|Amazonia: Resiliency and Dynamism of the Land and Its People (UNU, 1995, 253 pages)|
|1. Amazonia under siege|
The overall objective of this study is to analyse the main environmental threats to Amazonian ecosystems, including the societies that depend on them for a livelihood, to explore whether rural development efforts are "sustainable," and to assess whether the region has reached a critical stage in human-induced ecological change. The driving forces prompting environmental and social change will be identified and policy implications discussed.
All of the fieldwork for this volume was carried out in the Brazilian Amazon. We do not wish to imply that other portions of the Amazon basin are unimportant or that they are bereft of lessons for us to learn from. Indeed, biodiversity is often greater in the montane forests of western Amazonia, particularly in Peru and Ecuador. The choice of focusing on the Brazilian Amazon was dictated by the prior field experience of the authors and resource constraints. Most of Amazonia lies within Brazil's borders, and many of the development pressures are most intense there. When discussing environmental and socioeconomic change, however, relevant examples or cases from other parts of the basin are cited.
Collectively, the authors have travelled to all the states in the Brazilian Amazon within the past five years. Colonization zones and older settled areas on the uplands and Amazon flood plain were a high priority for data collection. Areas experiencing rapid transformation were targeted for closer scrutiny because sustainability and criticality are more likely to be significant issues in such places. Thus most of the upland farmers, ranchers, sawmills, and logging operations visited were in south-eastern Para, Acre, and Rondônia, and along roads radiating from Santarem in the middle Amazon. Older, more established farming communities were canvassed for their experiences in the Bragantina zone east of Belém and on the Amazon flood plain near Santarém. In this manner, we were better able to appreciate such factors as distance to markets and age of settlement when assessing the sustainability of production systems.