Preservation or development? Brazil’s Amazon at a crossroads

Southwest Life

Preservation or development? Brazil’s Amazon at a crossroads

Along 5,000 miles of highway, a changing landscape, culture
Highway BR-163 stretches between the Tapajos National Forest, left, and a soy field in Belterra, Para state, Brazil. Carved through jungle during Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, this highway and BR-230, known as the Trans-Amazon, were built to bend nature to man’s will in the vast hinterland. Four decades later, there’s development taking shape, but also worsening deforestation.
Ten-year-old Kevin performs a somersault in the Uruara river as his friend looks on, at the entrance of the Renascer conservative unit of the Amazon rainforest in Prainha, Para state, Brazil. The clock is ticking. Already the Amazon is growing warmer and drier, losing its capacity to recycle water, and may become savannah in 15 to 30 years, said Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist at the University of Sao Paulo.
Paulo Bezerra, a member of the Munduruku indigenous people, works on his fruit plantation at the Acaizal village in Santarem, Para state Brazil. The 56-year-old indigenous leader says that farmers from Mato Grosso and other states are using tractors to rip down trees near his village and try to intimidate them into silence. “Because of the complaints we make, we have been threatened,” said Bezerra.
A fragment of Amazon rainforest stands next to soy fields in Belterra, Para state, Brazil. The Amazon, which has lost about 17% of its original forest, is nearing an irreversible tipping point. In that sense, Brazil itself is at a crossroads.
A tank truck pours water on the street at dusk in Ruropolis, Para state, Brazil. Carved through jungle during Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, the roads that meet in Ruropolis were built to bend nature to man’s will in the vast hinterland.
Boats at dusk in a port at Santarem, Para state, Brazil, at the confluence of the Tapajos and Amazon rivers. The grain export terminal, top left, loads ships with grains, which are then dispatched across the world, largely to China.
Twenty-four-year-old Donizete carries a heavy sack of watermelons through the water at the edge of the Tapajos river as he unloads a boat with goods to be delivered to the local market in Santarem, Para state, Brazil. The town, at junction of the Tapajos and Amazon rivers, is an important hub where grain is loaded onto barges for a downriver trip that takes days, then poured into ships’ holds and dispatched across the world, largely to China.
A truck drives on the road in Ruropolis, Para state, Brazil. From Ruropolis, the Trans-Amazon and BR-163 run jointly westward over a bumpy 70 miles before splitting at a little roundabout. During corn and soy harvests, 2,600 trucks pass through each day to and from the nearby Tapajos river.
Lauzenir Araujo stands beside his truck after removing a layer of rubber from a damaged tire on route BR-163 near Ruropolis, Para state, Brazil. Araujo, who is hauling a load of manure to a grain plantation in the state of Mato Grosso, says that the old tires tend to explode as the truck can move faster on the newer road. “Eighty percent of your life is on the road,” he says. “There is no life. That’s why I say, this is for those who like it.”
A cut tree stands in a burned area in Prainha, Para state, Brazil. Official data show Amazon deforestation rose almost 30% in the 12 months through July, to its worst level in 11 years. Para state alone accounted for 40% of the loss.
The sun lights part of a path opened by illegal loggers in the Renascer Reserve of the Amazon rainforest in Prainha, Para state, Brazil. This area is known to have trees with high economic value such as ipe, jatoba and massaranduba.
