Foreword Reviews

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The Life and Death of a Minke Whale in the Amazon

Dispatches from the Brazilian Rainforest

From varied corners of the shrinking Amazon, Fábio Zuker’s essays report on perils to humans and wildlife, surveying Brazilian history, geography, and culture and documenting a raft of environmental problems that have been exacerbated by climate change.

The struggles of marginalized populations are evinced through the concerned perspectives of farmers, fishers, shopkeepers, and activists—those who are most adversely affected by, but least empowered by, land development. Local narratives are framed by discussions of larger environmental justice issues and the clash between exploiting and nurturing the natural world.

Stories of rural Venezuelan refugees who were displaced by environmental degradation are echoed by Brazilian villagers swelling the ranks of the urban poor. Zuker also focuses on the plight of quilombos, Afro-Brazilian communities fighting land grabs by rice and soy factory farms and the pollution of traditional farming and fishing areas.

The essays highlight the balanced interconnections of healthy environments and those that have been unraveled by a rain forest ecosystem under siege. Gold mining, road building, wildfires, and extreme shifts in rainfall bring plagues of soil erosion, water pollution, and the loss of biodiversity. Wonderful respite from this weighty reportage comes from Indigenous artist Gustavo Caboco’s dynamic illustrations.

Several pieces examine public health issues for vulnerable Indigenous villagers, tying them to struggles to manage ancestral land. The Bolsanaro administration has pushed to develop these sensitive ecosystems, which are an essential source of traditional food and medicine. An intriguing look at the medical practices of the Upper Rio Negro kumua, or shamans, notes how Indigenous and conventional medicine differ, and how local health suffers with assaults on culture and land.

This unique view of Brazil’s precious, precarious rain forest shimmers with passion and an intimate understanding of “the friction between two worlds, between two ways of relating to the land.”

Reviewed by Rachel Jagareski

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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