Dr. Cynthia Simmons presented as an invited featured speaker at the International Colloquium on Socio-Environmental Politics at Rhodes House, Oxford University, on 31 Jan 2020 in a talk titled Dynamic Amazonia: Lessons for a Changing World.
Amazonia is critical to the global environment given its store of biodiversity and its repository of carbon. Since the mid-20th century, the Amazonian countries – particularly Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia – have implemented a variety of infrastructure projects meant to tap the region’s resources and open it to human settlement. Consequently, a large fraction of the forest has been converted to agricultural use. At the same time, human populations have grown precipitously to more than 20,000,000 people – many of whom live in an expanding network of urban areas that span the basin. There is little doubt that development has transformed the region’s environment and put the heritage of its indigenous peoples at risk. Despite global concerns for maintaining Amazonia’s ecological and cultural integrity, a new infrastructure program joined by all the South American nations has initiated a complex transformation of the region that will turn it into a transportation hub, a continental source of hydropower, and a preferred location for industrial development. Resulting environmental changes will be intensified by global warming. Amazonia is a dynamic region on the verge of dramatic anthropogenic change. What will happen to its remaining ecosystems and indigenous peoples? What will happen to those who came as colonists and worked hard to establish frontier livelihoods? In this presentation I address the three main questions to be debated at the colloquium. First, how to make sense of Amazonia today, given the rising violence and threats to the environment? Second, what Lessons have we learned, or better yet, should we have learned? Third, what recommendations can be made that will move us toward a socially and environmentally just future?
An Immediate outcome of the workshop is the Oxford Letter for the Amazon, signed by Signed by indigenous and peasant representatives, politicians, civil societymembers, students,artists, activists,researchersand academics. Read the whole letter at AgroCultures.