"A Viagem a Brasil, Verao de 1998"
Dr. Patricia A. Mulvey, Professor of History
Bluefield State College
Environmental History of Brazil
In the summer of this year (1998) fourteen hardy souls from West Virginia colleges and universities traveled to Brazil on a whirlwind study tour investigating environmental concerns and economic development. My purpose in going on the FACDIS-sponsored trip was to see how Brazil had changed from a military dictatorship to democratic rule in the twenty-eight years since I had last visited the country in 1970. As a result of the trip, I have revised the syllabus for my general survey of Latin America to include a case study of Brazilian environmental history.
We found Brazil experiencing a severe economic crisis. The people were caught up in soccer mania. Since 1970 economic development had brought great progress amidst poverty and rapid urban growth. During the period of the economic miracle (1968-1973) a major shift in the population occurred so now 80% of the 170 million Brazilians live in overcrowded cities.
Brazil , the giant of South America, presents the visitor with its variety and rich natural resources; economic development in the midst of economic misery. The country has always been a land of opportunity for explorers, colonizers and immigrants, but a place of poverty and oppression for the native American Indians and African people who were enslaved to work the forests, plantations and mines to enrich European settlers.
Historically the Brazilians have viewed nature as a vehicle for exploitation and natural resources as inexhaustible. Brazil is a perfect model to study environmental history. Its environmental problems have attracted national and international attention. The course I will teach in the spring will try to explain the nationalism of Brazil which causes them to fear foreign takeover of the Amazon and wouldn't allow them to accept outside aid to put out raging fires in the Amazon. Environmental history is a relatively new field of historical inquiry, so I will continue to read in American Environmental History to see comparisons with Brazil.
The FACDIS-sponsored trip to Brazil started in the megalopolis of Sao Paulo where we visited a favela, a public housing project (Singapura Project), Cubatao (the Valley of Death), a beautiful beach, a portion of the Mata Atlantic, north of Santos and the Billings reservoir endangered by a nearby papermill. The Sao Paulo of 1998 is larger than the Sao Paulo I last visited in 1970, a city which resembles New York City but now has a population of approximately 19 million. Here rapid population growth has led to pollution of the rivers and a severe housing shortage. Favelas dot the landscape and the state government struggles to keep up with the housing demand. Corrupt politicians misappropriate public housing funds for dams and roads.
Our next stop in the tour was the beautiful city of Recife, which was famous in the 16 th and 17 th century for sugar cane production. We visited the colonial city of Olinda, which was briefly the capital of Dutch ruled Pernambuco. We met with agronomist and environmentalists in Itapissuma and Itamaraca in the bioreserve of the Mata Atlantica. We talked with scientists and agricultural experts on improvement of the coastal fisheries, ecotourism in Fernando de Noronha, and restoring of the native stingless bee hives.
The week we spent in Manaus was the most important part of the trip since we visited a forest reserve and spent a day on the Amazon. We met with representatives from IBAMA and INPA, and journalists. The group was featured on Manaus television. The most interesting person I met was an Italian environmentalist who was working with ecotourism and had developed an environmentally correct hotel in the Amazon.
The four days we spent in Brasilia were very exciting for me to see how the city had grown from a ghost town in August of 1970 to a clean, efficient city of one and half million inhabitants in 1998.
The environmentally correct city of Curitiba was our next stop on the study tour of Brazil. Thanks to the efforts of the former mayor Jaime Lerner, the city is a clean place with beautiful parks and plazas. We visited schools and nature reserves and saw a model of environmental education that would be the envy of American cities.
Four adventuresome members of the group took an overnight detour to visit Foz do Iguacu and Itaipu Dam, the largest dam in the world. We stayed in a hotel with a thermal pool where a group of doctors were having a convention. The dam is a very impressive site, but created environmental problems when it was built since the military government refused to listen to the engineer who begged them to build the dam below the waterfalls to save another cataract at Sete Quedas and a historical site, Guaira from demolition. This is an example of the strategy of the 1970s which was "development at any cost" without considering environmental impact and the human costs of development.
