Lunch Briefing

Amazonian Fires: The Fall and Rise of Deforestation

Susanna Hecht, Professor of International History
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Auditorium A1B, Maison de la paix, Geneva

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Amazonia captured global headlines with dramatic imagery of raging fires engulfing the basin, which in turn triggered major geopolitical squabbles. The fires burned more than 2 million hectares of pastures and primary forest, spewing millions of tons of C02 into the atmosphere. From 2004 to 2014, deforestation had dropped by 80%. But by 2016, although nearly 60% of Amazonia was and is protected, clearing rates began to increase. In 2019, the region exploded in flames. This talk looks at the fall and rise of deforestation, and the reasons for and implications of these drastic changes.
Susanna Hecht is Professor of International History at the Graduate Institute, and Professor in the Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Institute of Environment at UCLA. Her research focuses largely on land use change in the Latin American tropics. Her work represents a remarkable integration of the humanities, including the history of ideas, social and environmental history, and the social sciences of development into the dynamics and sciences of tropical and planetary change. As one of the founding thinkers of Political Ecology, now a widespread interdisciplinary approach in geography, anthropology, development studies and environmental sciences, she has consistently carved out new analytic terrain through highly active tropical and archival research. Her recent book, Scramble for the Amazon and the Lost Paradise of Euclides da Cunha, won the  Eleanor Melville Award for best book in Latin American environmental history from the American Historical Association and the Carl O. Sauer Award. Last year she received the David Livingstone award for Tropical Research from the American Geographical Society. She has also received many prestigious grants, including: Guggenheim, MacArthur, ACLS and Shelby Cullom Davis Fellowships. Professor Hecht is also a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.