A woman stands on her stilt house with her dog, watching young boys playing soccer in the Vila Nova neighborhood of Itaituba on the Trans-Amazon highway in Para state, Brazil. The highway, carved through jungle during Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, was built to bend nature to man’s will in the vast hinterland. Four decades later, there’s development taking shape, but also worsening deforestation, and locals harbor concerns that progress may pass them by.
A dead armadillo lies on a dirt road in Campo Verde, near Itaituba, Para state Brazil. The clock is ticking. Already the Amazon is growing warmer and drier, losing its capacity to recycle water, and may become savannah in 15 to 30 years, said Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist at the University of Sao Paulo.
A burned area of the Amazon rainforest is seen in Prainha, Para state, Brazil. Official data show Amazon deforestation rose almost 30% in the 12 months through July, to its worst level in 11 years. Para state alone accounted for 40% of the loss.
An old television transmits a Brazilian soap opera in the home of Domingas Rufina, who is a member of a local women’s association in Trairao, Para state, Brazil. The 67-year-old is considering moving to another quiet town after a leader of her association was threatened after denouncing illegal logging in the nearby Trairao national forest.
Domingas Rufina, a member of the local women’s association, poses in her home in Trairao, Para state, Brazil. The 67-year-old is considering a move to another quiet town after a leader of her association was threatened for denouncing the illegal logging in the nearby Trairao national forest. Rufina doesn’t want to get mixed up in any conflict. “I don’t know how to read and I only know how to write my name, but I am an experienced woman,” she says.
Men work on the construction site of a gas station and parking lot on route BR-163 near the intersection with the Trans-Amazon highway in the area of Itaituba, Para state, Brazil. When it’s complete, the parking area will be big enough for 760 trucks.
Valmir Lima de Souza poses with a sickle on his manioc plantation at the Curua-Una region in Santarem, Para state, Brazil. The 60-year-old small farmer, who has been working on this land for 48 years, says people have tried to buy his property, telling him that he has already raised his family and deserves to take a rest. “Man, I am already resting, because I didn’t have water and light here, and now I have water and light and I am resting in my piece of land where I’m gonna stay. Making abundance, growing what I want to plant,” says Souza.
Antonia Pereira swings on her hammock as she talks with a friend on her stilt house at the Vila Nova neighborhood in Itaituba, Para state, Brazil. She says life was better in the 1980s when people came to the gold mines in the region. Now she survives selling hammocks and cooking street barbecues. Sometimes she can fish from her porch during the season that the Tapajos river floods. “I wish there were more jobs for the young people,” she says.
Boys play soccer next to stilt houses at the Vila Nova neighborhood in Itaituba, Para state, Brazil. Carved through jungle during Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, the Trans-Amazon highway that runs through town was built to bend nature to man’s will in the vast hinterland.
A rooster-tail cicada clings to a tree on the property of Joao Batista Ferreira in Belterra, Para state, Brazil. The area was jungle throughout Ferreira’s childhood. Today, his plot is an island of shade and birdsong in the middle of sweeping plantations.
The forest stands next to a soy field in an area behind the home of Joao Batista Ferreira in Belterra, Para state, Brazil. Better known as Joao of Honey, though none of his 1,000 beehives remain, he complains that agribusiness did away with the native forest.