Rio de Janeiro was our last stop in Brazil. It is my favorite city in Brazil. I had visited it previously in 1968 and 1970. The city had changed greatly in twenty-eight years! The population is over ten million. We met with environmentalists and scientists concerned with the depollution of Guanabana Bay. We learned that 80 percent of the industrial pollution thrown into the bay originates from only 52 industries. Downtown Rio had changed greatly since 1970. Hills had been razed to put up ugly modern buildings. The number of favelas had increased with population growth. The return of civilian rule had brought improvements in neighborhood associations and citizenship education.
The world environmental conference in Rio in 1992 had been a big boost for the environmental movement in brazil. To clean up Guanabana bay and the river basins, improvements in sanitation and water treatment projects were started. This project was vital to prevent the spread of disease and further catastrophe. Only 13%of sewage was treated in 1992. The main solution to the problem was the construction of 8 sewage systems and 10 stations to supply drinking water to stop the problem of contaminated wells. The life quality of the population became a priority for the state and municipal government in order to reduce diseases from water pollution. In 1857 Rio de Janeiro was the first city to have water treatment projects. For ninety years a private company implemented projects still in existence today. The government of Rio took over water treatment projects but have not kept up with population growth. The priority is to create water treatment projects for Guanabana bay. The solution is to run sewage pipes 5 kilometers out into the sea. The depollution project has to go slowly enough to prevent algae build up. In the past four years the scientists are recovering the environmental deficit from the last forty years.
Soil erosion of the Parnaiba de Sul basin is due to:
1. rural use
2. deforestation of 15% of the forests
3. mineral extraction
4. urban use - irregular settlement along the coast (FAVELAS)
5. road building.
6. cutting down of the mangrove
The main urban issues in Brazil are develop "sustainable cities" and to solve the problems of sanitation, garbage disposal, transportation and traffic as in all world cities. I predict that in the future, citizenship education and environmental activism and non-intrusive technology will bring solutions to the problems of urban growth in Brazil.
Environmental studies in Brazil is a relatively recent phenomena. The late Warren Dean's book, With Broadax and Firebrand: The Destruction of the Atlantic Forest is a pioneering work for a new generation of scholars who will follow in his path.
I will spend at least six weeks of my general survey of Latin America on Brazil, focusing on environmental issues wherever it is applicable.
The unit on environmental issues will focus on;
1. forest destruction
2. Amazon explorations and economic developments
3. rural environment
a) forest people
b) descendants of runaway slaves - Quilombos
4. urban environment
5. public policy of the recent Brazilian governments towards the environment - Clientelism
LESSON Plan No. 1
The Environmental History of Brazil: The Amazon - Past, Present, and Future
"Perhaps the most significant historical explanation of environmental decay is to be found in those attitudes that encourage people to exploit nature. Human beings alone have the power to change the Earth, and they are compulsive conquerors. They have proven to be one of the most destructive forces in all of nature. The relationship between human beings and the physical environment has been shaped by this human mania for domination -- by a historically demonstrated compulsion to defeat and ravish the land to subdue the earth."
--- Robert Detweiler
Environmental problems have attracted national and international attention in the past decades, and these lessons are designed to provide extensive background in this important but neglected aspect of Brazilian national history.
I define environmental history as the study of the interrelationship of man and human societies with their natural, physical environments: i.e., soil, water, air, plants and animals collectively.
The readings and discussions will focus on the ways in which Brazilian attitudes and values throughout history have affected both individual behavior and public policies with regard to the environment. I will raise with my class such questions as:
1. How had the Brazilian (including the Indian) throughout their history conceived of him/herself and the environment in relation to each other?
2. How have Brazilians treated the environment and why?
3. What effect has the land (air, soil, water, etc.) had on men and women throughout history, and how have he changes they have made in the environment affected them in return?
- Given the severity of the environmental problems in the world - upsetting the balance of nature and fouling the natural elements - how do Brazilian environmental problems compare with American environmental issues?
