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Volume 61 / Social Sciences
KEITH D. MULLER, Associate Professor of Geography, Kent State University
THE ENVIRONMENT, DEVELOPMENTAL POLICY, soils, climate, and the landless movement are the central topics of works reviewed for HLAS 61. This is especially true for the Amazonian-dominant English-language literature, whereas the Portuguese-language publications cover all regions of Brazil and additionally examine subjects such as population, socioeconomic issues, tourism, and the census.
Two books on Amazonia are especially noteworthy. Cardoso addresses local resource management and extractive reserves and seeks to understand how they are being influenced globally (item #bi2005001353#). Little emphasizes the interplay of local and global forces from environmental, political, and anthropological perspectives, and examines issues ranging from resource exploitation and conservation to colonization, urbanization, and industrialization (item #bi2005001403#).
Soil geographer William Woods and his North American and European colleagues deserve special mention for research and publications on Amazonia "dark soils," which are patches of organically rich and sustainable soils. Woods' extensive field and laboratory work culminates in two books (items #bi2005001401# and #bi2005001402#). These recent publications suggest a new potential for sustainability of humid tropical soils and the viability for greater precontact population estimates for Amazonia, such as those first described by the Spanish explorer Orellana in 1542. Scholars have largely thought Orellana's claims were greatly overstated because shifting cultivation has been thought to lead invariably to rapid leaching of nutrients from soils, thus allowing only limited populations. Earlier research by Woods and others led them to believe that garbage and camp debris were responsible for the development of "black soils" (see HLAS 59:2979, 3007, and 3008). However, recent findings from the two above-mentioned books, as well as further work by Woods and his colleagues (see items #bi2004003596#, #bi2004003595#, and #bi2005001410#), suggest that the indigenous use of charcoal is the previously unknown key ingredient for successful development of fertile and sustainable dark soils. Implications for contemporary land-use in Amazonia is open: will such studies lead to well-conceived planning or will they result in even greater destruction in the future?
Two outstanding books address the phenomenon of Movimento Sem Terra, or MST (Landless Movement), a growing social movement in Brazil since its development in Rio Grande do Sul in 1980s. Wright and Wolford trace its origins and growth and compare MST settlements throughout the country (item #bi2005001411#). Branford and Rocha's study, based principally on interviews of landless peasants, provides unique insights into the movement (item #bi2004003599#).
RECENT DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS
A wide range of dissertations, mostly centered on Amazonia, may be of interest to readers of this chapter. Readers may refer to http://wwwlib.umi.com/dissertations/ for abstracts and 20-page previews.
- Angelini, Isabella Martina, "Sources and pathways of rainwater to the central Amazon Basin," Univ. of Virginia, Steve Macko, advisor, 2002. Examines hydrologic cycle from a three-tiered approach utilizing satellite imagery, rain gauges, and isotopic storm sampling.
- Biggs, Trent Wade, "Regional deforestation and stream biogeochemistry in the southwestern Brazilian Amazon Basin," Univ. of California, Santa Barbara, Thomas Dunne, advisor, 2004. Quantifies the impacts of deforestation on stream nutrient concentrations. Concludes that vegetation conversion alone has modest impacts whereas tramping by cattle and urbanization are of greater importance.
- Castro, Marcia Caldas de, "Spatial configuration of malaria risk on the Amazon frontier: the hidden reality behind global analysis (Brazil)," Princeton Univ., Burton H. Singer, advisor, 2002. Attempts to identify local determinants of malaria transmission and establish spatially explicate methods for analysis and reduce costs of disease mitigation in frontier settlements.
- Diniz, Alexandre Magno Alves, "Frontier evolution and mobility in volatile settlement of the Brazilian Amazon," Arizona State Univ., Kevin McHugh, advisor, 2002. Qualitative analysis identifies hierarchical stages of settlement as related to mobility, migration, and settlement dynamics, and is divided into three phases: pioneer, transitional, and consolidated. Multi-methods of theoretical framework include positivism, historical-structuralism, and humanism.
- Freeman, James Patrick, "Face to face but worlds apart: the geography of class in the public space of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)", Univ. of California, Berkeley, Allan Pred, advisor, 2002. Argues that, unlike in most cities of the world, the rich and poor of Rio de Janeiro share neighborhoods.
- Haddad, Monica Amaral, "Human development and regional inequalities: spatial analysis across Brazilian municipalities," Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Geoffrey D.J. Hewings, advisor, 2003. Concludes that uncontrolled decentralization needs to be replaced with spatially focused and coordinated mechanisms.
- Higgins, Paul, "Ecosystem responses and feedbacks to abrupt climate change," Stanford Univ., Stephen Schneider, advisor, 2004. Compares northern and eastern Amazonia in reference to potential thermohaline circulation weakening.
- Holmes, Karen W., "Regional effects of deforestation on soil biogeochemistry in the southwestern Amazon," Univ. of California, Santa Barbara, Oliver A. Chadwick, advisor, 2003. Attempts to remedy the lack of large-scale soil databases that most mini-level studies fail to provide.
- Simmons, Cynthia Susanne, "The political economy of underdevelopment: the case of rural insecurity in Amazonia (Brazil)," Florida State Univ., Patrick O'Sullivan, advisor, 1999. Employs case studies and spatial regression statistical analysis to demonstrate the relationship between cattle ranching, land concentration, and human settlements.
- Thomas, Timothy Scott, "Avanca Brasil and deforestation in the Amazon (Brazil)," Univ. of Maryland, College Park, Marc Nerlove, advisor, 2004. Predicts change in deforestation along recently paved roadway.
- Vergara, Dante Gideon K., "Towards the development of spatially unbiased landscape fragmentation indices," Michigan State Univ., Robert T. Walker, advisor, 2004. Proposes a new index to describe landscape fragmentation as a spatial process based on patch density, shape complexity, and arrangement. Allows for comparative studies between sites and/or with other continuous data. Employes co-incident, classified ETM+ and Ikonos imagery of the Amazonia forest in Pará, Brazil.
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