1 - The field of Brazilian
The eve and somewhat great expectation of UNCED and its preparatory years encouraged
the creation of a Brazilian coalition of environmental and social activists to organize
and perform civil society participation in it: trade-unionists, people affected by dams,
amazonian rubber tappers, associations of urban dwellers, activists from black movement,
feminist and women movements, indigenous activists plus environmentalists, all sat
together from 1990 to 1992 and settled an alliance in a Forum called "Brazilian Forum
of NGOs and Social Movements on Environment and Development". Their common aims were
to strenghten popular segments of brazilian civil society, by building up their own
message and points of view on environmental and developmental issues. This Brazilian Forum
not only appointed as its antagonists the government, maint to be the State, whose
approaches and practices toward development and environment were deeply criticized, but
also "bourgeois businessmen" who had initially entitled themselves as
representatives of Brazilian environment abroad. By that time a dispute arose concerning
who was and who was not part and so representative of civil society.
The boarding members of Brazilian Forum were very proud of the uniqueness of it. Some
of them traveled to other countries of Latin America, for interchange of experiences, and
went back with the convinction that the coalition they had been building through the Forum
was really unique, cause nothing similar had been found abroad. Hochstetler (1995) in her
comparative study on environmentalism in Brazil and Venezuela also stressed this point.
So, given such diversity of social actors, Brazilian Forum was a nice spot to study the
so-called popular, organized segment of Brazilian civil society in its efforts for
empowerment. Brazilian Forum was not a pool of environmentalists or even other citizens'
movements only, but a mix of them with institutes of researches and voluntary
developmental agencies sponsored by foreign international solidarity. What did they
struggle for? Which kind of criticism had they against the points of view of brazilian
official environmental agencies?
Citizenship and democracy were their motto. Their criticism was addressed against
"an international economic model which has been drawing to an absurd concentration of
wealth, while condemning the whole majority to misery" (Forum das ONGs, 1992, 13).
According to the Braziliam Forum, the depletion of natural resources had the same causes
which were responsible for social unequalities, lack of democracy and education as well as
for Brazilian external debt. In order to transform this evil model and to create a
democratic society, less unequal and ecologically sustainable, an agenda of 23 points was
1 - an effective international cooperation, based on a new pattern of relationship
between nature and human beings, women and men;
2 - redefinition of Brazilian role in international context, elimination of unequalities,
the rise of the population to real citizenship and democracy;
3 - the dependence of the payment of Brazilian external debt to a deep investigation on
4 - a new energetic model, based upon decentralization of production; alternative sources
of energy and consumption democratization;
5 - a criterious reform of brazilian nuclear program, afeter public hearings;
6 - sustainable explotation of Brazilian mineral resources;
7 - creation of national policies for fresh water supply;
8 - defence of biodiversity, with the encouragement of scientific researches to improve
its knowledge, always addressing the welfare of the people;
9 - adequate and specific treatment to each of of the Brazilian ecosystems (Amazônia in
the north; Cerrado in the center-west; Mata Atlântica in the southeast, part of the
northeast and south; Caatinga in the northeast; Pampas in the south), adequating nature's
conservancy to the improvements of the quality of life of local populations;
10 - agrarian reform and agrarian policies addressed to small domestic production and to
the nutrition needs of the people, encouraging the use of soft technologies;
11 - fisheries policies addressed to handcraft fisheries;
12 - redefiniton of Brazilian industrial model, encouraging consumption of popular
commodities and the use of soft technologies in order to create employment, redistribute
revenues and enlarge internal market;
13 - urban reform based on 3 issues: the social function of property; right to citizenship
and to democratic management of the cities;
14 - health and sanitation policies to urban and rural human settlements;
15 - assurance of accessibility to contraception methods and assistance to reproductive
health, as well as respecting free individual choices;
16 - priority of investments on education, science and technology;
17 - promotion of environmental education at all levels;
18 - democratization of mass comunication and mass media;
19 - struggle against racism;
20 - definition of the boundaries of indigenous land;
21 - definition of extractivist reserves, settlement of small land owners, solution to the
survival of poor stone prospectors;
22 - accessibility of NGos and social movements to official studies and researches
concerning public interest;
23 - full participation of NGOs and social movements, while expression of civil society,
in any discussion and decision arenas on environment and development. (Forum das ONGs,
How far indeed and how divergent were these points to the preliminar version of the
official national report which detailed Brazilian social-environmental diagnosis (CIMA,
1991)? We can consider that the official report was less propositive, but the analysis was
quite the same. It couldn't be otherwise, cause the list of consultants and contributors
to CIMA's study showed points of intersection with the world of Brazilian civil society.
