Reducing Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: Paradoxes of Environmentalism

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is likely to continue for a long time, despite the efforts of the Brazilian government and of Brazilian and foreign non-governmental organizations to halt it. This paper argues that among the reasons for this unhappy state of affairs is the framing of deforestation as an environmental issue. It discusses three kinds of environmental framing that, while promoting respect for nature, distort policy options. One frame simplifies an extraordinarily complex situation, thus disregarding critical policy questions. A second frame endorses weak but politically acceptable solutions to the deforestation problem. A third plays into the hands of a politically conservative Brazilian agenda that identifies forest protect with threats to national sovereignty.