Few regions in the world have given rise to as much politico-ecological controversy as the Amazon. Since the time of Francisco de Orellana (ca. 1511–1546) and his epic search for El Dorado, the Amazon has been known for an “extravagant” geography, immense challenges, and, potentially, even greater rewards. The region was considered the archetypical representation of the Garden of Eden by renaissance chroniclers and generations of explorers. Yet, after the economic boom resultant from highly profitable rubber production at the turn of the 20th century, there was an inescapable reversal to subsistence agriculture and barter economy.
In the post-World War II period, the Amazon became one of the most disputed frontiers of Western modernity, a process that engulfed, but also recreated, territories, relationships, and peoples. Particularly in its Brazilian section — which comprises around 67 percent of the Amazon River Basin — new development-related initiatives were put into effect by the military dictatorship and resulted in an increasing conversion of catchments and localities into hotspots of intense commodity production. The promise of rapid enrichment, often combined with cultural estrangement and sheer fascination, provided once again the rationale for violent conquest, eviction of existing communities, and the expropriation of land, resources, and livelihoods. Hegemonic relations of production and reproduction have deliberately disregarded ecological limits and aggressively incorporated nature into the logic of commodity production exactly because of the money to be made from the privatization of collective ecosystems and territorial resources. Far from being politically neutral, the product of such changes has been primarily accumulated in the hands of a coalition held between traditional elites and emerging business sectors, endorsed by local and national public authorities.
Ioris, A., The production of poverty and the poverty of production in the Amazon: Reflections from those at the sharp end of development, Capitalism Nature Socialism, 2015
The production of poverty and the poverty of production in the Amazon: Reflections from those at the sharp end of development
Published 1 September 2015