The paper presents an example cf the dressing up in scientific language of arguments used to justify the ongoing assault against the Amazon forest. When interviewed about the consequences that might result from the destruction of the Hylaea, a well known, scientist. Taking into account the large amount of carbon dioxide locked up in the plantmass of the selva, expressed the oplnlon that a noticeable increase in the volume of atmospheric carbon dioxide could be ex- pected to occur should the tree cover be destroyed. The statement came to be completely distorted wnen the interviewee was quoted as ha ving predicted a d'ecrease in atmospheric oxygen. The apacryphal citation has served either as a target for derision or, on a more seriaus levei, as the object of theoretical lucubrations. Some of these, seeking to confute the spurious proposition of a metaphoricat "green lung", have their origin in a model of forest succession in which net eco- system production of oxygen aprroaches zero as the forest evolves towards maturity. It has been asserted, in the maner of a scientlflc proposition that, whlle Amazonia Is a region of great potentlal for the production of oxygen, for this potentlal to be realized it would be necessary to "cut down the climax forests for them to grow back again". Groups interested in exploiting the Arnazon forest promptly borrowed this excogitation, whose validity is analyzed in the present paper. Upon it has been based the astonishing claim that the act of felling the rain forest (now disparaged as "senile"), because it would increase the amount of free oxygeo in the atmosphere, actually would be beneficiai to the global environment.

Biografia do Autor


Professor emérito da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro; Professor titular da Universidade da Califórnia, Berkeley.