Book Review-The Last Forest: The Amazon in the Age of Globalization

I don't know about you, but Brazil has been popping up in all kinds of random conversations this year. Just type Brazil into our search engine and you start to see the diversity of topics. From politics to clean energy Brazil is a magnet for discussion and a leader in developing new ideas about our relationship to nature. 'The Last Forest: The Amazon in the Age of Globalization' is a time capsule of modern day Amazonia. Authors Mark London and Brian Kelly return to the Amazon after over 25 years from their previous book (Amazon). What they discover and relate is a deep understanding of the events, people, and currents of modern human civilization in Brazil. The book highlights individual stories throughout the Amazon that provide depth of perspective, astonishing scope, and impressive impact.One particular example, the late Samuel Benchimol, captured the academic essence of today's situation. His son Jamie delivers what I think are some of the most insightful pro's on the interface between humanity and nature in sensitive ecologies.

(paraphrased)

1.The amazon region [is] very heterogeneous in its flora, fauna, ecosystems, etc., so that it is dangerous and wrong to have uniform policies for the entire region.

2.The amazonian world cannot be isolated or alienated from Brazilian and international development, but it will have to sustain itself along four essential parameters, i.e. it must be economically feasible, ecologically adequate, politically balanced and socially fair.

3. If we are to refrain from developing the Amazon for the sake of the planet, then polluting nations ought to pay an international environmental tax to compensate for the forfeited opportunity costs. We are currently providing a free service to polluting nations and to the planet in keeping very large region undeveloped at a very high human cost.

But the narrative does much more, through the lives of Brazilians the book captures the diversity of human life in one of Earths greatest environments. The book leaves you compelled and in awe of the people who struggle to find a way to exist, prosper, and live. The human story of the Amazon has existed for millennium, we are facing a critical challenge of how to negotiate our existence with nature- Brazil is on the front lines, and this book highlighted for me the real issues at stake when we talk about our relationship to nature.

In the tradition of book reviews, I feel the need to bring up shortcomings. The only real criticism I have is that it is not a page turner. Each chapter of the book is highly unique, and some are better than others. As a collection of work, it is impressive, thoughtful, and worth the read. At times I was left wanting more, and in this regard the notes at the back of the book provide further reading and references which look like a promising start. If you do read the book, you will find yourself floating along the winding river looking for the next settlement, learning about the illegal harvest of mahogany, and considering how a road can mean life or death to the people of the Amazon.

Tags: Brazil