Stephen Schwartzman

Stephen Schwartzman is co-director of the International Program, Environmental Defense.

Recent Articles

Deforestation and Global Markets

An Amazonian dilemma: Brazil has become a global producer, and China a global consumer.

Forest clearing on Amazonia's expanding frontiers is not about desperate poor people clearing the forest to eat. It is about land sharks fighting it out over the best parts and forcing the little fish to pick over the remains. In the wake of forest clearing, ranchers, agribusiness, and small farmers become established, more forest is cleared every year -- and the frontier moves on. Deforestation per se is relatively easy to monitor and measure using satellite data, and Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has been doing so accurately since 1988. Historically the rate of deforestation has varied with fluctuations in the economy and the weather, but the long-term average is about 6,900 square miles per year. The frontier got its start in the 1970s with the military government's geopolitically inspired roads, harebrained colonization schemes, and fat subsidies for cattle ranching, then cruised through the '80s and early '90s when placer gold mining and mahogany logging...

Better Governance

Expanding the network of protected areas and better environmental-law enforcement can help to curb deforestation.

A group of scientists at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, the environmental research group IPAM, and the Woods Hole Research Center have built a satellite-data-driven model of future deforestation scenarios for the Amazon, based on how much has already been cleared and the well-documented historical relationship between building and paving roads and forest clearance. Their conservative, business-as-usual estimate: 40 percent of the existing forest cover of the Amazon (the whole basin, not just the Brazilian part) will be gone by 2050. Worse, no one knows if there is a tipping point, beyond which the ecosystem unravels irreversibly—or where it might be if there is one. There are other possibilities. When the model is run assuming an expanded network of protected areas and better environmental-law enforcement (the "governance" scenario) it predicts 60 percent less deforestation than under "business-as-usual." But is there any reason to think that a "governance" scenario for the...