Geopolitics and ecology in Brazil (1964-1985) : the effects of Brazilian geopolitics on the natural environments of Amazonia and the Plata River Basin
This thesis examines the relationship between geopolitics and ecology in Brazil. It attempts to demonstrate that Brazilian geopolitical thinking, which was responsible for guiding most development plans of the Brazilian military regime (1964-1985), has been crucial in defining the type, pace and scale of deforestation and environmental degradation in Brazil. The geopolitical attempts to force Brazil into the capitalist world-system and to enable it to achieve the status of a regional power in Latin America, saw the political use of territory and the application of special territorial policies cause sudden and dramatic changes to the natural environment, with profound regional consequences. The thesis seeks to explore the contention that by planning and occupying Brazil’s geographical space on geopolitical principles, military governments neglected Brazil’s ecological space or purposively changed it to achieve national political interests. The occupation of Brazilian Amazonia and the Plata river basin, two macro-regions of major geopolitical and ecological significance are the two case studies selected to consider these concepts. The occupation of Brazilian Amazonia is shown to represent the incorporation of valuable natural resources into Brazil’s economic development to build “Great Brazil” but also included schemes to foster territorial integration and a defensive strategy against its “internationalisation”. In the Plata basin, the construction of the Itaipu hydroelectric power plant and the expansion of the Brazilian “mobile frontiers” in the hinterland of the continent are shown to represent an offensive strategy by Brazil to gain hegemony over the southern continent against its rival Argentina. Both geopolitical operations had strong environmental consequences in Amazonia and the Plata river basin, two internationally shared ecosystems. In the Brazilian Amazonia, geopolitics neglected the ecological space. In the Plata basin it was purposively altered to achieve national political interests. Environmental consequences have also affected Paraguay. The thesis compares the main differences between Brazilian geopolitical thinking and the ecological paradigm in the planning, development and management of Brazil’s territory. The identification of diverging points attempts to explain the roots, of conflicts. It concludes by describing the challenges that these two macro-regions will face in the new geopolitical arena of the twenty-first century and the environmental problems involved.