Part 4 – Green Economy = The Green Desert + Petroleum

petrobras duct sign_web
Petrobras sign saying: ‘Attention. Duct buried. Do not excavate.’

Brazil is an important country in the global design of the Green Economy due to its vast territory and sociobiodiversity. Moreover, Brazil has held a historically subordinate position in North-South relations but more recently a sub-imperialist role via BRICS resulting in a place for testing and experiments in the carbon and biodiversity markets.* Where green capitalism develops new strategies, markets and territorial accumulation prepare the frontiers for the economic expansion model.

Therefore, it is no coincidence that Brazil houses a majority of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation+ (REDD+) and Payments for Environmental Services (PES) projects on the planet. According to the Ministry of Science and Technology, by 2012, 207 CDM projects, a multitude of REDD+ and PES projects have been denounced by the Carta de Belém.**

In Espírito Santo, Petrobrás, Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil, Statoil and dozens of other oil companies are exploring, extracting, and transporting large reserves of pre-salt, offshore oil and gas located 2000 meters under the Atlantic ocean. Drilling however can be at depths as much as five thousand meters below sea level. In the same region, monoculture of fast-growing eucalyptus trees grown by pulp and paper companies, Fibria-Aracruz Cellulose and Suzano Cellulose, continue to expand.

The oil boom fuels the expansion of extractive and other existing industrial supply chains resulting in more platforms, pipelines and ships for steelmakers and shipyards. And more stone, iron, natural resources, and mining companies. Downstream, more fertilizers for monoculture eucalyptus and sugarcane, and more transport. The oil, mining, steel, pesticides, eucalyptus and sugarcane, form a vicious circle of social and environmental injustice affecting numerous territories, particularly the “sacrifice zones” of the expansion model: Indigenous, Quilombolas, campesinas and fishing regions.

In the north of the Espírito Santo in the Community of Palhal, Municipality of Linhares, 11 families were evicted from their land for the installation of UFN 4, Unit Fertilizer Nitrogen, a work entered in the Growth Acceleration Plan (PAC). According to Elias, a local leader from the Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores (Movement of Small Farmers (MPA) and La Via Campesina:

“Instead of producing more pesticides for monocultures of sugarcane and eucalyptus, here we could have a small agribusiness producing dairy products, since the tradition of the families here are dairy cattle. People could participate actively, with income distribution and land, preserving the environment and local culture. The importance of agroecology here would prevent the eviction of the people.”

It is not by chance that at the UNFCCC COP in 2009, Lula announced an emissions reduction target of 38.9% in Brazil. The proposal included the reduction of 80% deforestation in the Amazon and 40% in the Cerrado. Using the argument of defending the forests, he sought resources from the carbon markets and agro-forestry. In order to preserve the expansion model, Lula offered in the same package the remaining native forests and sugar cane and fast-growing tree monoculture from “sacrifice zones” and territories in order to offset the rapid global petroleum expansion.

In this sense the BNDES, the principle state development bank, perceived a new niche market, having established in 2012 in the São Paulo Stock Exchange (BOVESPA) the Carbon Efficient Index. In 2013 the construction of the environment asset market began to include: water, carbon and biodiversity. The pre-salt of the Atlantic Coast is in the same “green” Brazilian national market as REDD+ from Acre and the Amazon.

In Brazil the equation looks like this: + oil = + green economy. Nothing escapes the siege and the pace of expansion of the productivist and consumerist “green” petroleum model. Territories and traditional knowledges, forestry and eco-forestry systems managed by Indigenous Peoples, campesinos and Quilombolas, the springs and streams, the riparian forests and conservation areas are all threatened, looted and devastated by the carbon market, by the word “sustainable” and made possible through the CDM, REDD+, biodiversity offsets and PES. Though this destruction is painted with a discourse of “Green Economy” which was crafted with perfect timing for the Rio+20 in 2012.

Dilma Rousseff and Governor Renato Casagrande promise to accelerate the monoculture model, industry and capixaba development, planned in the project “Espírito Santo 2025″, also sponsored by Petrobras and Fibria-Aracruz Cellulose. The state plan and large corporations focus on easing the Forest Code and environmental laws, in a not always explicit favoring of agribusiness and oil exploration. In turn, creating tensions in social and environmental conflicts, rather than rights while impeding food security and climate justice for family farmers, traditional peoples and campesinas, fishers and inhabitants in areas of the operations related to the cellulose and oil industrial complexes.