Although activists of the Brazilian Forum liked to stress their differences towards the
official points of view on development and environment, substantive boundaries were
blurred and what merged as different was more a matter of procedures, cause social
movements and non-government organisms have, of course, to put things more bluntly in
order to take position inside the political arena.
On the other hand, how homogenous was the Forum internally? How far the ideas and
ideals of those 23 points shown above were really shared by each participant? Although
some differences would appear on certain issues (see Part 3), the set of beliefs of the
Forum tended to homegeneity. Their internal differences and quarrels were much more a
matter of different degrees of organization than on differences of points of view..
Instead of approaching Brazilian Forum as expression of a single homogeneous movement,
I'd rather call it, according to Bourdieu (1984), the field of ecologism, a place/net
where different actors environmentally concerned not only shared ideas, ideals, aims,
strategies and habitus, but also competed for symbolic, financial, cultural and social
capital. What puzzled me then was the eagerness to participate, the political interest of
those activists. How to explain such zest in a country where apoliticism, apathy,
non-participation, misinformation and indifference seemed to be the rule? The entities
affiliated to the Forum where about 935; let us optmistically suppose that each one would
work with an average of 100 activists (the average were under 20, in fact) and we find
93,500 people directly concerned. What did they really mean in a country of 94 million
voters? What moved the people of that Forum in comparison to those unmoved 94 million
people? And why all that enthousiasm would be vanished so soon?
2 - The research
My conclusions about the field of ecologism in Brazil are based in interviews with 65
leaders and activists of the Brazilian Forum, plus participation in and follow-up of 9
national meetings held from 1990 to 1992. My analysis also came from a survey of 935
questionaires applied to entities affiliated by the end of 1992 (185 were sent back and
182 analyzed). These questionaries were divided in three parts: 1) profile of activists
and directors; 2) level of organization of entities; 3) political values and ideas of
activists. This third part was based in a group of 49 general sentences to which
respondents were invited to show their level of agreement/disagreement. Some cluster of
sentences were chosen afterwards to try to measure opinions and values concerning human or
ecocentrism, capitalist or socialist values, democratic or authoritarian beliefs, estatism
or anti-estatism, rational or romantical trends, malthusianist and aristocratical values:
humancentrism is understood as an attitude opposed to ecocentrism, so humancentrism is
connected to a belief in the priority of human-beings in relation to nature; capitalist
propensity is a general faith toward technology as an environmental saver, connected to a
defense of progress, profit, businessmen, plus the idea that blames the poor for
environmental problems; socialist trend has to do with a critical attitude toward
capitalists, against debt swap, plus disagreement with the idea that capitalist x
communist contradiction is surpassed; authoritarianism is defined as the propensity to
accept a system of values based on a strong power of a few over the majority, including
legitimacy of these few towards deciding about what concerns individual lives of majority;
anti-estatism has to do with an anarchistic, transnational attitude often appointed by
analists (Porritt, 1989; Viola, 1987) as deep related to environmentalists; rationalism is
connected with modern society paradigm (set of beliefs in national sovereignty, defense of
national territories and armies, parlaments, system of political parties, trust in
scientific knowledge, laws and so on); romanticism is understood as a belief that
subordinated etnicities and social categories - indigenous, black, women, youth - would
become agents of a new ecological ethos; malthusianism is a propensity to believe that the
main source of environment problem is a population surplus; aristocratism or elitism is
understood as the propensity to believe in the effectiveness of actions and decisions of a
competent few better men, than in effectiveness of a larger amount of people.
3 - The analysis
The profile of leaders (directors) and militants on Brazilian Forum's entities can be
described as follows: leaders were male (83,3%), about 24 to 45 years old (63,3%). Answer
to the causes and motivation to political participation was found in their high levels of
education: 80,74% of leaders and directors of entities and 57,5% of activists in general
had advanced education. The average level of earnings of activists were about 5 to 15
minimum salary (national minimum salary was then about US$ 70.00 a month). Earnings and
educational levels helped me to locate these activists high above brazilian population in
general, whose average level of education is 3,9 years of schooling and whose revenues are
2 minimum salary in average (IBGE). Teachers, professors, researchers of natural and
social sciences, as well as university students prevailed among activists of Braziliam
field of ecologism. If one takes into consideration that 9% of Brazilian voters are
illiterate and 26% of them half-illiterate (TSE, 1994), one can easily see how scarcely
representative of popular segments these activists really were.
