Brazil and the Battle Against Deforestation: A Short History

5 May 2014

Dalton Valeriano rolled into Brazil's space agency in frayed jeans and a casual blue polo around 10 a.m. After a few pleasantries he sat me down in a small conference room and set the stage for the project that has consumed his life for more than a decade.

"The whole thing starts a very very long time ago..."

Valeriano leads the satellite-monitoring program at the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) north of Sao Paulo, and it is his job to maintain a record of annual deforestation in the Amazon that dates back to 1988. His team also issues the daily deforestation alerts that law enforcement officers use to track down criminals who are busy cutting down protected rainforest.

Before delving into his own work, Valeriano switched on a projector and commenced with a brief history of the Amazon. Soon enough we were reviewing the papal edicts, treaties and disputes that have guided, if not governed, the settlement of the Amazon by Europeans.

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