The Amazonian Frontier: Urbanization, the Future of an Agrarian Alternative, and Environmental Challenges in Southern Para
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SubjectBiehl International Research Internship; Sewanee internships; Career & Leadership Development; University of the South; Southern Para, Brazil; Amazon rainforest; Urbanization frontier zone
AbstractThe Amazon of popular imagination and media projections is a pristine rainforest undergoing a uniform deforestation process spreading from its accessible edges. Actual environmental change in the Amazon, however, is connected with spatial patterns of human settlement and the nature of these settlements. Few studies have made note of the phenomenon of Amazonian urbanization, and those that have note that the transformation is a driving factor in the environmental change and damage occurring in the region. Southern Para is a rapidly urbanizing frontier zone that has been settled by non-indigenous peoples only since the mid-1960s ; in the environs of my study site-- Parauapebas--significant settlement dates only to 1990. However, urbanization and its twin process of land consolidation have been strongly contested in Southern Para: rural people’s movements, primarily the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST), have fought for the establishment and support of agrarian communities. Rural people possess knowledge and have values that offer possibility for strong environmental ethics and sustainable practices, but they also face economic challenges that contribute to land deterioration. As the MST settlement of Palmares 2 urbanizes, visions of community development must adjust to acknowledge a non-farming population, as well as remain committed to the maintenance of rural homesteading. My research probed the future of rural communities in the context of an urbanizing and politically hostile environment, particularly given the development situation in the region. I sought to understand what knowledge, culture, and possibility for environmental protection will be lost if rural communities fail to sustain support for familiar agriculture and are superseded by an urban economy.
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