In terms of civil society, resistance to “big projects” face environmental racism, well-known marginalization and criminalization, and secondly, a new compensation (“offsets”) logic that finances the impacts either through corporate policies of so-called social responsibility, or through topical actions and welfare state PT, which pass through market equivalences like carbon and other commodified nature “services”. In President Dilma’s Brazil, offsets cease to be an infringement of rights, instead they become their own rights. A complete reversal of logic.

In 2013, after 10 years of Lula and Dilma PT governments, Brazilian society has returned to mobilize around questioning the state and its development policies. In Espírito Santo, the campesina resistance is strengthened by agroecology that articulates the defense of traditional territories, and agrarian reform with food security. At sea and along the Atlantic Coast, strong fishing communities that require the sea for survival are threatened by the expansion of oil. A Economia Verde não passará! (The Green Economy will not prevail!)

* BRICS is the acronym for an association of five of the fastest growing economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa

Marcelo Calazans


Marcelo is the director of FASE-ES and a member of Oilwatch Sudamérica, the Environmental Justice Brazilian Network, and the Espirito Santo Forum of those affected by oil and gas. He has worked on carbon trading since the beginning and with rural struggles in Brazil for over 25 years.

“We are against offsets. They are directly associated with the expansion of the current energy development model, which is consumerist and productivist, and designed by State bodies who create this to expand their own power. The Brazilian experience makes it so clear – offsets cannot compensate for violated rights nor point us in a direction towards a positive transition as a civilization.

In the state of Espírito Santo along the Atlantic coast is growing infrastructure for the pre-salt oil. This is also where the expansion of chemical and industrial plantations of fast-growing eucalyptus is located. Offsets do not prevent destruction inside the “sacrifice zones”. Instead, offsets reinforce environmental racism, vulnerablization of life and local economies of thousands of fishing families, farmers, Indigenous Peoples, Quilombolas, precarious workers and urban favelas.

Offsets deepen North-South inequality and environmental injustice in the South at the local level, fragment community ties, demobilize local struggles of resistance, and strengthen corrupt governments. The function of a green market is to create destructive projects. Only a fool, or the very uninformed can still believe in offsets.”

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Ana Cristina Soprani, 31 anos (Farias/Linhares)


(See more from Cristina in Part 5)

Cristina is an industrious farmer and mother of three children who works on her family land in Farias. She and her partner, Elias (see Part 3) are active in the Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores (MPA). Her family has struggled years of repression from the eucalyptus plantations companies and now against the onset of ‘reforestation’ credits for the Brazilian carbon market.

“I was born and raised on this land. My parents came here more or less in the 50s and 60s. They are of Italian descent and first came to the mountainous lands as it was intended at the time: the highlands were for the descendants of Italians, for workers who came to explore; at first the flat lands were not explored. Then they came down from the mountains and by chance came to stop in this flat land region. Then it was still almost all forest and agriculture and worked in a traditional way. Despite bringing some customs of Europe to burn and deforest for planting, they still retained many green areas and native forests. But when Vale do Rio Doce arrived in our region through a company Docemade, it pretended to work with the peasant farmers and encouraged them to sell their lands to the company.

At first they said it would be a great opportunity because they would have money in the bank and with this money they could live a good, long life and they also offered employment to the workers.

Many people sold their lands but others did not want to sell. Those who sold, put the money in the bank, but before long they turned to this employment which only lasted for one year while the company was being built. After they were unemployed and had no more land or money, they were forced to move to the outskirts of cities. Those who resisted here have come under very strong repression from the company. My parents say that the company hired people to say that if they stayed there, they would be blamed for everything that was about to happen with eucalyptus, although the entire area was owned by the company. And they were becoming more isolated. So whatever happened to the company would be blamed on them.

They managed to convince so many farmers to sell their land. Some still have not sold. My family resisted, stood by and did not want to sell the land. As a final strategy by the company, they made ​​an agreement with other farmers so that the properties would be invaded by armed farmers accusing the company of stealing firewood to make charcoal. It was a way to continue pushing the farmers to sell their lands, to have more space for expansion of eucalyptus plantations in the region. To the extent that the company was buying the land, they finally used a D8 tractor with very large chains to destroy the area, they pulled everything down, all of the fruit trees and native trees. Farmers remember it with a lot of heart ache because they had a commitment to that land, and that was all destroyed so that the company could appropriate the land. Today there are few farmers in this region.