A low level of organizanization/institutionalization was found: only 22,8% of entities
defined themselves as having a high score of organization (to have registered statutes,
headquarters, phone, fax, budget, personnel and so on). Among the most institutionalized I
found voluntary developmental agencies sponsored by foreign international solidarity,
which are NGOs that advice and encourage popular empowerment, while 49,37% of answers
appointed to informality and an annual budget lower than 1001 dollars. Entities were
generally young: 52% had been created from 1986 to 1992. People affiliated were also
low, less than 60 and even lesser activists (20).
Brazilian Forum had a predominant identification with leftist parties: 37,32% of
answers appointed to workers' and socialist parties such as PT, PDT, PSB, PPS and PC do B,
while 32,41% didn't answer; 9,88% defined themselves as apoliticeans and only 3,8 showed
proximity to PV, brazilian green party.
As to set of beliefs, Brazilian Forum was strongly humancentered (36,12%), indifferent
to malthusianism (30,96%), agreeded in minimum levels to capitalist set of beliefs
(30,96%) and showed moderate agreement towars socialist values (27,27%). Democratic
beliefs had strong level of agreement (26,62%), while authoritarianism reached extremely
strong level of disagreement (28,38%); Brazilian Forum was indifferent to
aristocratic/elistist issues, showed moderate disagreement towards beliefs against State
(24,02%), as well as moderate agreement to set of beliefs in modern rationality (30,76%).
Brazilian Forum showed strong disagreement toward romanticism.
Discriminating social and environmental activists some slight differences arose: social
activists tended to agree strongerly to socialist beliefs, while environmentalits agreeded
only moderately; social activists agreeded also strongly to democratic beliefs, while
environmentalists agreeded moderately. Environmentalists showed strong disagreement toward
authoritarian beliefs, while social activists showed extremely strong disagreement.
Agreement toward set of beliefs in modern rationality was moderate among social activists
and minimal among environmentalists.
In spite of a low level of organization and small number of activists, the entities of
Brazilian Form thought to be somewhat influential in some public policies: 38% declared to
be highly influential about creation of UC (unity of conservation, that is green reserves
or parks); 35% appointed to a medium influence on rational management of eco-systems; low
levels of influence were mentioned to agriculture and urban planning policies, while no
influence at all was appointed to salarial, transportation and welfare policies. The main
points of their ecological agenda were defense of eco-systems, improvements in urban
built-in environment (such as sanitation), struggle for general and environmental
education, for land acessibility and in defense of extractivists.
A strait proximity to State organism was found: 67,2% of the entities of Brazilian
Forum declared that they had directors who also belonged to State organisms; 29,5% of
directors earned their livings in State organisms at the moment of the survey; 59,5% of
entities had a seat in county councils, 31% in municipal councils and 9,5% in federal
4 - Common Citizens, Supercitizens or Heroes?
Brazilian political scene where the Brazilian Forum of NGOs and Social Movements
operated can still be described as an oligarchic democracy where people exercize only a
formal, "half", "almost" citizenship, while, inside the field of
Ecologism, a middle class intelligentsia either exercize heroism - a sort of heroic,
super-citizenship - or "estadania" (a neologism created by Carvalho to make
reference to the exercize of citizenship by those who belonged to the State apparatus
during the change from Empire to Brazilian Old Republic (Carvalho, 1988).
In his introduction to Hegelian thought, Hartman (1990) emphasized four human profiles
in Hegel: the victim, the individual, the citizen and the hero. The victim would be the
ordinary human beings, tied to their everyday lives, those who don't make history, but
just suffer its consequences. The individual is the subject of bourgeois society, limited
to the sphere of private, economic interests. The citizen is the rational human being,
whose freedom and rationality only exists within the State, the political society. The
motivation of the citizen is not private, particular interests, but the common good. The
hero is the historical human being, the one who represents the Spirit and sees the truth
of his/her time and world.
