The Economics of Deforestation in the Amazon
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The Economics of Deforestation in the Amazon

Dispelling the Myths

João S. Campari

This provocative new book presents the results of twenty years of research on deforestation in the Amazon. By carefully observing the changing character of human settlements and their association with deforestation over such a prolonged period, the author is able to reject much of the ‘perceived wisdom’. He skillfully dissects various models of deforestation and provides hard evidence on what is myth and what is reality.
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Chapter 9: Dispelling Other Myths about the Amazon

João S. Campari


INTRODUCTION 9.1. The word ‘myth’ is understood here as a past context that no longer holds in the present. Some of these ‘myths’ had a good deal of truth in them when they were formulated. As I noted in the Preface, things change quite rapidly in the Amazon, rendering a policy context obsolete by the time it is understood. The role of subsidies, for example, has certainly been downgraded in the recent literature, but part of that downgrading arises from the removal of many of the subsidies, partly in response to the criticisms from policy makers and analysts. That being understood, the turnover hypothesis is a myth to which many authors still subscribe to explain deforestation in the Amazon. Chapters 7 and 8 showed that low survival rates is the only tenet of the turnover hypothesis that was robust across projects. Turnover, however, is not associated with high deforestation and land re-concentration by newcomers in most projects (contrary to what the hypothesis predicted). The literature on Amazonian development assumes that turnover is the outcome of unsuccessful agriculture and is regarded as the ‘fate’ of colonization, as areas cleared for crops by colonists are thought to be quickly abandoned or sold and converted to pastures by newcomers. This chapter provides evidence that turnover is an economic strategy that colonists may have developed to improve their circumstances. After all, selling land that has been granted for free from the government, or acquired on favorable terms from private colonization companies, suggests rent-seeking behavior...

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