The Amazon -Myth of Amazon Warriors and El Dorado
Explorers: Francisco de Orellana (1543), Gaspar de Carajal, Lope de Aquirre
Virgin Forest - Garden of Eden Cinnamon in the Air
"Spices, valued not only for their culinary application, but for medicinal properties we are only now starting to rediscover, played an unexpectedly pivotal role in the exploration of the world. Cinnamon is an antiseptic, a powerful digestive, and a respiratory stimulant."
Motives of the Spanish Conquistadores - "God, gold and glory"
"Gold fever and the allure of spices inspired unreasoning greed in Spanish soldiers and turned these rugged sons of a stinting land into ruthless conquerors"
Spanish view of Indians: Noble savages, ferocious headhunter,
Pagans who needed Christianization
The Amazon: the Great Serpent Mother - second longest river in the world - snakes its way down from the Andes Mountains to the Atlantic ocean - inland sea
Missionaries follow the footsteps of the conquistadores
Jesuits Missionaries and Dominican Friars - aldeia policy
Indian Population figures - recent archaeological evidence indicated pre-Columbian population is larger than previously believed
Spread of European diseases - Indian depopulation
Diseases which killed off Amazonian Indians are: small pox, measles, tuberculosis, typhus, yellow fever, malaria, mumps, whooping cough, influenza
By end of 17 th Century the Amazon has been incorporated into the Brazilian empire of the Portuguese
Belem - originally fort established in 1616
Manaus - fort at Barra in 1669
The Amazon's four principal resources are brazilwood, cocoa (which grew wild along the riverbanks) tobacco, and sugarcane followed by cotton, sarsaparilla, gums, resins, and pharmaceutical oils.
Indian Slavery coexists with African slavery and eventually is replaced by Africans with continuing population decline of Indians.
The Indians and the Rainforest - White settlement leads to indigenous deculturation and destabilization - social disintegration
Hunting and Fishing - nomadic agriculture at edge of forest - "forest fields"
Kayapo Indians Yanomamo Indians
Rubber Boom -- the Amazon awakens - "Green Hell"
1853 - Steamboat service from Belem to Manaus
Foreign travelers and naturalists in the Amazon: Alexander von Humboldt
Alfred Russell Wallace
Seringueiros vs Indians - Acre - - genocide
Yanomami - territory straddles border of Venezuela and Brazil
Earliest surviving stage of Indian culture - warriors
hunter - gather society - largest tribe of unaccultural
people in South America are struggling to survive
1840 - Charles Goodyear - vulcanizing process --Cycle of Rubber
1919 - Colonel Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon - Indian Protection Agency - Indian Pacification Program "Die if necessary, but never kill"
Theodore Roosevelt - scientific expedition to Amazonia in 1913 and 1914.
1987 - Serra Pelada - gold rush to Amazon - diamond - 40,000 people rush into Yanamami lands - bringing diseases of civilization - malaria, tuberculosis, venereal disease - killed 1,500 Yanomami
Grande Carajas Dam massive agricultural program - - result:
deforestation of traditional hunting grounds
social disintegration of Indian tribes
Endangered species of Amazon: pink dolphins, manatee, pirarucu
Are Forest dwelling Indians doomed to extinction?
Brazilian Constitution of June 1988 - government recognizes Indians' rights to lands they have traditionally occupied and exclusive rights to profits generated by underground resources - good law provided Brazil enforces its own laws!
Planners of highways across Amazonia paid little heed to the socio-cultural balances they were bound to disturb - beneath its apparent uniformity Amazonia is divided into hunting, gathering and tribal migration zones that have evolved over the centuries.
After five hundred years will the saga of the Amazon end with the murder of El Dorado?
