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“The Last Rainforests” by Mitchell Beazley, (World Conservation Union,) is a beautifully illustrated book which looks at rainforests worldwide  –  conservation status, plants, insects, birds, animals and people. It was the first book to publish maps of the forests with their past and present extent, clearly demonstrating their destruction.

Another book with a global worldview is “People of the Tropical Rain Forest” by Denslow & Padoch. It examines forest dwellers from prehistory to the present day, and discusses all the related topics from deforestation to the impact of big business and sustainable uses of the forests.

It’s not just the forests that are disappearing, it’s also their inhabitants. John Hemming’s “Red Gold: The Conquest of the Brazilian Indians” will tell you all you need to know about the conquest and colonization of Brazil by the Portuguese, and the consequent decimation of the indigenous population.

Which is not to suggest that violence and death in the rainforest is a thing of the past. Forest land continues to be cleared today by migrant farmers who are eligible to gain title to the land after living and working on it for a certain length of time. Unfortunately for them the forest holds valuable species which arouse the jealousy of land grabbers, and ugly little wars break out which often end in murder. An excellent introduction io the complexities of Brazil’s land wars is found in Binka Le Breton’s “The Greatest Gift” which tells the story of Sister Dorothy Stang, who was murdered in 2005 for her support of the migrant farmers.


Binka Le Breton has also written about future of the forest that lies with the people who inhabit it: Indians, loggers, ranchers, river people, rubber tappers and miners. Her book “Voices from the Amazon” gives the forest dwellers a chance to express their own views on the development of the forest. Strangely enough, not many people thought to ask them before…

If you don’t know Brazil well, you should check out a fascinating collection of essays by Brazilianists of different nationalities, collected by a leading Brazilian sociologist, Roberto da Matta, and David Hess. It’s called “The Brazilian Puzzle.”

A recent account by New York Times correspondent Larry Rohter – “Brazil on the Rise” – explains why Brazil is one of the up and coming BRIC countries that are the talk of the town. Peter Robb’s “A Death in Brazil” is a racy description of the political machinations of the early 1990s that led to the first and only presidential impeachment in Latin American history.

And finally, if you want a feel for Brazil in general, you can’t do better than  read some of the magnificent fiction written by Brazilian authors. You might start with Márcio Souza, whose “The Emperor of the Amazon” is a great, comic tale of a true scoundrel and his adventures in the Amazon.


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A visit to Iracambi

Iracambi is an NGO located in the Atlantic Rainforest and during my recent visit….

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