Brandão, the Brazilian helenist (Brandão, 1987) described the archetype of the hero
as a guardian, a warrior, someone whose life develops in the "age of the
beginnings", in a frontier between two worlds. The hero has timé, that is, honor and
areté, excellence. He goes out from where he was born, fights against fabulous powers,
draws the support of others to his tasks, comes back to his people and founds
institutions, laws, places, freeing people from evil, bandits and monsters. The hero is
the archetype of change, a mixture of strength and weakness. In the field of Brazilian
"ecologism" we could mention several names. Some were killed, fulfilling the
tragic destiny of heroes, like Chico Mendes - the well-known labour leader and rubber
tapper who was murdered in Amazonia in 1988 - and many others throughout the country;
others, like Betinho (Herbert de Souza, a famous Brazilian sociologist/activist and leader
from the NGO Ibase) are former exiled Brazilians, who gained support abroad to come back
and found institutions and social movements that work for the empowerment of the popular
Betinho remembered the resistance against the military dictatorship as an heroic task:
"The dominant sector of the Brazilian elites didn't want to leave their fantastic
privileges, so they raised their flags against communism, inflation, corruption. They
gained the middle class, always scared of the people, and did the coup d'état. The
dominant groups used the freedom that only existed for them and did their neoliberal
reforms. Brazil was a pioneer in neoliberalism, all the power to the private interests and
to the market, although through the hands of the State. ...The empire of the Economy, the
reign of injustice, the negation of citizenship... The resistance against this was a
beautiful story... a fight of the students in the streets, cultural struggles in the
teathers, in the lyrics of popular music, Clandestine fights, with torture, despair,
deaths, heroism and madness (...) (Souza, Herbert, "Pinochet was born in
Brazil". Jornal do Brasil, 26/3/94)
Betinho also realized that this struggle for a better world and for the empowerment of
the popular segments might not be carried by the popular human being, because to create a
new world was a kind of an heroic task that belonged to the few men/women who were free:
"Thinking, planning a new world doesn't mean to reverse the old, but to propose a
new world. So, to be popular is not a sufficient condition to oppose Capital...The
dominated human being may not be able to invent, to create a world where there is no
domination, he/she may not be able to propose democracy, since democracy is not created by
domination, but by freedom." (Souza, 1987: 28)
The task of changing the world and building an utopia was always attached to an
historical dilemma: who does in fact build it, everybody or only the better men?
Democratically or as a task of the most capable? Political Philosophy and Sociology have
been dealing with this dilemma for ages: it began with Plato and his model of a Polis
governed by the philosopher king, then it included Lenin's and Rosa Luxemburg's debate on
mass participation in the Russian Social-Democratic Party and finally it ended in the
tragic iron law of oligarchy of Michels (1972), according to whom the destiny of even the
most democratic organization is oligarchy. Nowadays the moral task of intelectuals and
their urge for a rational organization of the social world are stressed by Bauman (1987).
According to Bauman, the project of modernity has failed, because the public sphere has
become subordinated to the private sphere, under the hegemony of the market. It is high
time to retake the discourse of redemption of modernity and of Iluminism. That would be
the task of intellectuals, that is, scientists, politicians, writers, artists,
philosophers, lawyers, architects, engineers etc., all those who are distinguished from
the rest of the population by means of their level of instruction and who have similar
rights and duties, the most important of them the right to address the nation invoking
In Brazil, environmental and social activists are among these highly educated people,
these intellectuals appointed by Bauman, who have indeed criticized modernity, at least
this façade of modernity. Should it be their privileged task to propose a new world? Are
they destined to be heroes with a mission or common citizens?
Any directory on social indicators points out what the naked eye easily observe in
Brazilian territory: poverty and an extremely unfair distribution of education and income
in the country, as shown in Tables 3, 4 and 5. Brazilian Sociology and Political Science
have also stressed the limited boundaries of our citizenship, referred to as
"regulated citizenship" (Santos, 1979), "estadania" (Carvalho, 1988),
"half citizenship", "almost citizenship", "incomplete
citizenship" (Weffort, 1991). Thus, it makes sense that full citizenship and the
fight against poverty have become banners of Brazilian social movements, even
environmental ones. Civil, political and social rights, although present in constitutional
texts, as well as in ordinary laws and governmental institutions, are still much more
formal than real, owing to poverty.
