The Environmental Violence of Soy Cultivation in the Brazilian Amazon

Abstract / Resumen / Resumo

An area of great environmental complexity, inhabited by ancient traditional fishing communities and around 400 Afro-Brazilian (Quilombolas) families, is about to disappear (Locatelli, 2016). I refer to the region of Lago do Maicá (Santarém, Pará, Brazil), an area inhabited by about 1,500 families. Maicá is an ecological sanctuary, a natural cradle for unique species of aquatic fauna and Amazonian bird life. It was here, almost two centuries ago, that two leading British naturalists, Henry Walter Bates and Alfred Russel Wallace, spent three years studying animals and insects. Despite hardships, the men reveled in what they called the “glorious forest” (Bates, 2009 [1863], p. 371). It is estimated that by the end of their three years, they had collected more than 14,000 species of animals (mostly insects). Based on this long and demanding trip, Bates published his book The Naturalist on the River Amazons (Bates, 2009 [1863]), which is still regarded as a classic. Today, besides being a tourist attraction, the lake is also a source of income for the families who make a living from fishing, providing about 30 percent of the fish consumed in town (de Matos Vaz, 2017).