What will the future bring? Darcy Ribeiro - activist
Amazonia: mythic heart of Brazil, home of the "noble savage,"
Land of mystery and dreams
"Amazon fever" - the great Brazilian Dream - lungs of the world - "breadbasket of the planet" "A fertile belly, source of all Brazilian optimism, vindication of Brazil's wait-and-see policies. --Getulio Vargas - "Out there lies an unpeoples land for landless people"
1966 - "Operation Amazonia" Office of Amazonian Development (SUDAM) development program - generous incentives for investors -- - 9,300 miles of railway lines, 3,000 kilometers (1850 miles) of paved road, 8,700 dirt roads, 4,300 kilometer (2700) Trans-Amazon Highway which crosses Brazil from Cruzeiro do Sul in the west to Joao Pessoa in the east
1987 - violence escalates in Amazonia between gold miners, Indians, and believers in the Indian cause in a region that has proven rich in underground resources
Missionary Council for Indigenous Peoples - defends Indian rights
Indian Power - a continent is discovering its individuality
Cultural Survival (Boston)
Survival International (London & Paris)
World Group for Indigenous Affairs (Copenhagen)
Missionaries in the Amazon - Salesian - Capuchins - Summer Institutes of Linguistics and News Missions - Invasion of the Pentecostals
Caboclos in the Amazon
Lesson Plan no. 2 - Quilombos in Brazil
History and Survival
Fleeing slaves began to form fugitive communities called at first mocambos and by the 18 th century quilombos.
Palmares - Black Troy - Alagoas - 17 th century - large quilombos community - 20,000 - attempt by Angolans - Ganga Zumbi to recreate African kingdom in Brazil
Luso-Dutch wars - 1690s - Expeditions of Paulista bandeirantes destroys Palmares - but the memory or its heroic resistance against white oppression remains
Quilombos - "Nossa terra tem mais donos" - Contemporary descendants of quilombos communities discovered in Northern and Northeastern Brazilian states of Maranhao and Pernambuco
Maranhao has the third major black population in Brazil
Cotton fazendas relied heavily on slave labor in 18 th century.
In 19 th century - slave runaways were common - fleeing rice and sugarcane plantations and cattle ranches.
Brazilian historian Matthias Assuncao - a specialist in the quilombos of Maranhao - says that on the eve of Brazilian Independence 55% of the slave population of the empire lived in Maranhao.
17 th Century - - Sao Luis -1612- French Huguenots founded city - Dutch invasion 1641 - 1644 - brought miscegenation (children of French and Dutch) - mixed population emerges.
Recently discovered Quilombo communities are in remote rural areas and are being mapped - the
1988 Brazilian constitution has given them legal rights to their lands -- Benedita da Silva (PT-R) Senadora Benedita - elected - October 3, 1994 - first female and black senator in Brazilian history - developed a political consciousness at a young age on the streets of Rio and as domestic servant - member of the Workers Party (PT) in early 1980 - pushed for protection of the quilombos communities is 1988 constitution
1978 - first quilombos community was discovered at a place called Cafundo - 150 kilometers from Sao Paulo
Luiz Alberto (PT-BA) coordinator of the Movimento Negro Unificado - advised Senator Benedita - "we knew of the existence of some remaining quilombos, but we never imagined that there were so many"
These communities being discovered by historians give evidence of much more extensive resistance to slavery than previously believed.
A Fundacao Cultural Palmares was created in 1988 with the objective of preserving the black culture - located in ministry of Culture - is currently mapping the whole country
At this point has discovered over 500 communities in almost all of the states - the presence of descendants of quilombos are not registered yet in Amazonas, Acre, Roraima and Rondonia -- O Projeto Vida de Negro no Maranhao - made by two black NGOs have already been proven the existence of between 350-400 communities remaining quilombos in Maranhao alone occupying an area of 1 million hectares (10,000 square meters = 2.471 acres)
The Anthropologist Lucia Andrade of the Comissae Pro-Indio who worked with the quilombos in Para and Sao Paulo, prefers to avoid exact numbers since researchers keep finding more and more small communities that are descendants of runaway slaves. She feels that it is not correct to say there are 500 or 600 communities since some of the villages have ten families; others have 200 to 300 families, some occupy a small area - others are very extensive and need much more land. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso signed the law recognizing protection of land titles of Quilombo communities in the state of Para in decrees passed on "dia de Zumbi dos Palmares" (20 de novembro) in 1995, 1996 and 1997. (President Fernando Henrique claims to be of African descent - saying he has one foot in the kitchen!) Lucia Andrade is studying these communities by looking at historical records and oral testimony to give some explanation for their origins. One of the quilombos is located near an Air Force base in Alcantara, but this community is not typical of the quilombos which were founded in the mata, but more like the mocombo communities founded near cities and towns.
