|Amazonia: Resiliency and Dynamism of the Land and Its People (UNU, 1995, 253 pages)|
This book is the third in a series from the United Nations University (UNU) research project, Critical Zones in Global Environmental Change, itself part of the UNU programme on the Human and Policy Dimensions of Global Change. Both endeavours explore the complex linkages between human activities and the environment.
The project views the human causes of and responses to major changes in biogeochemical systems - global environmental change broadly defined - as consequences of cumulative and synergistic actions (or inactions) of individuals, groups, and states, occurring in their local and regional settings. The study examines and compares nine regional cases in which large-scale, human-induced environmental changes portend to threaten the sustainability of an existing system. The aim is to define common lessons about regional trajectories and dynamics of change as well as the types of human actions that breed environmental criticality and endangerment, thereby contributing to global environmental change. The overall results of the comparative analysis are found in Regions at Risk, the initial volume in this series.
The subtitle of Amazonia: Resiliency and Dynamism of the Land and Its People hints at the main message of the book: environmental degradation and socioeconomic obstacles to sustainability notwithstanding, many positive trends bode well for this diverse region. The authors arrive at this message from an in-depth analysis of five main categories of human driving forces - population, new technologies, socio-economic and institutional conditions, beliefs and attitudes, and income and wealth - that interact to alter the physical, social, and cultural environments of Amazonia. Taking a long view both backward and forward, they counter a popular propensity to relegate the whole of Amazonia to history's roll of environmental disasters by documenting the capacity of stressed environments to withstand and even rebound from ecologically damaging trends.
This long-term perspective revealed, well in advance of confirmatory satellite data, that deforestation in Amazonia has been and is likely to be less widespread than conventional wisdom would have it. The authors, while wary of generalizing on trends and opportunities for so vast and heterogeneous a region, recommend development strategies that will increase the productivity of already deforested areas in order to accommodate population growth without endangering the long-term viability of nature-society relationships.