Sunday, October 29, 2023

Amazônia: Fables to Forests

NOTE to NESTVAL Colleagues: this post is for a short course I am teaching through Bridgewater State University Senior College, beginning October 30. Material related to my presentation at the Portland virtual meeting is at the post entitled Amazon Deforestation in Lula’s Encore

Photo: Cara Reed 2003
I am fortunate to have two very distinct outlets for my current thinking about the region. As I mention in the Lula post, this is the region that turned me into a geographer, and it was my main focus for many years -- before I developed such a strong. affinity for and identity with coffee and coffeelands. 

The Amazon has remained part of my undergraduate teaching all along, but was largely absent from my scholarship and outreach activities for most of two decades. Recent events have brought me back -- both in my thinking and in my travels -- and have led me to the writing project mentioned above and to my first in-person course for BSU Senior College. The intention of both projects, of course, includes improving how I teach about the region in my undergraduate classes. 

See the course main page for the relevant parts of my biography, a full description of the class, and links to all of the materials I will be using. The opening lines of the description introduce this exploration.

The Amazon is a forest, a river, and a fountain of myths. This short course is a six-part exploration of all three, with a focus on one of its most populous but little-recognized parts: Rondônia. 

The outline hints at how we will explore this region in all of its dimensions.

  1. Dinosaurs, Warriors, and a Witch PhD
  2. Aviamento and the Railroad
  3. Missionaries and Linguistics
  4. Tributaries and Confluences
  5. Trajectory of Illusion
  6. Soy and Fire, Beef and Politics 

Música Rondônia on the Planet Sings

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Amazon Deforestation in Lula’s Encore

Deforestation in the Amazon of Brazil is the problem that drew me to the study of geography when I was an undergraduate and led me to do dissertation research in the region in 1996. I did some follow-up work in 2000 and 2003 and have included the region in my teaching ever since. 

It was not until the rise of Jair Bolsonaro that I returned to the region in October 2019 -- at the urging of colleagues in Rondônia who were particularly concerned about both his rhetoric and his policies toward the rain forest. 

The Amazon figured prominently in his political demise, leading me to a series of questions about whether his electoral defeat would improve conditions there. This was made even more interesting by the fact that he was defeated by none other than Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva -- a man known simply as "Squid" who had served two terms as president and some time in prison.

I am exploring all of this in "Amazon Deforestation in Lula's Encore," which I am presenting at the 101st Annual Meeting of the New England & St. Lawrence Valley Geographical Society in Portland, Maine on October 28, 2023. This presentation is a stepping stone toward an article I hope to submit for publication later this year.