CASE NUMBER: 312 CASE MNEMONIC: RUBBER CASE NAME: Brazilian Rubber and Environment A. IDENTIFICATION 1. The Issue The history of rubber tappers in the Amazonian region of Brazil has not been a particularly pleasant one. When the rubber boom started at the beginning of the 1900s, the region was mostly untouched by modern development. The rubber tappers were mostly poor Brazilians from the northeast (1). Francisco (Chico) Alves Mendes Filho has become the most well known part of a struggle to protect the Brazilian rain forest and to preserve the livelihoods of the rubber tappers of which Chico Mendes was a part. This case is a fascinating example of how many different interests were able to find a common goal through an ugly conflict. Brazilian grassroots organizations worked with Northern environmental groups, multilateral funding agencies, and the local government to work out a solution that allows a sustainable system of developing the Amazon region of Brazil. The tangible evidence of the solution was a system of "extractive reserves" that allow traditional petty extraction of rain forest products such as palm hearts, brazil nuts, or natural rubber. The intangible evidence is the relationship the agencies involved created to make a link between the environment of the rain forest, the social well-being of the inhabitants, and the long-term sustainability of trade in products of the forest. 2. Description as not much better than that of the indian slaves. They were being controlled in turn by the rubber barons intent on extracting as much rubber as possible. This situation did not change much during the next half-century. During the Second World War the demand for rubber increased to meet the demand of the United States military. The rubber plantations of Malaysia had been taken control of by the Japanese and concern in the U. S. was for a stable supply of rubber necessary for a war machine at this time in history (2). By World War II, the Brazilian rubber tappers were no longer the slave masters of the indigenous population. They were instead workers alongside them, tapping the trees for their own existence. The system used in this region was not one of using plantation farming of the rubber trees. Instead the trees are left in their natural environment, the rain forest, and paths are cut into the forest to connect them. One rubber tapper can then tend between 60 and 100 trees (3). Slashes are cut into the tree and the sap is allowed to drain into a receptacle. The process is very labor intensive because of cutting the paths between the trees and the need to constantly tend the trees (4). There are two major systems of rubber production that are used in the Brazilian amazon today. The first system is more traditional and has its roots in the beginning of the rubber boom. The rubber tappers are tied to patrons by a debt peonage system. In exchange for use of a stand of rubber trees, the tappers buy the industrialized goods necessary for the process and then at the end of the season must sell any rubber produced to the patron. The amount earned by the rubber tapper is usually less than the debt owed the patron and so the result is a permanent indebtedness. In the second system, production does not involve subordination to a patron. This "autonomous" mode of production means that rubber tappers freely extract and sell their product. Today the autonomous method is phasing out the traditional production system. This transformation from traditional to autonomous occurred intensively during the 1970s and was associated with the consolidation of a more diversified local economy, based on a combination of rubber extraction with other forest-based activities such as hunting, fishing, and harvesting of various forest products (5). The life of Chico Mendes is put into context by this history of the rubber tappers. He was the leader and political organizer of The National Council of Rubber Tappers, the union of the rubber tappers. In this position, Mendes had tried to look out for the interests of the members. The interest of a rubber tapper is his trees. Without the rain forest there is no livelihood for them. At first, the struggle was against the patrons in order to escape from the debt peonage. Later, the value of rubber declined with the increased use of synthetic substitutes and markets elsewhere (6). Large land owners then turned to other more profitable ventures while the rubber tappers continued to try and make a subsistence income through tapping the trees and other forms of rain forest harvest. These other more profitable forms of using the Amazon mostly entailed clear cutting the forest to make pasture lands for cattle. At the same time, the government of Brazil was undertaking a policy to encourage settlement and development of these outlying regions of the country through land concessions, loans and tax breaks (7). The take over of the traditional rubber tapping grounds was aided by land redistribution laws that left in question who actually had rights to the land. Chico Mendes saw his means of living going up in smoke. The response of the National Council of Rubber Tappers was a form of non-violent resistance. When a crew of workers came to clear cut an area of the Amazon, a group of rubber tappers would surround them and not allow them to move until they turned over their chainsaws and other tools. These same chainsaws were then used to tear down the camps that had been set up. This form of confrontation became known as an "embate" or standoff (8). The acts of the rubber tappers provided at least part of the stimulus for action on the part of the government. In 1985, the National Plan of Agrarian