Dispelling the Myths
Chapter 1: Deforestation and its Myths
INTRODUCTION The Amazon Basin, most of which lies within Brazil, is one of the last large areas of the world currently undergoing frontier settlement. The expansion of demographic and economic frontiers into the Amazon is often seen as the movement of people and of new activities into unoccupied, empty spaces. In fact, these regions are rarely as clear of human inhabitants as is generally supposed. Rather, the existence of occupants who predate the expanding frontier is increasingly recognized. The Amazon population today numbers more than 22 million people, of whom more than 8 million are farming the rain forest. The current migration of small farmers from old to new frontiers within the Amazon poses an important threat to the forest. These migrations are thought to be associated with the failure of agriculture in rain forest soils that are considered too poor to sustain production. In view of such failure, small farmers are prompted to sell their plots to other farmers who can invest in large-scale agriculture or cattle ranching. Although this is thought to be a widespread regional phenomenon, it is conjectured to be happening mostly in colonization projects established by the federal government during the 1970s, but also in projects sponsored by private colonization companies during the 1980s. The movement of colonists from plot to plot, opening new frontiers and selling out to newcomers after a few years on the land, is called turnover. In the Amazon, high turnover on farming plots is thought to have strong implications for...
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