This article in The Economist deserves praise for, if nothing else, a comprehensive view of the issues involving the Amazon and the debate over methods to protect while developing it in a sustainable fashion. There is some good news:
This is why many environmentalists now argue that the only way to fix the problem is to give people who live at the frontier something more profitable to do. The government has begun to change the region’s economies. Since July last year farmers without titles to their land are supposed to be denied access to subsidised credit, though this too is hard to enforce.
Efforts to commercialise forest products, from Amazon river fish to oils for use in cosmetics, are also under way. Amigos da Terra, in a study of these businesses, finds them to be profitable when they form clusters and turn out finished products. “I am convinced that in 20 years we will have a viable forest economy,” says Mr Smeraldi. “Only by then we will have lost a lot of forest.”
There are also ongoing causes for concern:
However unpalatable road-building is, it may be needed if the people who live in the Amazon are to lead a better life. “The Everglades are very beautiful, but America did rule out building roads through them to connect Miami with other parts of Florida,” says Mr Minev of Amazonas state. The government now knows how to build roads without unleashing the loggers, he argues. Amazonas has recently signed an agreement creating nature reserves on either side of the BR-319, which runs from Manaus to Porto Velho. The road will help to integrate Manaus into the rest of the country’s economy. When the Zona Franca was established in 1967, it took 15-20 days to get goods to consumers in São Paulo, in the country’s south-east. It takes the same amount of time today.
This is as succinct an analysis of the struggle as there is. As the article notes, people were encouraged to move to the Amazon by the Brazilian government and the World Bank, amongst others. It isn't feasible to mandate their departure, nor frankly, is it fair. Their impact on the land can, however, be mitigated. I have been skeptical of Lula in the past on the environment and remain so. If he can pull this off - or at least get the process started - it will be a major plus for his environmental record.