Tropical Deforestation: State Control, Environmentalism and Indigenous Knowledge

by emmafox14 on October 6, 2017 - 7:54pm

Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has become a large global environmental issue, destroying remote communities and permanently altering large ecosystems in the pursuit of profit and development. Recently, according to an article printed in the New York Times written by Ernesto Londono called Brazilian Judge Stymies Plan to Allow Mining in Amazon Region, a federal judge in Brazil temporarily halted a plan by the President Michel Temer to allow mining in a large area of the Amazon forest. The article outlines the huge victory for environmental activists who had claimed the initiative was potentially catastrophic. This article made me feel content in the fact that a project so socially and environmental detrimental was able to be halted considering all of the political and economic factors tied in with it.

            What caught my attention is that there are several factors that weigh in on a judges ability to make a decision. Specifically, several interconnected factors when it comes to resource management. Resource management systems are a part of a larger system of governance that seeks to shape the characteristics of its citizenry. The Brazilian government is doing exactly this in the resource extraction industry. The government implemented technical exercises like inventory, mapping, and assessment that dismiss or ignore local knowledge in a process known as ‘state simplification’. In the situation of the Amazon rainforest, for years local knowledge has been ignored in the influence of the Brazilian state power, and the focus has been on resource extraction and economic development.

            Furthermore, this article exemplifies one of the many resource conflicts that come from state versus local knowledge. The state has power over the people of their country; a power involving control over practices, and control over ideas. Where does this leave the indigenous Brazilian’s in this tropical rainforest dilemma? I find it rare that something like this project halting is to happen, but I think knowledge of the effects of state power is finally finding its way through the citizenry, and people are more willing to fight for the rights of those who do not have a voice.

            What I am hoping will not happen is that this issue will fall into and issue-attention cycle. I am hoping the government will not win once they appeal to higher courts, and the indigenous people and those who are environmentally aware will win this battle. I am hoping it will have a continuous effect on all projects degrading the amazon rainforest and ruining indigenous lives. More often than not, media coverage only targets a problem for a short amount of time, and is poor at delivering long-term attention to an issue. But it gives me hope to think that an article such as this with a positive light shed on those environmentally aware and conscious of human rights will continue to reflect our society. Perhaps articles like this will continue to grow, and make a difference.

            Overall, this article lifted my spirits, and led me to believe that state power is not the only power in resource management. The people have a voice, and indigenous knowledge needs to be heard in order for areas like the Amazon rainforest to survive. Timber is a flow resource, meaning it can be renewed and does not necessarily run out. However, it can easily change into a stock resource when improperly managed, meaning it will eventually deplete from overuse. The effects of deforestation in the Amazon are known, and the people need to realize that they have a voice that can change state characteristics.


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