Location of Quilombo communities studied by a Brazilian photographer with a grant from the Fundacao Vitae are:
1. Vale do Trombetas, Para - 20 existing communities
2. Reserva Extrativista do Frechal no municipio de Mirinzal, Maranhao
3. Rio das Ras na Bahia - land conflicts ensued when 15,000 hectares were expropriated by developers and is now claimed by the descendants of the quilombolas.
These traditional communities are made up of small farmers who live off stock-raising and subsistence farming. The communities studied thus far show no traces of African religious beliefs and have assimilated into the rural way of life of the interior of Brazil. Some show evidence of miscegenation, others look like they are people of Afro-Indian descent, others look like transplanted Africans living a simple way of life. These communities need to be protected from exploitation and disruption of their traditional life style.
Black Consciousness movement: historical development in post abolition Brazil - especially the cities of Sao Paulo and Salvador and Rio de Janeiro - Afro-Brazilians faced discrimination after 1888 - in face of influx of European immigrants into the cities.
See Kim D. Butler's book, Freedoms Given Freedoms Won: Afro-Brazilians in the Post-Abolition Sao Paulo and Salvador.
Lesson Plan no. 3 - Favelas in Brazil:
A Comparison of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo
History of the favelas - shanty towns - squatter settlements
Origins: Soldiers from Canudos campaign in Bahia emigrate to Rio - unable to find housing - early 1900s.
Urban slums - rural villages transported by the poor and jobless to the cities. "Industrialization during Getulio Vargas's regime brought an urban expansion which altered many national customs." (E. Bradford Burns) Patriarchal families abandoned their homes in the country for apartments in the city. Slums often exist in the shadow of luxurious apartment buildings. The poor are migrants to the cities lured by promise of jobs and a better life. Paternalistic relationship between the rich and poor breaks down in the city.
Other terms for housing of the poor: corticos - urban tenements - hospedarias - flop house - cabecas - de-porco - rooming houses.
As the poor flock to the cities - favelas - spread shacks built on marginal land - hill sides - near rivers, swamps - See Jorge Amado, Suor (Sweat) - cidade flutuante - Manaus - floating city - 2,100 small huts built on rafts on Rio Negro.
Today Manaus has one of the largest number of favela communities. "Favela is a self-created solution to the severe housing shortage." In the overcrowded conditions of squatter settlements crime, drugs, and vice flourishes along with poor sanitation. Environmental impact of squatter settlements is severe since they are built on marginal lands - on hillsides, near rivers, or in swamps.
Favelas are well organized communities with membership in athletic and social clubs, samba schools and community centers and small stores. Urban dwellers often have livestock with them. In Sao Paulo we visited a model public housing project where favelados were being moved into public housing building next to the favelas. Once all the inhabitants had been moved the slum would be razed and a community garden would be established. Poor people had to be convinced to leave their animals behind and were not allowed to bring pigs into the housing complex.
The housing shortage is so severe in Sao Paulo that middle class people have had to move into favelas and public housing projects.
Historically municipal governments in Rio and Sao Paulo have bulldozed favelas. In 1937 and 1947 a Commission for the Eradication of Favelas was established. Razing of favelas was under taken by the military governments of the years 1964 until 1985 (mostly 1968-73), but this is not done today.
Favelas still flourish in the cities of Southeast Brazil (where the greatest population pressure exists) because public housing projects are often built too far from the center of the city so the poor often have to rent rooms in the cities and go to their homes in the suburbs. Public transportation is often poor and unreliable. By the late 1970s the military government directed its efforts toward legalizing and upgrading the favelas already in place. Favelados received title to their land in Rio. Heavy rains would cause mudslides, devastating the favelas along the hillsides in Rio de Janeiro.
In the 1970s the municipal government of Rio provided water and electricity and other assistance in improving their homes. In the 1970s some of the favelas were bulldozed in Rio and Sao Paulo. With the return of civilian government after 1985 such actions were unpopular and not done. In Sao Paulo the squatter settlements grew so quickly and were so large that public housing projects were built to house some of the people.