Preservation or development? Brazil’s Amazon at a crossroads

Highway BR-163 stretches between the Tapajos National Forest, left, and a soy field in Belterra, Para state, Brazil. Carved through jungle during Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, this highway and BR-230, known as the Trans-Amazon, were built to bend nature to man’s will in the vast hinterland. Four decades later, there’s development taking shape, but also worsening deforestation.
Ten-year-old Kevin performs a somersault in the Uruara river as his friend looks on, at the entrance of the Renascer conservative unit of the Amazon rainforest in Prainha, Para state, Brazil. The clock is ticking. Already the Amazon is growing warmer and drier, losing its capacity to recycle water, and may become savannah in 15 to 30 years, said Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist at the University of Sao Paulo.
Paulo Bezerra, a member of the Munduruku indigenous people, works on his fruit plantation at the Acaizal village in Santarem, Para state Brazil. The 56-year-old indigenous leader says that farmers from Mato Grosso and other states are using tractors to rip down trees near his village and try to intimidate them into silence. “Because of the complaints we make, we have been threatened,” said Bezerra.
A fragment of Amazon rainforest stands next to soy fields in Belterra, Para state, Brazil. The Amazon, which has lost about 17% of its original forest, is nearing an irreversible tipping point. In that sense, Brazil itself is at a crossroads.
A tank truck pours water on the street at dusk in Ruropolis, Para state, Brazil. Carved through jungle during Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, the roads that meet in Ruropolis were built to bend nature to man’s will in the vast hinterland.
Boats at dusk in a port at Santarem, Para state, Brazil, at the confluence of the Tapajos and Amazon rivers. The grain export terminal, top left, loads ships with grains, which are then dispatched across the world, largely to China.
Twenty-four-year-old Donizete carries a heavy sack of watermelons through the water at the edge of the Tapajos river as he unloads a boat with goods to be delivered to the local market in Santarem, Para state, Brazil. The town, at junction of the Tapajos and Amazon rivers, is an important hub where grain is loaded onto barges for a downriver trip that takes days, then poured into ships’ holds and dispatched across the world, largely to China.
A truck drives on the road in Ruropolis, Para state, Brazil. From Ruropolis, the Trans-Amazon and BR-163 run jointly westward over a bumpy 70 miles before splitting at a little roundabout. During corn and soy harvests, 2,600 trucks pass through each day to and from the nearby Tapajos river.
Lauzenir Araujo stands beside his truck after removing a layer of rubber from a damaged tire on route BR-163 near Ruropolis, Para state, Brazil. Araujo, who is hauling a load of manure to a grain plantation in the state of Mato Grosso, says that the old tires tend to explode as the truck can move faster on the newer road. “Eighty percent of your life is on the road,” he says. “There is no life. That’s why I say, this is for those who like it.”
A cut tree stands in a burned area in Prainha, Para state, Brazil. Official data show Amazon deforestation rose almost 30% in the 12 months through July, to its worst level in 11 years. Para state alone accounted for 40% of the loss.
The sun lights part of a path opened by illegal loggers in the Renascer Reserve of the Amazon rainforest in Prainha, Para state, Brazil. This area is known to have trees with high economic value such as ipe, jatoba and massaranduba.
A woman stands on her stilt house with her dog, watching young boys playing soccer in the Vila Nova neighborhood of Itaituba on the Trans-Amazon highway in Para state, Brazil. The highway, carved through jungle during Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, was built to bend nature to man’s will in the vast hinterland. Four decades later, there’s development taking shape, but also worsening deforestation, and locals harbor concerns that progress may pass them by.
A dead armadillo lies on a dirt road in Campo Verde, near Itaituba, Para state Brazil. The clock is ticking. Already the Amazon is growing warmer and drier, losing its capacity to recycle water, and may become savannah in 15 to 30 years, said Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist at the University of Sao Paulo.
A burned area of the Amazon rainforest is seen in Prainha, Para state, Brazil. Official data show Amazon deforestation rose almost 30% in the 12 months through July, to its worst level in 11 years. Para state alone accounted for 40% of the loss.
An old television transmits a Brazilian soap opera in the home of Domingas Rufina, who is a member of a local women’s association in Trairao, Para state, Brazil. The 67-year-old is considering moving to another quiet town after a leader of her association was threatened after denouncing illegal logging in the nearby Trairao national forest.
Domingas Rufina, a member of the local women’s association, poses in her home in Trairao, Para state, Brazil. The 67-year-old is considering a move to another quiet town after a leader of her association was threatened for denouncing the illegal logging in the nearby Trairao national forest. Rufina doesn’t want to get mixed up in any conflict. “I don’t know how to read and I only know how to write my name, but I am an experienced woman,” she says.
Men work on the construction site of a gas station and parking lot on route BR-163 near the intersection with the Trans-Amazon highway in the area of Itaituba, Para state, Brazil. When it’s complete, the parking area will be big enough for 760 trucks.
Valmir Lima de Souza poses with a sickle on his manioc plantation at the Curua-Una region in Santarem, Para state, Brazil. The 60-year-old small farmer, who has been working on this land for 48 years, says people have tried to buy his property, telling him that he has already raised his family and deserves to take a rest. “Man, I am already resting, because I didn’t have water and light here, and now I have water and light and I am resting in my piece of land where I’m gonna stay. Making abundance, growing what I want to plant,” says Souza.
Antonia Pereira swings on her hammock as she talks with a friend on her stilt house at the Vila Nova neighborhood in Itaituba, Para state, Brazil. She says life was better in the 1980s when people came to the gold mines in the region. Now she survives selling hammocks and cooking street barbecues. Sometimes she can fish from her porch during the season that the Tapajos river floods. “I wish there were more jobs for the young people,” she says.
Boys play soccer next to stilt houses at the Vila Nova neighborhood in Itaituba, Para state, Brazil. Carved through jungle during Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, the Trans-Amazon highway that runs through town was built to bend nature to man’s will in the vast hinterland.
A rooster-tail cicada clings to a tree on the property of Joao Batista Ferreira in Belterra, Para state, Brazil. The area was jungle throughout Ferreira’s childhood. Today, his plot is an island of shade and birdsong in the middle of sweeping plantations.
The forest stands next to a soy field in an area behind the home of Joao Batista Ferreira in Belterra, Para state, Brazil. Better known as Joao of Honey, though none of his 1,000 beehives remain, he complains that agribusiness did away with the native forest.