Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

In Search of the Amazon: Brazil, the United States, and the Nature of a Region

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

In Search of the Amazon: Brazil, the United States, and the Nature of a Region

Article excerpt

Garfield, Seth. In Search of the Amazon: Brazil, The United States, and the Nature of a Region. Durham and London, UK: Duke University Press, 2013. 343pp. ISBN: 9780822355717, US $94.95, Cloth; ISBN: 9780822355854, US $26.95, acid-free paper.

Environmental historian Seth Garfield's In Search of the Amazon: Brazil, the United States, and the Nature of a Region presents a snapshot of an often ignored period in Brazil's historic struggle for industrial development and seemingly endless antagonistic relationship with the Amazon rainforest. Covering three-fifths of Brazil, the wildness of the Amazon Basin has served as a rich yet seasonally inaccessible source of natural resources, opportunity, social struggle, and geopolitical insecurity.

In often overwhelming and exhaustive detail, Garfield chronicles the episodic success and social consequences of the Brazilian rubber trade during its second boom era of the 1940's. Beginning with a review of the Amazon's conception as an impenetrable frontier, Garfield explores the high-expense and joint efforts of the regime of Getúlio Vargas (1930-1945) and the United States to breathe new life into Amazonian rubber tapping during World War II. By reestablishing a waning industry, Vargas and his Estado Novo hoped to permanently populate and modernize the elusive Amazon, while the United States hoped to ameliorate its wartime shortage of rubber.

Isolated by vast distances from urban centers, rubber tappers of the early 20th century Brazilian Amazon, called seringuieros, contended with malaria, poverty, exploitative credit and supply prices of rubber bosses, leaving them subject to injustices, physical violence, and indentured slavery. Drawing on a huge array of sources, Garfield tells the story of how this trend was protracted by the state-directed migration of tens of thousands of peasant farmers from the drought-crippled Northeastern region of Ceará to the Amazon. Fueled by U.S. investment, the Vargas regime hoped to utilize the influx of population to develop and modernize the Amazon, while the United States hoped it would serve to ameliorate its wartime rubber shortage by increasing the Amazonian labor force. …

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