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Assignment: The Natural Wonders

Assignment: The Natural Wonders

Assignment: The Natural Wonders


Brazil has made a commitment to reduce the deforestation of its Amazon rain forest by 80% by 2020. The Amazon rain forest is one of the natural wonders of the world and a major mechanism for the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere. But clear-cutting for roads and agriculture is massively reducing the area it covers. In 2013, the government ordered an inventory of the trees in the Amazon—perhaps a step in the right direction.

Along with China and India, Brazil is one of three major economic powers to rise to prominence on the world stage in recent times (see Figure 8.4). But it turns out that even being on a glide path of economic growth and development is not a cure-all. Rising expectations, demographic realities, and energy demands all contribute to an ecological conundrum now often oversimplified in terms such as “climate change” and “global warming.” These are problems not only for ecologically challenged BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) but also for the richest countries. The BRICs have the most to gain; the West has the most to lose.

Rousseff did not cover herself in glory during her first four years in office. Far from it. Yet despite a legacy that “includes recession, inflation above the Central Bank’s target, opaque public accounts, rising public debt and a looming downgrade in Brazil’s credit rating, as well as a current-account deficit that, at 3.7% of GDP, is the widest since 2002,” she was reelected in 2014—but by slim 3%margin.* It was not an auspicious start to her second term. Even less so because—with charges of corruption in the air—her Workers’ Party (PT) is reported to have financed the campaign in part with money stolen from Petrobas, the state-owned oil company.

Nevertheless, Brazil stepped onto center stage as a rising global power in 2014 when it hosted the World Cup, a wildly popular international sports event. As if that were a mere dress rehearsal, Brazil will also host the 2016 Olympic Games, which are expected to draw 600,000 visitors to Rio de Janeiro, the capital. Organizers expect to sell nine million tickets.