Discipline and Develop: Destruction of the Brazil Nut Forest in the Lower Amazon Basin

Authors: Cynthia Simmons*, University of Florida
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Development
Keywords: Amazon; Sustainable Development; Deforestation; Land Grab; Resource Conflict; IIRSA
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: President's Boardroom, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This article considers Amazonian environmental change by focusing on political and economic processes in a place-specific context with far-reaching global implications. In particular, we consider the destruction of the Brazil Nut forest (BNF) in the lower basin. The Brazil Nut tree yields a valuable non-timber forest product, and its loss raises concerns about Amazonia's agro-ecological sustainability. The article posits the destruction of the BNF as an outcome of land creation, the transformation of soil surfaces into a production factor for market-oriented agriculture. Land creation in the lower basin sparked violent conflict, with the destruction of the BNF as collateral damage. Our account complements earlier research on the political economy of Amazonian development by providing an update tuned to the institutional and economic changes that have led to the region's engagement with globalized beef markets, and to the transformative impact on implicated actors. In addition, the article uses the BNF case to consider current threats to Amazonia. In Brazil, deforestation rates declined after the turn of the millennium, due to environmental policy. Recent numbers show deforestation on the rise, however, as South American nations fast track large infrastructure projects to transform Amazonia into a transport hub and a continental source of hydropower. The article questions if Brazil's environmental policies will sustain the Amazonian forest over the long-run; the BNF disappeared despite efforts at conservation buttressed by legislative action.

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