The company has a policy of saying they are a “good neighbor”, this is much more external than internal. There “reforestation” projects borders our streams. Inside the territory of the company there are no more streams, they are all dried up, in these places there is no longer any kind of life, except the morbid life of eucalyptus which for us does not produce anything. Vale and Fibria began an environmental policy which stated that they had to plant native tree saplings on the river banks and streams to reforest the small farmers’ areas.

Many are doing this because they know the importance of reforestation and have a conservation area, however there is a very big question at stake because on the company lands many streams have been destroyed and then when it comes to all these legal apparati, with documents to be signed by farmers, we understand that the company uses this for carbon credits, as if the company was doing the work. But the company uses our work, our lands, our labor so that the company can say that it is socially just and environmentally responsible, a thing that historically we know is a lie. Historically the company destroyed, felled trees without any scruples and it is something that they still continue to do. In 2006, on the banks of the stream Jacutinga, the company cleared several hectares of native forest in a preservation area and if it had not been for the region’s farmers, they would have destroyed everything. Farmers came forward and said, “Not another destruction!”

We realized that they have a discourse that is far from reality, including the use of public resources for the benefit of private companies, the use of lands from small farmers who resisted all of the pressure from these companies, and used the good will of the people that were naïve to their plans to say that the company is reforesting and conserving areas for preservation. It’s a lie. Those who do this preservation are the farmers; heroically, bravely, on a mission to produce food as a way of resistance in the countryside.

This policy of ‘offsets’ by the company who is destroying – has deforested, has used tractors to destroy all kinds of life – in order to make way for eucalyptus and then have the nerve to come back and say that in a partnership with Vale, Fibria will reforest areas on our properties, on those who have resisted all of their oppression, is a policy that is such a big lie! Because the whole process of preservation is not being done by the companies, it is being done by the local farmers.

One has to admit that the government still pays these companies to make these compensation [offset] projects. We know that despite the government paying for the saplings and the whole legal process, we know who actually does the work and we are not companies and it is unfair to use it later as if they were credits for these companies to continue polluting, degrading, continue deforesting and taking the life from environments, diversity, to give place to a monoculture. It is very unfair regardless if we are analyzing this from a social, environmental, ecological or human standpoint.”

Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores (MPA)

Valmir Noventa (MPA)


(See more from Valmir in Part 5)

Valmir Noventa is the state coordinator of the Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores (MPA) in Espírito Santo. He is also a successful farmer using agroecology techniques growing pepper corns, fruits, vegetables, small animals and coffee. He also works on the Campanha Permanente Contra os Agrotóxicos e Pela Vida campaign and with La Via Campesina.

“The government of Espírito Santo is developing a program called ‘Water Producers’. They pay a small stipend for small, medium or large farmers (all the same) which preserve their water resources on their properties. What is the purpose behind this? The government wants to ensure quality water for residents of the Greater Victoria urban area. This program is being developed in the mountainous region of the state and that is where the rivers are concentrated which feed Greater Victoria, where most of the population live. But more than that, this program is to ensure water for large industry. This program has nothing to do with environmental restoration and strengthening farmers, it is rather to ensure water for big industry and for the urban population which is mostly middle and upper class. These are programs that do not meet our demands and are geared towards the economic interests of industry, not to the interests of the workers or for the people.”

Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores (MPA)

Daniela Meirelles


Dani has worked with FASE-ES for over 15 years. She has extensive experience fighting for justice and strong relationships with local communities.

“What is on both sides of this “compensatory balance”? Who measures and defines the values? On one side the dizzying expansion of monocultures in all their forms and expressions, and the other biodiversity through its reproductive capacity. Can you support life by compensating it with death? Can what threatens biodiversity at the same time be the balancing counterpart? It sounds very strange. It smells like big business.

But, even more incredible is the plan of the capitalist dictators that have found a way to impose their more fancy value formula. Now they found a humanist tone through offsets. In Brazil there is no lack of political institutional mechanisms to make these contraptions work at any cost. Financing electoral candidates, changing the Forest and Mineral Codes [Brazilian forest and mining laws], creating a requirement for land owners through the Rural Environmental Registry, reducing production and environmental conservation to Payment for Environmental Services (PES), water offsets, loss of rights of traditional peoples and local communities, restricting the production and reproduction of seeds, criminalization of resistance, and many more devices; Meanwhile inequalities deepen.

Offsets are the relationship of dependence and domination from “compensator” with the “compensated”, by taking away all productive autonomy, local and traditional culture and replacing it with a financial element – as always. What a waste!”

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