In the 1990s Rio is undergoing an urban renaissance. Neighborhood improvement associations have been created to integrate the favelas into the surrounding communities and the city as a whole. An effort is being made to end favelas by transforming them by improving streets and providing them with full services such as day care centers and recreation areas. The IDB is funding this municipal improvement project with a $180 million loan and will upgrade 90 favelas that house one-third of the slum population. The favela residents themselves must approve improvements before construction begins.
"The people who live in the favelas are the same as the people who lie in the rest of the city," says Sergio Magalhaes, Rio's secretary of Housing. "But they are isolated." According to Magalhaes, the cost of bringing running water, sewer and storm drainage, of paving and lighting streets and sidewalks, stabilizing hillsides, reforesting, collecting trash, providing day care and land titling for the Rio favelas is less than $3,500 per family -- only one-fifth the cost of building new housing on the city's outskirts.
The current favela program in Rio aims to remove urban barriers between non-favela residents and the favelados by integrating the favelas with their surrounding neighborhoods by providing recreational facilities for sports like basketball and soccer that are envisioned for use by people from outside the favela as well. Street lights will brighten the favelas at night and wider access streets will allow garbage trucks to enter and remove trash. Parks with trees, benches and kiosks are being built along the edges of a number of favelas, both to help cushion the visual transition from better off neighborhoods and to draw in outsiders to mix with favela residents. As part of the favela improvement plan the city will pay for common services and the residents are responsible for improving their own houses.
Even the usually skeptical Rio press is applauding the program. "Rio has broken free of demagoguery and has started to attack the problem without paternalism," wrote the daily newspaper O Globo recently. "This is for Rio the end of the favelas." ( IDB Extra, Urban Renaissance, "A New Future for Rio's favelas", publication of the Inter-American Development Bank, 1997.) Urban planners and architects were skeptical when first approached by the IDB (Inter-American Bank Development bank) in 1993 but later found that the plan was viable. A maximum of $3,500 is spent per family to upgrade favelas and low income "irregular" subdivisions. Because of the success of the Rio project the IDB is considering similar programs in Argentina and three others in Brazil.
According to Jose Brakarz, "we are on the way to proving that upgrading slums and low income neighborhoods with basic infrastructure and services is the most cost efficient way to save our cities."
The Brazilian government is planning improvements in the rural areas and colonization schemes in Amazonas as ways to relieve urban overcrowding. Brazil needs to develop its natural resources with an eye to the future needs of its citizens. Forest reserves and conservation policies are being attempted but the destruction of the Amazon rain forest continues. The completion of the military's satellite program will aid the government in monitoring illegal activities in the rain forest and possibly lead to more environmentally sound policies.
The Misery of Growth = Population Statistics
Brazil: 170,000,000 Total Population 1998
Sao Paulo 16,925,000
Rio de Janeiro 11,050,000
Rio de Janeiro 10,300,000
Sao Paulo 18,800,000
Films useful to teach about Brazilian Environment Problems
Filmakers Library, 124 East 40 th Street, New York, New York 10016
1. "Coffee: A Sack Full of Power"
2. "Children of Rio"
3. "Odo Ya! Life with Aids"
4. "Amazon Journal"
5. "Defying Death in Brazil: The Story of Father Ricardo Rezende"
6. "At the Edge of Conquest: The Journey of Chief Wai-Wai"
7. "Contact: The Yanamani Indians of Brazil"
8. "Halting the Fires"
9. "Amazonia: The Road to the End of the Forest"
First Run Icarus Films, 153 Waverly Place, New York, New York 10014
1. "Solo, The Law of the Favela"
2. "Isle of Flowers"
3. "South: This is not your Life"
5. "Black Water"
1. "Jungle Pharmacy" Produced by Herbert Guiradet for TV Trust for Environment
2. "The Tribe that Hides from Man"
3. "Bye, Bye Brazil"
5. "Vias Secas" "Barren Lives"
6. " Emerald Forest"