriculture in Brazil

Learn about the ecological progress and social horrors of Brazil, including information on potential problems with the population of Brazil and wealth disparity.

| January/February 1982

Paul Ehrlich (Bing Professor of Population Studies and Professor of Biological Sciences, Stanford University) and Anne Ehrlich (Senior Research Associate, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford) are familiar names to ecologists and environmentalists everywhere — as well they should be. After all, it was Paul and Anne who gave special meaning to the words "population," "resources" and "environment" in the late 1960s. (They also coined the term "co-evolution" and did a lot to make "ecology" the household word it is today.) But, while most folks are aware of the Ehrlichs' popular writing in the areas of ecology and overpopulation, far too few people have any idea of how deeply the Ehrlichs are involved in ecological research (of the type that tends to be published only in technical journals and college textbooks). That's why it pleases us to be able to present — on a regular basis — the following semi-technical column by authors/ecologists/educators Anne and Paul Ehrlich.

Ecological Hope and Horror in Brazil


Among the highlights of our field trip to South America last year, were the three weeks we spent in Brazil, which is the largest country on that continent and the fifth largest in the world. Even though Brazil is a "less developed" land, its future doesn't seem hopeless like many other countries. In spite of its huge size (greater than the total of the U.S.'s "lower 48"), Brazil has only some 120 million people. It is also rich in geographical and biological diversity and natural resources. There's little question that this nation could solve its problems before population growth and social and environmental deterioration convert it into a permanent "basket case." However, whether or not it will do so remains to be seen.

Sad Juxtaposition in Brazil


Rio de Janeiro, which was our first stop, can be seen as a microcosmic model of Brazil's main problem: "two-tiered" development. Rio is in the most beautiful setting of any large city we know . . . exceeding in loveliness even our own San Francisco. The metropolis is built between the coastal mountains and the sea, and — since the mountains drop almost directly into the water — the city is very narrow, clinging to lower slopes, beaches and landfills.

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