The law of unintended consequences strikes again. A Sweden-born, wealthy British resident shoveled out less than 8% of his fortune to buy a Brazilian forest. Banishing all lumbering he intends to preserve it.
As a result of the deal, a lumber mill that employed as many as 1,000 people closed in the town of Itacoatiara in northwest Brazil, increasing hardship in an already economically depressed region.
The closure has pitched Eliasch into a debate about how rich countries can help preserve tropical rainforests while considering the livelihoods of people who live and work in them. Some local environmentalists have accused him of dabbling in "green colonialism". "What he is doing is valid in terms of preservation but you cannot let people go hungry," said Lelio Moreira, who works at the local radio station, Panorama Itacoatiara.
"There has to be some kind of help for locals hurt by this. Now, with the lack of jobs, violence is increasing and because fathers cannot afford to look after their families we also have a growing problem with child prostitution."
Joao Manuel Figueira, a municipal employee, added: "The impact of the plant's closure has been harsh. The local shops are feeling the knock-on effects with a drop in sales. We know the environment is important and deforestation is a problem. But knocking all the forest down is one thing. Taking out mature wood is another."
Is this eco colonialism? Shouldn't the Brazilian government make a decision on the best use of its land for its people or do the alleged world wide effects of the lack of trees in this region override this concern? And what about the increase in the price of raw materials that will result in price increases all around? What are the widespread consequences of prohibiting coal burning, oil exploration or of turning grassland into crop land and now into suburbs? Many voices need to be heard; not just those who consider the world a frozen fossil museum for their own personal enjoyment.