One of the most frequent and disastrous misconceptions about the direction of growth in the Amazon consists of confuse bioeconomy with extractivism. It is undoubtedly essential to expand the sustainable use of the gigantic socio-biodiversity of tropical forests and their rivers. The peoples of the Amazon, scientists, responsible entrepreneurs, activists and organizations promoting entrepreneurship have made immense progress in this direction. But the bioeconomy has to go far beyond forests.
THE Brazil Origins Seal brings together local communities and dozens of companies of various sizes, which benefit and sell products from protected areas, with the support of the Socio-environmental Institute, do IMAFLORA and several other non-governmental organizations. THE Amazon Project 2030 has published works showing the potential of forest sociobiodiversity products both in global markets and in strengthening the gastronomy and tourism. Amazon Entrepreneurship Center, Connections, BelTerra, IDESAM, Amazon 4.0, are just a few of a growing number of organizations dedicated to valuing the work of forest peoples and the potential contained therein in terms of food, new materials, pharmaceutical and cosmetic uses.
But it is clear that, when the destruction currently being promoted by the federal government is stopped, the economy of the forest will not be enough to allow the economic growth of the Amazon to translate into an improvement in the living conditions of what is the Brazilian region with the worst social indicators. The bioeconomy cannot be treated as an attribute limited to the forest, as if it were an economic sector, a dome within which nature will be protected, together with the peoples who directly depend on it and who seek to preserve it.
Bioeconomy is literally the economy of life. In this sense, more than just one sector among others, it is a value that must be the basis of any and all economic decisions, in any region of the world. The challenge for humanity in this century is to reduce inequalities, eradicate poverty and hunger, based on models of economic growth that regenerate the natural fabrics hitherto devastated by the predominant forms of production of goods and services. Directing economic growth towards the fight against the climate crisis (as countries that have relevance in the global political and economic scenario have been doing) is to place the defense of life as a vector of human activities.
But it is clear that this starting point, these ethical-normative values, translate differently in each region. In the case of the Amazon, it is not just a matter of protecting the forest so that it fulfills its global ecosystem functions and improves the activities and living conditions of the populations that live there. When destruction is removed from the social landscape of forests, the multiplier effects of forest sociobiodiversity will appear more clearly, as well as their impacts on the population’s work and income. The industrialization of forest products and the application of the best science to their knowledge are also fundamental sources of innovation and economic growth. the work of Choices Institute shows that the Manaus Free Trade Zone can gain dynamism if its industrial and technological capabilities are geared towards the sustainable use of forest sociobiodiversity. But that will be insufficient.
THE chapter on bioeconomy of the Scientific Panel for the Amazon shows that the economy of life is fundamental for the region as a whole. First of all, it should guide urban policies in the Amazon, since municipal seats hold almost 70% of its population. The metropolitan regions of Belém and Manaus alone account for 5.5 million of the 30 million Brazilian Amazonians.
Addressing the needs in education, health, sanitation, waste management, housing and internet connection in these regions requires approaches inspired by the increasingly important idea in multilateral organizations of “nature-based solutions“. These solutions have to enter the strategic matrix of urban policies in the Amazon.
An example, in this sense, is the urgency to promote greater use of wood in urban infrastructure works, in place of concrete, whose impact on ecosystem services is highly destructive. Using wood is not synonymous with destroying the forest. On the contrary, this use assumes the sustainable management of forest areas, promoting integration between urban needs and strengthening socio-biodiversity. urban afforestation (as it has been promoted in Belém) is another example of nature-based solutions, especially in regions with such high temperatures.
But “nature-based solutions” will also have to inspire commodity farming and family farming in the Amazon, which already has a wealth of experience in this regard, as shown by the works by professor Francisco de Assis Costa. The world will accept less and less agricultural products linked to the destruction of nature and the impoverishment of the ecosystem services provided by it. In addition to respecting protected areas, production methods must be implemented that use the products of socio-biodiversity, that do not pollute rivers and soil, and whose added value lies not only in their low costs, but above all in their ability to track their regenerative effects. Agroecology, which has become official policy for the European Union, offers promising paths for the Amazon.
These are the rudiments of an idea that needs to be deepened and whose main inspiration is that the economic growth of the Amazon, the fight against poverty and inequalities cannot suffer from the split that consists in affirming the ecosystem value of the forest and, at the same time, advocate conventional modes of economic growth for cities, the supply of commodities and family farming.
If the economy of life is the vector of global economic growth, it is obvious that, for the country with the greatest socio-biodiversity on the planet, it offers opportunities that strengthening democracy, the fight against inequalities, science and the peoples of the Amazon and the Cerrado will know how to take advantage.