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The Issue of Vicious Circle of Poverty in Brazil Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 6th, 2022

Introduction

Poverty is a global problem that is entrenched in many developing countries since many of the citizens in such countries live below the poverty line. According to Katel, Kregel, and Reinert (2009, p. 102), the vicious circle of poverty is “a circular constellation of forces that tend to act and react on each other in such a way that the country in poverty maintains its poor state”. This definition comes from the knowledge that poverty is persistent.

The persistence of poverty, regardless of the many shocks that every state receives in the normal course of its survival, raises the feeling that underdevelopment is a condition of equilibrium and that there are pressures at work that tend to reinstate the equilibrium whenever there is a small uproar. The word equilibrium is used to describe this state since once there, the economy has a propensity to stay there, as small shocks do not upset it. It is this idea that gives birth to the notion of a vicious cycle. This paper discusses main environmental issues in Brazil, environment-poverty linkages, main environmental policies in Brazil, and the Brazilian economy. Each of these points is discussed in the context of environment and poverty in Brazil.

Aspects of Socio-physical development
Aspects of Socio-physical development.

Main Environmental Issues

Brazil experiences several environmental problems due to its large geographical size and different economic and social practices. Main environmental issues in Brazil include deforestation, biodiversity, land usage; air pollution, and waste and sewage disposal.

Deforestation in Brazil dates back 3900 years (Jain& Sen, 2009). The main affected areas include the Atlantic forest and the Amazon rainforest (fearnside & barbosa, 1996). Deforestation in Amazon causes floods. As an environmental issue, deforestation has aspects that make it both easy and difficult to resolve. Deforestation is one of the urgent, graphic, media-friendly environmental issues. The exotic features of human and animal inhabitants, extensive flames of forest fires, and stark destruction of a clear-cut forest all demonstrate that deforestation is an issue necessitating immediate action. Most Brazilian residents feel that deforestation is the leading environmental problem in the country (Weidner, 2002).

Previous analysis on causes of deforestation shows that the Brazilian government promoted this activity, although contemporary research shows that deforestation is a result of economic forces (Jain& Sen, 2009). Apparently, the issue of deforestation cannot be complete without debates about suitable land use. Agrarian reforms, agricultural expansion, and real estate speculation have led to the current high rates of deforestation in the Atlantic nations and Amazon (Salati, 2007). Brazil’s problems with defining suitable uses of its natural environment do not arise from any quantitative gauge of overpopulation for its landmass (Weidner, 2002). Rather, historical injustices such as unequal distribution of land play a major part in environmental degradation.

Brazil’s vast and medium-sized cities have poor air quality due to pollution. The problem displays the other, urban face of Brazil’s dual economy. For a long time, the Brazilian government led a grand program of industrialization, which changed the country’s economic model from a local, primary-production nation to one of the leading economic organizations in the world, with a well-built foundation in industrial production. However, one measure of the failure of this structure is its long-term legacy of industrial pollution.

Currently, the ongoing poor quality of air in Brazil’s large cities is due to the transportation segment, and not the industry. Back in 1993, a law was put in place to auto emissions, and up to date, eight urban regions regularly check their air quality. Later in 1994, Sao Paulo’s state secretary of the environment instituted an annual rotation of cars aimed at controlling traffic in the winter season when thermal inversions are prevalent. Despite such measures, vehicle-based emissions are still on the rise.

Many poor Brazilians also experience a problem in waste disposal as they lack connections to the sewage systems. The Brazilian government estimates that of the 113 million citizens who live in metropolitan areas, 20 million lack running water, 75 million do not have sewage treatment and 60 million stays with uncollected garbage. Brazil segments people in classes when it comes to access to basic sanitation services (Laurance & Fearnside, 2002). In the recent past, there has been a stable but gradually growing sanitary coverage of the Brazilian residents. Nevertheless, Brazil’s city administrations dispose of these wastes poorly, even after collecting them. Rather than recycling collected wastes, these administrators just take the garbage and direct sewages to less visible areas. When floods come, people suffer from waterborne diseases due to improper waste management, and the poverty cycle continues.

Environment-Poverty Linkages

Environment-poverty associations depend on how underprivileged people interact with the natural resource base. For apparent reasons, poor citizens have more exposure to air and water pollution as well as other forms of urban congestion because they tend to reside in more polluted and harsh environments. Besides, poor people are more susceptible since they lack sufficient funds for protecting themselves from the effects of pollution or getting treatment immediately. The fact is that the poor usually use and benefit less from the materials, products and services that create the greatest pollution and overcrowding.

Most Brazil citizens have low levels of income and this contributes to the absence of essential services for a large portion of the population. However, those that have high-income levels are the leading contributors to automobile and land degradation created by large amounts of garbage. Several diseases and accidents are environmental effects of a great agglomeration of the underprivileged. The relationship between environmental degradation and poverty has not received stress in the investigation of environmental problems in developing countries. This may be because developed states found solutions to similar problems many years ago.

Environmental challenges have various effects on humans that aggravate the vicious circle of poverty in Brazil. First, the country experiences water pollution. Damages caused by water pollution include poor human health due to exposure to diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid, or parasitic infection as well as economic costs such as loss of local livelihoods dependent on waterways. The floods as well bring about water pollution that in turn causes the above challenges.