Table 3- Years of schooling of
Brazilian heads of households, by geographic regions (1991):
1 - 3
4 - 7 years
8 - 10 years
11 - 14 years
15 years and more
Demographic Census, IBGE, RJ, 1991 - Vol 1, Table 3.3, p. 209
Table 4 - Years of schooling of
Brazilian heads of households (1991):
Years of Schooling
1 - 3 years
4 - 7 years
8 - 10 years
11 - 14 years
15 years and more
Source: Demographic Census, IBGE, RJ,
1991 - Vol 1, Table 3.3, p. 209
Table 5 - Monthly Income of Working
Population (PEA) in Brazil in 1990 (%):
Up to one minimum salary
More than 1 m.s. up to 2
m.s. (US$ 65.00 - US$ 130.00)
More than 2 m.s. up to 3
m.s. (US$ 130.00 - US$ 195.00)
More than 3 m.s. up to 5
m.s. (US$ 195.00 - US$ 325.00)
More than 5 m.s. up to 10
m.a. (US$ 325.00 - US$ 650.00)
More than 10 m.s. up to 20
m.s. (US$ 650.00 - US$1,300.00)
Above 20 m.s. (US$
Source:IBGE, Statistical Annuals, Rio
de Janeiro, 1992 (based on PNAD 1990)
* U$ 65.00 corresponded to Cr$ 36.161,60, a
minimum salary in 1991. Today, 1995, this minimum salary was raised to U$ 90.00.
Brazilian GNP, which has raised from 3.8 billion dollars in 1900 to 66.69 in 1960 and
425,412 billion dollars in 1992, has not been more equally shared by the population: in
1992, the richiest 10% of Brazilian population earned 48.1 % of the national income;
52.7 % of the entire population earned less than 2 minimal salaries a month, that is, less
than US$ 130.00. This scenery of unequalities allowed me to define Brazil as an
aristocratic society (Tocqueville, 1981), where the vast majority of people try to answer
their own needs and solve their problems by means of vertical vassal bonds to their
bosses, local populist politicians, landowners and even urban outlaw chiefs rather than by
means of horizontal ties, through associativism, trade-unions, etc. Some succeeded in
getting the State to provide them school, health and social benefits, though at very poor
levels. Given such unequalities, it sounds logical that full, active citizenship has
become an exception.
Leaders of the Brazilian Forum of NGOs and Social Movements were mainly advisers of
Social Movements working in Developmental NGOs, State technicians, teachers and
professors, advisers of federal and local deputies etc., with a profile of middle class
strata, as it is usually called. These narrow strata, as shown above, do not represent the
average position of Brazilian society. The politically central role of these narrow strata
was stressed by Touraine (1989) and by Oliveira (1988), though: Touraine compared the
Latinamerican middle class to the Russian intelligentsia of the nineteenth century and
Oliveira mentioned the role of the Brazilian middle class as technobureaucrats of the
State. The central role of these strata is due to their role of mediator between a more or
less modern oligarchy and a mass of excluded people.
According to the literature about New Social Movements (Habermas, 1981; Touraine, 1984;
Feher & Heller, 1984; Galtung, 1986; Eder, 1982; Laclau, 1986; Sherer-Warren, 1993)
and about Environmental Movements (Lowe & Rudig , 1986), these new social actors are
defined as middle class, although not inspired by class struggle: they would rather come
from devaluated categories (ethnicities, women, youth) and their activities go beyond
classes and so should not be explained by class analysis. I argue that in Brazil, this so
called middle-class, this movement of a cultural elite, can still be better understood
through the lenses of class analysis: a social segment that, because of its conscience and
expertise acts and speaks in place, in the name and on behalf of the others, facing
oligarchies by means of heroism, supercitizenship and occupying niches inside the State
The discourse of the Brazilian Forum was in favour of full citizenship, an alternative
and more human model of development, refusing neo-liberal policies that produce misery and
distress and get rid of the wretched people thus created. The Braziliam Forum was an
historical movement, according to Touraine's category (Touraine, 1989: 287), in its search
for citizenship, national conscience and in its characteristic of being addresssed to the
State and having the participation of several ethnicities and different movements.
In Latin America, such historical movements had a profile of moral protest, making
claims against poverty and exclusion. Touraine discards the hypothesis of seeing them as a
super-proletariat; they are not able to perform any revolutionary mission, because they
are a paradox of participation by means of exclusion. The Brazilian Forum was a movement
still in search of an identity, whose discourse was addressed to the State, an instance at
the same time antagonistic and also rescuer.
Brazilian activists have criticized the State, have struggled against it and yet have
asked for financial support from federal and local governments. Was it a contradiction?
