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The New Frontier in Brazil: People, Progress and the Environment
Grade Level: 10 - 12
As needs for minerals and farm land mount, nations are turning to their few remaining, untapped regions. In Brazil, for example, the vast Amazon wilderness has for centuries defied exploration and development efforts. Scattered tribes lived there, completely separate from white culture and values and white diseases. But during the past several years, the Amazon barrier has been broken by the construction of the Transamazonian highway, which became a source of controversy in Brazil comparable to what the Alaskan pipeline has been for us.
Much of the road network has already been built but there are still unsettled questions about the construction of the northern east-west road and the future development of the region. Proponents -- government officials, construction companies, and multinational corporations and agribusiness interested in developing the Amazon -- point to the importance of (1) facilitating economic growth through the exploitation of mineral and other natural resources in the region; (2) opening up new lands to relieve population pressures in densely populated areas, and (3) establishing a communications network throughout the country in order to guarantee the security of the region. Critics argue that this project will erode the soil, destroy vegetation, and threaten indigenous cultures. Some have even predicted that the razing of the jungle will have a long-term effect on climate patterns in other, distant, parts of the world.
This case study is designed to help students deal with the environmental questions which are part of the larger controversy. The study describes the situation in the Amazon and discusses some of the advantages and disadvantages of developing the region. Students are asked to evaluate the impact of a changing environment on a society and its culture, and to deal with the concept of "progress" as it is related to growth and to the preservation (or destruction) of the physical environment and indigenous cultures.
Students will develop:
Answers and Possible Answers
This question involves students in thinking about their own values. It is important for them to consider what "progress" means to them and how they weigh the demands for economic growth, development, etc., against concern for the preservation of human and physical environments.
Distribute the student
materials which consist of a reading, discussion questions and explorations.
Source: New Frontier in Brazil, Environmental Education, Interdependence: A Concept Approach, (Part D, 10-12 Handbook). Jayne Millar Wood and David C. King, eds. Center for Global Perspectives, New York, NY, 1976.