01/22/2013 04:31 pm ET Updated Mar 24, 2013

Republican Environmentalism

It's a great mistake to separate the universe of agricultural with preservation. Agriculture is one of our most environmentally sustainable activities. Were it not so, we could not continue to produce wheat in the Old World, after millennia of consecutive harvests.

Agriculture is not and could not be degrading; otherwise it would be jeopardizing food production for the world population.

As in any environment, whether urban or rural, we have those that produce consciously and the minority who resorts to unsavory practices.

The latter should be educated and, ultimately punished. But we are happy to say that, in the agricultural sector, they are the exception, and not the general rule.

The term sustainability is fashionable and good marketing, but it has no concrete reference in our mental universe. It is a created word to which meaning has been assigned.

Is the meaning valid? It is hard to say, since the term can be used in different environments, in different regions of the five continents. And geography is crucial. A sustainable activity in the UAE may not be the same as in the Brazilian Pantanal.

It takes knowledge to use the concept well. If we imagine, for example, coffee production in southern Minas Gerais, we cannot associate it with a lack of sustainability.

The environment is not degraded, new crops are repeated every year, and ecotourism is part of the economy of local producers, demonstrating that the scenic beauty and environmental quality are not affected by agricultural activities.

It is clear, therefore, that political movements bearing the flags of agriculture and the environment should not be adversaries. By working together they are more productive and there is an ongoing dialogue in pursuit of strengthening the compatibility between historic preservation and production.

This is not a thesis or a speech. It is based on historical reality, which, fortunately, has been recognized. Environmental specialists of the government sat down with the specialist of rural production in 2012.

I confess that, until very recently, I was afraid to enter the Ministry of Environment. It wasn't because I was unwelcome as much as I feared a physical attack by the radicals who have now lost ground to the republican environmentalism.

The ministry was an extension of radical activists originating from various NGOs, all committed to the intensification of an irrational dispute between environmentalism and production. There were no specialists there, but only misleading activists, waving flags aggressively in a crusade against farmers.

Farmers and ranchers were sold to the public as villains of the environment in Brazil, and not as employees and entrepreneurs who produce food.

But to my amazement, it was the Ministry of Environment who held a historic meeting in mid-November. By the invitation of the minister, government officials sat down to listen to CNA in order to find out what farmers thought and wanted in a future which had a stronghold on its industry.

Today, there is already a recognition that agricultural production and preservation go together. The society that wants stability in food production also wants environmental care.

For the farmer, this connection to nature has double importance. Besides maintaining a pleasant environment, the utmost care must be taken because if the land is squandered the effectiveness of his business and equity will be compromised.

This understanding will do much to improve the image of national agriculture. Not just before Brazilians, but through the eyes of the world.

The coexistence between production and preservation gives tranquility to the field, adds value to sustainable production, and does not take away from the true republican environmentalist movement, whose vigilance, more than helpful, is fundamental to any society.