The Brazilian Amazon is the world's most biologically rich area. The region is also home to large deposits of natural resources in the form of natural gas, timber, latex, and hydroelectric potential. But while the economic potential of the region is enormous, it remains extremely poor. Over 90% of the state of Amazonas' rural population does not have adequate sanitation, electricity, or housing. The Brazilian government faces enormous pressure to both preserve the natural environment of the Amazon and to develop its economic potential for inhabitants. This seminar will cover the political economy of natural resource use in the Amazon, with particular attention to how Brazilians are balancing the twin mandates of ecological conservation and development of energy and mineral resources. The goal of the seminar is to expose students to the enormously difficult trade-offs that policymakers face when crafting economic development and energy policy.
The course will begin in Rio de Janeiro with introductory lectures and discussions with government officials, energy industry executives, and NGO representatives. The class will then move to Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon, where students will focus on in-depth case studies of three topics: 1) development of natural gas resources and pipelines in the Amazon; 2) the construction of hydroelectric dams; and 3) the provision of energy services to rural, low-income Amazonian villages. Each case study will include a site visit, introduction to relevant theory and analytical tools, and discussions with key stakeholders. The class will also give some attention to the ecology of the Amazon, and students will take a trip to a managed ecological preserve. The class will require group presentations and a paper on topics to be agreed upon by the students and teacher.