Reform was passed. This attempted to change the regressive patterns of landholding in which one per cent of the population owns about half of the arable land (9). More importantly to this case, the National Plan of Agrarian Reform allowed for a system of land use called an "extractive reserve". In trying to come up with a solution to sustainable use of the rain forest, the system of extractive reserves set aside land for common use by rubber tappers to take out products without destroying the forest. The extractive reserves, in some instances, caused a heightening of the tensions between the cattle ranchers, settlers and loggers and the rubber tappers. This is a battle that is still being waged today. There have also been outside groups interested in what was being played out in the Amazon region of Brazil. Most notably, environmentalists from the United States saw a compatibility in the aims of the rubber tappers and that of people trying to save the rain forest from destruction. In the midst of all this publicity, Chico Mendes was shot on December 22, 1988, presumably by a cattle rancher who wanted to protect his right to clear the rain forest (10). The effect was that of making a martyr. International attention was increased enormously. Even Hollywood got in on the scene to make a movie about his life. Books were published also telling his story. The attention that Chico Mendes drew also had the effect of making the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank more concerned with the environmental impact of development. The bank suspended funding for the paving of the only major road going into the Amazon region (11). The events surrounding the life of Chico Mendes is seen as an environmental success story. Through extractive reserves a solution is reached were trade and development of a region can continue without compromising the ability to do so in the future. The success for Mendes was another one. He fought for the social justice of the rural worker in Brazil. In this case there was a convergence of desire by the rural worker and the environmentalist. It is an important lesson on what direction the environmental movement should be taking. Preserving the environment affects peoples lives in ways that are not always positive. When development and environmental preservation is worked together more people can benefit. The international attention given to Chico Mendes and Brazil has subsided but the struggle still goes on to preserve both the rain forest and the dignity of man. 3. Related Cases: Brazil Case Nicaragua-Taiwan Log Deal Malaysian Raw Wood Export Ban 4. Draft Author: Eric Witte (May, 1996) B. Legal Cluster 5. Discourse and Status: DISagreement and INPROGress 6. Forum and Scope: MULTIlateral The bulk of the case involves only groups within Brazil, including Labor Unions, Individuals, and the state and federal Government. 7. Decision Breadth: 1 (Brazil) The case is local but the impact is global because of the all encompassing affect the Brazilian rain forest has on the environment of the world. 8. Legal Standing: Law C. Geographic Filters 9. Geography a. South America b. Amazon Jungle c. Brazil 10. Sub-National Factors: Yes 11. Type of Habitat: TROPical The Amazon Basin: covers some 7.5 million square kilometers-an area almost as big as Australia; is the wettest region on earth, with an average rainfall of 2.54 meters per year; contains the largest flood-plain forest in the world, covering two per cent of the forest area; has very poor soil-90 per cent suffers from phosphorous deficiency, 50 per cent from low potassium reserves, and 24 per cent from low drainage or flood hazards. D. Trade Filters 12. Type of Measure: Not Applicable [NAPP] 13. Direct vs. Indirect Impact: INDirect 14. Relation of Measure to Impact a. Directly Related: YES Rubber Tapping b. Indirectly Related: NO c. Not Related: NO d. Related to Process: YES Deforestation 15. Trade Product Identification: Rubber, Raw 16. Economic Data 17. Degree of Competitive Impact: Low 18. Industry Sector: Rubber 19. Exporter and Importer: Brazil and Many The major of importer of latex and other products harvested from the rain forest is the United States and Europe. E. Environment Cluster 20. Environmental Problem Type: DEFOR; BIODIV; SPLL; OZONE 21. Species Information Name of Species: Many (very biodiverse region) Types: Animal, Insect Diversity: IUCN Status: In the Amazon there are: one fifth of the world's bird species in scarcely one fiftieth of its land surface. several million animal species, mostly insects. 3,000 known species of land vertebrates. nment. 28. References: (1) Barbara Weinstein, The Amazon Rubber Boom, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1983), 10. (2) Warren Dean, Brazil and the Struggle for Rubber, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 92-96. (3) Barbara Weinstein, 16. (4) Warren Dean, 36. (5) Mary Helena Allegretti, "Extractive Reserves: An Alternative for Reconciling Development and Environmental Conservation in Amazonia," in Alternatives to Deforestation: Steps towards sustainable use of the Amazon rain forest, ed. Anthony B. Anderson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), 252. (6) Alexander Cockburn, "The Man Who Loved Trees," New Statesman and Society , v.2 n. 31 (January 6, 1989): 19. (7) Alexander Shanklan, "Brazil's BR-364 Highway: A road to nowhere?," The Ecologist, v.23 n.4 (July 1993): 142. (8) Margaret E. Keck, "Social Equity and Environmental Politics in Brazil," Comparative Politics, v.27 n.4 (July 1995): 412. (9) Ibid. (10) Geri Smith, "Amazon Parable," U.S. News and World Report, v.109 n.25 (December 24, 1990): 18. (11) Alexander Shankland, 141.