During its ninth National Encounter, the Brazilian Forum discussed how to face a
financial crisis on the eve of UNCED. After a representative reported difficulties and
efforts to secure financial support from the federal government, some activists from the
"floor" spoke about their shame and sadness to realize that an NGO and social
movement Forum asked for money from the very government which has been responsible for
social wretchedness and environmental depletion.
Answering them back, the leader J. P. said that to be independent from governments is
different from demanding money from them and stressed the necessity of democratizing the
"What is the State? A machine for whom? We need to democratize the State, to
demand resources in favour of society. We are to demand this because we are legitimate
representatives of society." (Belo Horizonte, May, 1992)
Later on, he added:
"It is strange, to some people, that the Brazilian Forum had its headquarters in
an official space, Catete Palace, Republic Museum. How could that be, NGOs in the shade of
State? No, the correct dimension of this fact is to understand that, at the end of this
century, organized citizens do represent the other face of res publica." ( A ONG do
Catete, in Jornal do Brasil, 11/8/92)
Brazilian Sociology has developed several debates about how real, how strong and how
alive Brazilian civil society effectively was (Kowarick, 1979; Boschi, 1987;
Sherer-Warren, 1993; Weffort, 1984, etc.). New discourses praising civil society against
State oppression also emerged in 1990 in Brazil, inspired by the Russian dissident
movement of 1989 (Wolfe,1991). In spite of this, the example of the Brazilian Forum
reminded us, sociologists, of Weffort's statement, that still rings true:
"There was a need to invent Civil Society; if it didn't exist, we had to invent
it; it it was small, we needed to enlarge it." (Weffort, quoted by Telles, in
The leftist legacy of the resistence against the military dictatorship - a resistence
which mixed activists and sociological analysts - has led Brazilian social movements to
despise the State and to search for civil society's empowerment. The State has been first
seen as a Bonapartist, rotten machine to be extinguished. Betinho (the Brazilian
sociologist from the NGO IBASE) very often wrote articles and gave interviews where the
good will, potentialities and enthusiasm of Brazilian civil society - which he refers to
as the Prairie (Planície), to confront it with the Plateau (Planalto, Brasilia, the
federal capital) - faced the viciousness, danger and backwardness of the State:
"Struggling for democracy went on during the new Constitution, Movement pro Ethics
in Politics, Collor's impeachment, CPI about corruption, Action of Citizenship against
Hunger, Misery and for Life. The foundation of all this was that everything happened under
the pressure of society, from the prairie. In Power, on the Plateau, the danger still
lives. It is in the Prairie that democracy grows and enlarges, this democracy that changes
the course of things, which tries to bury the "senzala" and free the slaves
of our culture, our economy, our politics, forever". Herbert de Souza, Betinho:
"Pinochet was born in Brazil", Jornal do Brazil, 26/3/94)
So, civil society was represented as a totality of active citizens acting collectively,
with the proper animation, and encouragement of developmental NGOs. All that was needed to
be done was to find the adequate language and procedures to reach people and put them to
action. The antinomy Civil Society versus State was an attempt to be a slogan of
The second understanding of the essence of the State and Civil Society comes from
another leader of the Brazilian Forum: J. P. made reference to a public sphere, a res
publica, where the partition between State and society criticized by Marx would be finally
surpassed. When he refused to blame the Brazilian Forum for the incoherence of asking for
governmental support, he stressed the idea that NGOs and social movements are political
actors of the public sphere, in spite of being formally and legally private. So, their
efforts should be to free the State, which has become a private being, from the hegemony
of private interests.
Activists of the Brazilian Forum did not seem to share the anti-statism exemplified by
Betinho. Quite the contrary, they affirmed their ideals in favour of a democratic State.
To return the State to the public sphere and again join State and society was always
stressed by the Brazilian Forum activists as a task of real citizens, and to develop full
citizenship was one of the Forum most important aims.
Legally, at least since the new Federal Constitution of 1988, Brazil is formally a
democracy, where civil, political and social rights are present. Nevertheless, the
effectiveness of these rights can be questioned: do they really apply to everyone? Can
anyone really invoke them and base their claims on them?
5 - Conclusions
Brazilian field of ecologism could be defined as weak, struggling, poorly organized and
yet influential. This weakness had to do with the socio-economic profile of brazilian
population and extensive privations, while their influence can be explained by their very
presence and network with subordinated levels of State organisms. Touraine (1988),
analysing social movements in Latin America, argued that it would be more adequate to
define them as historical movements rather than social ones, cause their antagonists are
not other social categories, but the State and they struggle for issues of identity rather
than salaries or welfare, as, for instance, trade-unionists do. I'd conclude that
movements that deal with values and more abstract demands are movements better performed
by people who own specific expertise. That could explain why these movements are
influential, although short in number of affiliates.
Activists of this field, in spite of their discourse pro full citizenship and enlarged
democracy, have been driven more to the role of heroes - or to perform a sort of
"estadania" than to live a common citizenship owing to several different causes:
1) the apathy and lack of motivation of the Brazilian masses, which have been
performing a "half-citizenship", an "almost citizenship" and have been
used as masses de manoeuvre by populist politicians who integrate them more through
submission than through participatory patterns (Weffort, 1991);
2) the legacy of Brazilian political history of the late military dictatorship
(1964-79), when banishment, death and exile were the answers to any attempt by
ordinary people to participate in the decisions about the destinies of the country;
3) the low levels of education and information of the Brazilian population, where 9% of
the national electorate is illiterate and 26% of them are half illiterate;
4) the poverty of a population which cannot afford the costs of communication,
information, travelling and all that is needed to participate in social movements and live
a full citizenship;
5) the lack of effective legal-institutional support for citizens' activism;
6) the evil of leftist currents that dominate this field and which have some bad habits
of delays, procrastination, prolix and long meetings which turn activism in either a kind
of sacrifice, priestly mission or a task for profissionals.
Crespo (1995), studying environmental movements in Brazil, argued that environmental
ideas - environmentalism - are very well, have been spreaded, accepted and have encouraged
the creation of institutions and State organisms, but environmental movement is not well,
because it is full of internal, fratricide struggle. Brazilian environmental activists
analyze that all kind of movements have been living nowadays a kind of ebbing tide and
that the stage of denounces and of public manifestation is over. UNCED gave them the
opportunity to find the path to international NGOs and new donors, so they consider it is
high time now to professionalization. Competition for scarce funds and for places in State
organisms also can be an explanation to such fratricide.
Hochstetler (1995), analyzing potential political roles of social movements, argues
that, according to the degree of formality/informality of political arena and to
substantive or transformative aims, social movements can have 4 different political roles:
representation, State transformation, informal polity and cultural politics. I'd say that
the field of ecologism in Brazil moved from informal to formal polity and have been
oscillating between cultural politics and State transformation. Lack of representativeness
is not a bigger problem as far as environmentalists have chosen professionalism.
Bauman, Zygmunt: Legislators and Interpreters - On Modernity, Post-Modernity and
Intellectuals. Oxford, Polity Press, 1989.
Boschi, R.R.: A Arte da Associação - política de base e democracia no Brasil. São
Paulo, Ed. Vértice, 1987.
Bourdieu, P.: Questions de Sociologie. Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit,1984.
Brandão, J.: Mitologia Grega I. Petrópolis, Vozes, 1993, 8a edição.
Mitologia Grega III. Petrópolis, Vozes, 1987.
Carvalho, J.M.: Os Bestializados. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 2a. edição, 1988.
CIMA - Comissão Interministerial para a Preparação da Conferência das Nações
Unidas sobre Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento
Subsídios Técnicos para Elaboração do Relatório Nacional do Brasil para a CNUMAD,
Crespo, S.: Verdes que amadurecem: especialização e profissionalização das
organizações ambientalistas no Brasil. XIX Encontro Anual da ANPOCS, Caxambu, mimeo,
Eder, K.: "A New Social Movement?" Telos n. 52, Summer 1982, pp 5-19.
Feher, F & Heller, A..: "From Red to Green". Telos n. 59, Spring 1984 pp
Fórum de ONGs Brasileiras preparatório para a Conferência da Sociedade Civil sobre
Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento: Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento - Uma Visão das ONGs e
dos Movimentos Sociais Brasileiros. Rio de Janeiro, Fórum de ONGs brasileiras, 1992.
Galtung, J.: "The Green Movement: a socio-historical explanation."
International Sociology vol 1 n. 1 , march 86, pp 75-90.
Habermas, J.: "New Social Movements." Telos n.49, Fall 1981, pp33-38.
Hartman, R.S.: Hegel- A Razão na História. Trad de Beatriz Sidou. São Paulo, Ed.
Hochstetler, K.: Social Movements in Institutional Politics: organizing about the
Environment in Brazil and Venezuela, Colorado State University,mimeo, 1995.
Kowarick, L.:A Espoliação Urbana. Rio de Janeiro, Ed. Paz e Terra, 1979.
Laclau, E.: "Os Novos Movimentos Sociais e a Pluralidade do Social". Revista
Brasileira de Ciências Sociais n. 2 vol 1, out/86, ANPOCS/Cortez, pp.41-47.
Lowe, P.D. & Rudig, W.: "Review Article: Political ecology and the Social
Sciences - The State of the Art". British Journal of Political Science vol 16, 1986,
Cambridge Univ. Press, pp 513-550.
Michels, R.:Los Partidos Políticos: un estudio sociologico de las tendencias
oligarquicas de la democracia moderna. Trad. Enrique Molina de Vedia, 2a edição, Buenos
Aires, Amorrortu Editores, 1972.
Oliveira, F.: "Medusa ou As Classes Médias e a Consolidação Democrática".
A Democracia no Brasil: Dilemas e Perspectivas. Reis, F.W. & O'Donnell (orgs.), São
Paulo, Vértice, Editora Revista dos Tribunais, 1988, pp. 282- 295.
Porritt, J.: The Coming of the Greens. London, Fontana/Collins, 2a. edição, 1989.
Porritt, J.: Seeing Green: the politics of Ecology explained. London, Basil Blackwell,
Santos, W. G.: Razões da Desordem. Rio de Janeiro, Rocco, 1993.
Scherer-Warren, I. & Krischke, P.J. (orgs.): Uma Revolução no Cotidiano? Os Novos
Movimentos Sociais na América do Sul. São Paulo, Brasiliense, 1987.
Scherer-Warren, I.: Rede de Movimentos Sociais. São Paulo, Ática, 1993.
Tocqueville, A.: De La Democratie en Amérique. Paris, Ed. Flammarion, 1981.
Touraine, A.: Le Retour de L'Acteur. Paris, Fayard, 1984.
Touraine, A.: Palavra e Sangue: Política e Sociedade na América Latina. Trad. Irai D.
Poleti, São Paulo, Trajetória Cultural, Unicamp, 1988.
Viola E. J.: "O Movimento Ecológico no Brasil (1974-86): do ambientalismo à
ecopolítica". Revista Brasileira de Ciências Sociais n. 3 vol 1, fev. 87, ANPOCS,
Weffort, F.: Por que Democracia? São Paulo, Ed. Brasiliense, 1984.
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, in
Which makes an annual average income from US$ 3,780 to 11,340.
 Tribunal Superior Eleitoral
Santos research (1993) also stressed this point. He analysed the number of associations
officialy registered in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro from 1920 to 1980 and showed that
68,2% emerged after 1970, in São Paulo, The most frequent kind of association was those
dedicated to leisure and sports and to occupational interests. Santos tried to emphasize
Brazil was already a poliarchy, but he also admitted that this poliarchy was plunged
inside "a bubble of indifference and alienation, in a culture of dissimulation,
diffuse violence and individual and familial enclosures, while government governs too
much, but surrounded by an emptiness of accountability and civic concern". (1993:
CPT, the Church Commission on Land publishes each year a calendar with the names of the
hundreds of peasants murdered in the fight for land.
"Permanent dwellings", only, according to IBGE methodology.
UFRJ, 1990 and World Bank Atlas, 1994
 IBGE/PNADs (National Research based on Domestic Samples)
 IBGE, Estatistical Annals, 1992.
See "Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento - uma visão das ONGs e dos Movimentos
Sociais Brasileiros" (Environment and Development - a vision from NGOs and Brazilian
Social Movements), Rio de Janeiro, Forum de ONGs brasileiras, 1992. See also "Umwelt
und Entwicklung - eine Vision der brasilianischen NGOs und Sozialen Bewegungen. Der
Bericht des Forums der Brasilianischen NGOs zur Vorbereitung der Konferenz der zivilen
Gesellschaft úber Umwelt und Entwicklung Rio 92. Thomas W. Fatheier , Rio de Janeiro,
Deutschen Entwicklungsdienstes (DED)/ FASE, 1992.
Parlamentary Commission for Investigation (Comissão Parlamentar de Inquérito)
 Reference to the Central Plateau, where Brasilia, tha federal capital, is sited.
Slave quarters on plantations
The Law of Amnisty dated of 1979; in 1985 a first civil President was indirectly