Leave The Amazon Be

Andre Kenji de Sousa

Andre writes from from Itatiba, São Paulo, Brazil.

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52 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    So to sum up a very long article….Brazil should not develop the amazon any more. OK…sounds like an internal Brazilian issue. So unless we’re going to drop a few billion to Brazil to incentivize them not to develop the rain forest, why should anyone care what Brazil does? It is their country.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Damon says:

      Really, why not? If everyone wants Brazil to preserve the Amazon, why not pay them to do so? Have the world’s developed countries pitch in and give them x dollars a year for every square mile of intact rain forest.

      If we’re going to ask them to forfeit use of a large portion of their territory in the grounds that the world benefits, then let the world pay for it.Report

  2. JoeSal says:

    This reads a lot like a leftist piece. There is no mention how the US minimum wage laws tilt in favor of production in other countries.

    Regions of the Amazon have some of the best soil on the planet produced by multi generational farming. Note the leftward regimes are detrimental to multi generation farming as they typically kill damn near everyone in the nation on a hundred year cycle.

    What’s also funny is the protection of interior lands while allowing sprawl on the coasts.

    No body demands places like NYC be tilled under and forests planted in its place.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to JoeSal says:

      It some time reads like you want the United States to be a third world country but without the tropical weather.Report

    • PD Shaw in reply to JoeSal says:

      Not sure where you’re getting “leftist” from; the article is full of negative references to government subsidies and planning. I think the article has a moderate libertarian angle, but I’m reluctant to try to frame political views from another country into an American context.

      And not sure where your getting the notion that Amazon soils are some of the best soils in the world. Tropical soils are notoriously poor in quality.Report

      • JoeSal in reply to PD Shaw says:

        There is a premise absent about how the left has raised minimum wage in the US far beyond others and leaves that out of the parameters when discussing economics issues. If the US had comparable wages then the economics could be framed around comparitive advantages instead of sweeping a social parameter under the rug.

        There was considerable American context included, so splitting context didn’t appear warranted.

        Carbon/nutrient depth in Mayan soils are beyond what is being achieved in modern farming.

        Considering fresh water source, carbon sequester, the amount of daylight, multiple crops per year, it has a high potential for agriculture production.

        Brazil is almost centered in the lucky latitudes.

        Also I rarely ever see libertarians weaving in a Jim Crow mention.Report

    • Brent F in reply to JoeSal says:

      This reads a lot like a American comment. A discussion about another country which touches on some important libertarian themes and all you can focus on is your personal hobby horse about American domestic economic policy. The implication being that all things in the marketplace of ideas should be geared to your consumption and personal obsessions.

      Seriously, you dudes do this a lot and you’re so stuck in the narrow American viewpoint on politics you can barely see how self-obsessed you are.Report

      • JoeSal in reply to Brent F says:

        Leftism is a issue in south america. That is not a hobby horse and is not a narrow American viewpoint.

        If you consider that self obsessed, that’s your problem.Report

        • JoeSal in reply to JoeSal says:

          I mean one extra nasty remark about Trump or americas trade policy, and it could have been a NYT piece or Washington Post bit.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to JoeSal says:

          South America’s experience with right-wing governments hasn’t been anything to write home about either.Report

        • Brent F in reply to JoeSal says:

          Leftism sure. As is rightism. Latin American politics across the spectrum isn’t all that attractive.

          You’re talking about American minimum wage like its at all relevant.Report

          • JoeSal in reply to Brent F says:

            So minimum wage isn’t relevant in economic issues, or how trade unfolds between nations.

            FTR, did you take economics on the east or west coast?Report

            • Brent F in reply to JoeSal says:

              To this particular issue, the forced development of the Amazon basin due to Brazilian government policy, the American minimum wage is of astonishingly small importance. The relevant factors are Brazilian domestic policy, particularly their internal barriers to international trade, not American domestic policy or economics.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to Brent F says:

                So the article would have been more relevant if the bit about the American trade war with China and the soybean bit was left out?

                I would probably agree if that were the case.Report

        • George Turner in reply to JoeSal says:

          As the Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto observed, in Latin America left-wing and right-wing don’t really matter because the main difference between them is just which group of well-connected insiders gets all the kickbacks – while stifling the lower classes.

          He said “To us, a fox and a wolf are very different, but to a chicken they are the same.”Report

          • JoeSal in reply to George Turner says:

            To get out of the church of needs you have to realize you are in one.

            I really don’t envy the situation they lived the lie for a hundred years and look what it got them.

            It’s like the song says, ‘you can’ t trust freedom when it’s not in your hand’.Report

    • James K in reply to JoeSal says:

      I really don’t get this take. This is a story about how industrial policy and protectionism are bad for the environment. I could easily imagine Alex Tabarrok or Bryan Caplan writing an article like this.Report

      • JoeSal in reply to James K says:

        Errr, I hope what you meant to say +was ‘government policy about industry’. Industry tends to develop where it needs and not in arbitrary ways unless influenced.

        The piece reads like ‘hands off the amazon because climate change’ which weirdly aligns with a different type of protectionism. About half of protected vegetation is on farm owned property. They appear to be farming in a manner that will be sustainable, which is a point that is absent.

        Maybe just leave the farmers be and scale back the standing army along with the climate change fanatics.

        If globalization runs its course on comparative advantage, this area is destined to become developed.Report

  3. PD Shaw says:

    This is a good piece; enjoyed reading it, but will push back on the part about soybeans. As Kevin Drum recently vetted a NY Times piece claiming that that Trump’s trade war had “dried up” Chinese purchase of soybeans, the truth is https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2019/08/china-is-buying-lots-of-us-soybeans/. China is buying as much as it did before the tariffs, some of this is confounded because China appears to have purchased a lot in 2017 to stockpile in the event of trade war.

    Price has declined over the last ten years, but that appears to be due to Brazil and Argentina putting more land into soybean production, so there is a greater supply (which seems to be partly offset by non-major soybean producing countries exiting the market).

    Also, Illinois, the sixth largest state produces the most soybeans in the U.S.Report

  4. Michael Cain says:

    Parts of this remind me of the American Great Plains, sometimes described as “the largest failed agricultural experiment in American history.” Despite more than a century of government subsidies in various forms, the population is doing a slow-motion collapse back to the river and transportation corridors that cross the Plains. (Well, and the few places where there’s oil and gas to be extracted.)Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Michael Cain says:

      A couple data points (which you may have posted once but I forget):
      The 100th Meridian marks the boundary between the arid West and wetter East; And its moving eastward

      The Ogallala Aquifer, which provides water to most of the crops in the Great Plains, is drying up.Report

        • JoeSal in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          And none of it really matters. The corn belt will get smaller the wheat belt may or may not get wider or shift east. If it isn’t economically feasable to grow wheat, it just shift back into plains grass which feeds beef stocks.

          The ones who make it out there will be the most skilled in tangible capital formations in difficult conditions.

          Unlike those who really don’t even excel where conditions are good.Report

          • Michael Cain in reply to JoeSal says:

            I’m willing to take the side of a bet that says in 30 years the Great Plains will be empty for all practical purposes. One-third of the area hasn’t ever been adequate even for grazing, let alone planting; a warming climate shifts things even farther that way. Oh, some agriculture along at least portions of the rivers, but 1890 sorts of empty.

            I may not live long enough to be around to pay up if I’m wrong. One of these days I need to find some affordable way to have my losing 30-year bets paid off after I’m gone.Report

            • JoeSal in reply to Michael Cain says:

              Plains grass still builds topsoil, although less so than farming did.

              The wheat industry was destined to shrink as too many got into it when times were good and it was being pushed as fast profit.

              Also automation drove down the cost to produce it in bulk.

              I am not sure the long term plus or minus the no till folks will see, or even if the types of crops won’t shift.

              It’s been my opinion that rye is a more robust crop than wheat.

              Of course plains grass is a miracle in itself, and doesn’t require equipment.

              Somewhere on the plains they found bison remains near manmade tools thar dated 30,000 years ago.

              I would wager a 10,000 year bet that plains grass will still be around, and better off than man is.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to JoeSal says:

                Tall grass prairie much farther east, sure. Mixed grass prairie, less so. Short grass prairie is much more fragile stuff. Lots of variations on this, from the southern part of the Colorado/Kansas border.

                Two inches less effective precipitation per year consistently in the Nebraska Sandhills — the main recharge area for the entire Ogallala aquifer — through a combination of warming and drying, the grass dies and the dunes become mobile again (last time was about 1400 CE).

                Not everywhere, the Great Plains are nothing if not inconsistent. But a lot of wheres.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to Michael Cain says:

                I know this may come as a shock to some folks, but the picture in the link looks exactly like the conditions on the west side of the wheat belt.

                Probably the biggest threat is a change in the jet stream, but if that happens there will be bigger issuesReport

          • Chip Daniels in reply to JoeSal says:

            Yes, the corn belt may shrink, and the wheat belt may shift east…and the American economy may collapse.

            Y’know, stuff happens.Report

            • George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Kansas and Nebraska have their highest populations in history, and they’re still trending up.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner says:

                Me? I’m not worried. Where I live, we just steal our water from up north.Report

              • And their populations are shifting steadily to the east, and becoming more urban/suburban and less rural.

                In Nebraska (where I still have some family and follow the politics a bit), forecasts for the 2020 census results and the impact on redistricting in the Unicameral have 56% of the population and 27 of 49 seats from the three counties in the SE corner of the state that include Omaha, Lincoln, and their suburbs. Two-thirds of the counties have lost population in absolute terms since 2010. The state outside of the Big Three lost population in absolute terms in that period. From 2013 to 2018, agriculture’s share of Nebraska GDP (private industry only) declined from 10.7% to 5.5% (a good part of that is the sharp fall in grain prices over that period). The farmers and ranchers are terrified they are about to become irrelevant.

                Obligatory population cartogram, because I can.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Michael Cain says:

                What has genuinely puzzled me over the past 20 years is the lack of growth in telecommuting.

                Remember all the exciting predictions about how technology would make it easy to live in one place and work in another, how we would be able to live anywhere?

                And yet that seems to have fizzled out. Tech hubs like San Francisco appear to show the opposite, that there is a premium to having workers physically close to each other, and affiliated vendors and suppliers and consultants in close proximity.

                Add to this that modern agriculture, like all industries, needs fewer and fewer people to do more and more output and it points towards more urban growth, and a draining of the rural areas.Report

              • Random thoughts…

                If we include “offshored to India” white-collar work — data entry, coding, reading x-rays, call center support, etc — is the growth more in line with your expectations?

                Twenty-six years ago (God, I’m ancient in computer years) I was active in pseudo-academic research in real-time multi-media multi-party communications over internet protocols that could help support telecommuting. Some recollections:

                + Encrypted multicast was a key enabling technology; the internet backbone companies still haven’t worked out a billing scheme for transit of multicast packets

                + Different situations require different control protocols (eg, a 3-way technical meeting is not a 25-way classroom meeting); the commercial teleconference companies quickly killed innovation in that space

                + Teleconference vs telecommuting have radically different media needs; eg, management teleconferencing seems to require high-end video, while our research suggested techies doing a document review could use really crappy video (its primary purpose in the latter case was body-language signaling) but needed an excellent shared document toolReport

              • George Turner in reply to Michael Cain says:

                A lot of growth in rural Nebraska is going to be driven by live links to advanced farm equipment so urban coastal folks can play a live-action version of various popular farming simulators. The farmers will make more off people in bedrooms and dens paying to plant and harvest wheat than they will off the actual wheat.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                There is also a rather annoyingly large cohort of boomers in senior management and executive positions who are firmly stuck in the past and seem to be unwilling to actually fookin’ retire, or die.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Couple that with stupid ass ideas like “open office plans result in magical collaboration”, and even the young and perpetually hip resist telecommuting.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I interviewed for a position to manage a Region in the SE (Florida to Virginia) with a boomer – we had both worked at Mainframe software companies in the same sector (back in the day) he during the boom and I in the swoon; while the rapport was good, he kept talking about the good ole days where everyone would go out to lunch together. I agreed wholeheartedly, but told him if he was looking for a guy to come in to NYC weekly to have lunch and shoot the shit… I was not that guy… especially since my focus would be on managing projects/teams many miles away from NYC. He eventually hired a guy from Philly who was willing to do that.

                So the weird effect is that everyone in sales telecommutes (or, more accurately, there is no central office anymore)… but this boomer wanted to have his directs within driving/commuting distance of NYC – even if it meant that his directs didn’t have any connection to the region or team they were managing. Oh well.Report

              • Almost 20 years ago now, the Federal Reserve decided we weren’t going to do safe returns in the range of 5-7.5% like we’d done since WWII. Since all of those Boomer’s pension funds and personal savings for retirement were predicated on that level of return, things changed.

                If fixed return investments had continued in that range from 2001, all of the public pensions that are in deep shit now would be just fine.

                Someday, hopefully, God will have questions for Greenspan, Bernanke, et al.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                If senior management and executives are depending on pensions and 401ks for retirement, that explains a lot of what is wrong with corporate leadership in America.

                But my experience is that the boomers who decide the telecommuting culture are not managers hanging in there until their 401k is up to snuff, they are the ones who just don’t want to stop being in charge of everything.Report

    • Brent F in reply to Michael Cain says:

      I had a similar thought about the Canadian North. There’s an entire genre of articles that have a certain authoritarian envy when thinking about what the Soviets did to force development of their boreal forest and arctic regions and wish the government would commit huge resources to do the same. The unspoken thing is that this is something authoritarian governments do for prestige and geopolitical purposes with the investments being poor uses of capital on a return on investment basis.

      There’s something to be said for a government with a comparative lack of ambition. Its less likely to make big bad decisions.Report

  5. Maribou says:

    Good post, interesting perspective. Thank you!Report

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