Keywords: biodiversity, Brazil, economic development, economics, tropical forests, tropics, biotic wealth, economic wealth, environmental issues
Polarisation of biotic and economic wealth: the world, the tropics, and Brazil
Economic wealth is concentrated in a few countries in the temperate region. Biotic wealth, as expressed in the diversity of plant and animal species, is concentrated in a few tropical countries. The polarisation of economic and biological wealth creates disparate realities and aspirations for those concerned in developed countries about conservation and for the vast majority of people in tropical countries. Capital is scarce in the tropics, and tropical countries, such as Brazil, exploit their lands using techniques that consume natural rather than financial capital. In Brazil this exploitation assumes great proportions, sustained politically by the combination of a large market economy, internal polarisation of income distribution, and international commercial and financial difficulties. The preservation of tropical forests and their functions represent the immobilization of a production factor in the tropical countries. Such immobilisation is not among the priorities of tropical populations, in spite of its growing popularity among richer countries. Recognition of these differences in priority is an essential first step; the second is to define mechanisms in which the aspirations of those wealthy economically and those wealthy biologically can be harmonised.