Deforestation is common in Brazil and it is caused by human activities to occupy forest land. Deforestation has affected climatic patterns and agricultural activities. The agricultural activities such as farming done on cleared forest land are not productive enough since they are done on a small scale. This only increases poverty since climatic conditions change resulting in reduced output for many farmers. In addition, the international pricing system does not favor coffee farmers in Brazil.

Policies and Government and how it is linked to the Environmental Issues and Poverty

In the 1970s, Brazil realized that environmental degradation and pollution were necessary for development. In 1973, the Brazilian government created the Special Secretariat for the Environment (SEMA) as an agency of the interior ministry (Baer, 2001; Diniz, 2001). The core task of SEMA was to institute standards for environmental fortification and to control some of the extremes of the product segment. In 1975, the state of Sao Paulo formed its environmental union called State Company for Technology of Basic Sanitation and Pollution Control (CETESB) and at the same time, Rio de Janeiro formed the State Foundation of Environmental Engineering (FEEMA).

These later became the two most vigorous organizations in Brazil concerned with the environment. In 1981, the National Policy for the Environment (NPE) came into being following the enactment of law 6938 (Baer, 2001). This framework prearranged and integrated already existing standards, thus establishing a reliable legal structure. The framework has been guiding environmental practices in the country since then, with slight modifications. Its purpose is to encourage preservation, recovery and enhancement of environmental quality in a mode that is steady with economic expansion and national security.

In addition, Brazil has initiated many programs such as the Pluriannual programs. They include Brasil em Acao which lasted from 1996 to 1999, the Avanca Brasil that succeeded the former program between 2000 and 2003 and “the Plan for the Acceleration of Growth” which was established in 2008 and lasted until 2011. These programs established by the government are necessary for reducing environmental impacts on the country while enabling the country to attain sustainable development (Gunderson & Holling, 2002).

Brazil Economy and how it is Connected to Environmental Issues, Poverty and Institutions

One-third of the Brazilian population is poor and approximately half of this population lives in metropolitan areas. Environmental dilapidation in Brazil occurs due to the country’s uneven growth and distribution of resources. That is, the country distributes the income generated by development unevenly. As a result, only a small fraction of the population, the top 10% of the income groups, has access to a great portion of the country’s resources. On the other hand, a large segment of the population resides in inadequate regions and does not have access to sufficient health and sanitation services.

Therefore, the poor people dump their wastes into the environment and this causes degradation. Besides, uneven development makes the urban poor focus on the inadequate urban space, which results in environmental dilapidation. Since most poor people reside in illegal areas, exterior to the areas regularly zoned by city administrations, they have unstable urban infrastructure like drainage systems and roads, insufficient or nonexistent-piped water, garbage collection systems and sewage services.

Conclusion and Suggestions

In conclusion, Brazil has tried to solve its environmental problems but in vain. Although the country has had many bodies and policies to check environmental issues, the problem of degradation has been persistent. For instance, a law was put in place to control auto emissions and Sao Paulo’s state secretary of the environment instituted an annual rotation of cars aimed at controlling traffic in the winter season when thermal inversions are prevalent.

However, up to date, the ongoing poor quality of air in Brazil’s large cities is due to the transportation segment. Besides, vehicle-based emissions are still on the rise despite such measures. This proves that poverty is a vicious cycle. Regardless of the many steps that the country seems to adapt in efforts to control environmental issues, none of them seems to prosper. This raises the feeling that underdevelopment is a condition of equilibrium and that there are pressures at work that tend to reinstate the equilibrium whenever there is a small uproar.

Another illustration of poverty as a vicious cycle is whereby poor citizens get exposure to air and water pollution as well as other forms of urban congestion because they tend to reside in more polluted and harsh environments. Due to these conditions, poor people are more susceptible to diseases and when they become sick, they cannot afford treatment. This situation conforms to the definition of the vicious circle of poverty since environmental problems, as well as economic forces, act on the poor Brazilians making the country maintain its poor state.

In my opinion, Brazil’s environmental management should take an integrated approach. This should involve integrating environmental activities with activities in other segments. Integrating sector policies and environmental policies may be the single most essential short-term plan that environmental agencies at all ranks in Brazil could pursue. At the civic level, this could include upgrading transport and urban services planning to cut down urban congestion, sprawl and air pollution. Such mainstreaming or integration requires that all stakeholders obtain sufficient information, such as private agents who may willingly collaborate with an understanding of environmental regulations and susceptible populations such as the urban poor, who may gain most from suitable environmental policies.

References

Baer, W. (2001). The Brazilian economy: Growth and development. Westport, Conn: Praeger.

Diniz, E. (2001). Some aspects of the environmental policy in Brazil. Web.

Fearnside, P. & Barbosa, R. (1996). Political benefits as barriers to assessment of environmental costs in Brazil’s Amazonian development planning: The example of the Jatapu Dam in Roraima. Environmental Management, 20(5), 615-630.

Gunderson, L. &Holling, C. (2002). Panarchy Synopsis: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Jain, T. & Sen, K. (2009). Development and Environmental Economics and International Trade. London: FK Publications.

Katel, R., Kregel, J. & Reinert, E. (2009). Ragnar Nurkse: Trade and Development. London: Anthem Press.

Laurance, W. & Fearnside, P. (2002). Issues in Amazonian development. Science, 295, 1643.

Salati, E. (2007). Relevant environmental issues. Estudos Avancados, 21(56), 107-127.

Weidner, H. (2002). Capacity building in national environmental policy: A comparative study of 17 countries. Berlin: Springer.

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