By Wayne Balta
After years of progress, deforestation of the Amazon basin in Brazil has increased for the past two years running. It rose by 29% in the last recorded year, according to a recent report from the Brazilian government.
The Nature Conservancy, which is the largest environmental advocacy group in the world, has adopted a promising approach to addressing deforestation, which it calls “conservation with development.”
The strategy is starting to show signs of working in the Amazon. Rather than focusing just on preserving land or enacting and enforcing preservation laws, TNC is working with government, businesses and landowners to safeguard the natural environment while addressing economic realities. Countries need to grow their economies and individuals need to make a living.
At IBM, we believe that effective and sustainable solutions to environmental challenges must come through the collaboration of governments, businesses and civic groups. That’s one of the reasons we are so pleased to be collaborating with TNC on one of its key initiatives in the Amazon.
Ten IBMers participating in our pro-bono Corporate Service Corps program recently spent one month in Belem, Brazil, helping TNC further develop a land management tool the organization has created to help municipalities enforce and landowners comply with Brazil’s Forest Code.
TNC hopes that the system, called PAM, can ultimately become a forest management tool used by governments and other stakeholders in rainforest regions around the globe.
In addition to the PAM system, TNC is developing programs in the Amazon aimed at helping farmers and ranchers make their existing cleared land more productive so they’re not pressured to cut more trees.
In one program, called Sustainable Beef, TNC works with large purchasers of cattle who have committed to reducing deforestation and have begun buying only from ranchers who are in compliance with the Forest Code. In addition, TNC helps the ranchers learn more sustainable cattle-raising techniques and encourages government programs that provide incentives for land owners who are in compliance.
We at IBM are thrilled to be collaborating with TNC on its Amazon initiatives. I hope that out of this comes an increased understanding of why rainforests matter. I’d like to see an increased understanding of how information technology can play an essential role in solving our global environmental challenges. And, finally, I hope this collaboration serves as an example to others showing how cooperation between businesses and environmental advocates can help make progress on environmental issues.
In the rainforest, and elsewhere around the world, we shouldn’t see nature and development as necessarily being in conflict with one another. It’ s not an either/or proposition. We must safeguard the environment even as we promote economic growth for societies and individuals everywhere. That’s the balanced approach to dealing with deforestation and other environmental challenges.