Brazil and Its Forests

BRAZIL has been showing a little pique of late over foreigners' concerns for its rain forests. The lush Amazon Basin is Brazil's territory, after all, huffed President Jos'e Sarney, and Brazilians don't need to be told to protect their own land. But without international expressions of concern, it's doubtful that Brazil would now be inching toward protecting its forests. Given a growing awareness of the link between massive deforestation and global warming, that concern can only intensify.

The government's recently announced forestry program, dubbed ``Our Nature,'' proposes useful, if limited, steps: controls over clearing of land, restraints on mining operations, and creation of new national parks, to name a few.

Money to launch even this initial effort remains a question mark in hard-pressed Brazil. Economics, in fact, is inseparable from the environmental tragedy of rain-forest destruction. Thousands of Brazilians look to the Amazon's land, mineral wealth, and lumber as their hope for a better life.

The government is coming to recognize, we hope, that giving free rein to the impulse to cut, burn, and dig is profoundly uneconomical - squandering resources that could be renewable and contribute to a more stable economy. International lenders like the World Bank are beginning to drive this home, tying their loans to responsible environmental policies.

The rest of the world has to take care to work with, not at odds with, countries like Brazil. The issue should not be framed in terms of sovereignty, but in terms of helping a people appreciate, preserve, and make better use of their natural resources.

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