From Publishers Weekly
The conventional wisdom is that the Amazon River basin and the unique flora and fauna of its fecund rainforests—half of the remaining forest on earth—are on the brink of ecological disaster. Not necessarily so, say the authors of this combination of wonkish policy paper, astute reporting and firsthand adventure narrative, who revisited Brazil's forested middle provinces 25 years after writing their first book, Amazon
. Vast swaths of rainforest have indeed fallen to road development, cattle ranching, soy farming and clear-cut logging (including the decimation of mahogany trees). An estimated 3% of the forest was gone in 1980, when London and Kelly made two 100-day journeys through the Amazon. Now, 20% is gone. But there's still hope for "good things to happen," they say, as Brazil's 20-year-old democracy tries to balance economic growth with international environmental concerns. Leading sustainable rainforest development is Brazilian environment minister Marina Silva, who rose from unschooled peasant daughter of an impoverished rubber-plant tapper to win a Senate seat, then became "the most important person in the Amazon" after the 2002 election of Brazil's current president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The portrait of her humble beginnings and thoughtful activism humanizes this fact-filled, sometimes dry book. (Feb. 6)
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"Save the rain forests" is a cry heard round the world, and there is no doubt that the viability of the Amazon is key to a healthy biosphere. Yet the rain forests must also sustain the people of Brazil, making preservation a complicated undertaking. London and Kelly (Amazon,
1984) present an eye-opening and many-faceted twenty-first-century report on Amazon politics and innovation, crime and poverty. In a superb work of journalism, London and Kelly profile environmentalists, politicians, ranchers, and ordinary citizens; shrewdly consider the impact of new roads and wireless technology; and chronicle the ongoing destruction of forests and displacement of forest people to make way for cattle ranches and soybean fields. Appalling stories about corruption, illegal logging, bloodshed over land titles, and murdered activists abound. For Brazilians, the Amazon is not only "nature's last great preserve," it is also a "land of opportunity," and while many individuals are committed to finding ways to both preserve the forest and support people's livelihoods, the obstacles are daunting, and the rain forest is disappearing at an accelerated rate. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved