With implications for the human role in global environmental change, this timely study explores how pre-Columbian Amerindians and contemporary rural Amazonians have affected their environment and how that environment sometimes resists human manipulation
Widespread human alteration of the planet has led many scholars to claim that we have entered a new epoch in geological time: the Anthropocene, an age dominated by humanity. This ethnography is the first to directly engage the Anthropocene, tackling its problems and paradoxes from the vantage point of the world’s largest tropical rainforest.
Drawing from extensive ethnographic research, Nicholas Kawa examines how pre-Columbian Amerindians and contemporary rural Amazonians have shaped their environment, describing in vivid detail their use and management of the region’s soils, plants, and forests. At the same time, he highlights the ways in which the Amazonian environment resists human manipulation and control—a vital reminder in this time of perceived human dominance. Written in engaging, accessible prose, Amazonia in the Anthropocene offers an innovative contribution to debates about humanity’s place on the planet, encouraging deeper ecocentric thinking and a more inclusive vision of ecology for the future.
- 1. Amazonia in the Anthropocene
- 2. People
- 3. Soils
- 4. Plants
- 5. Forests
- 6. From the Anthropocene to the Ecozoic?
- Appendix: Useful Botanical Species Surveyed in Borba, Amazonas, Brazil
“A provocative read. Densely packed, this richly constructed, engaging ethnography explores biodiversity, human adaptation, risk, vulnerability, and resilience in the immensely complex and rapidly changing realm that is the Amazon. Writing in an effective, reflexive style, Nicholas Kawa offers the reader a nuanced, deeply supported, and multifaceted view of Amazonian life in times that are truly momentous. This is, simply, an insightful, beautiful gem of a book.”
Barbara Rose Johnston, Center for Political Ecology Senior Research Fellow and principal author of Who Pays the Price?: The Sociocultural Context of Environmental Crisis
“I didn’t realize such a recent coinage as ‘anthropocene’ is already in desperate need of revision. Kawa provides that in his intriguing account of soils, forests, and rivers. These stories sparkle with analytic insight and unfold through vivid ethnographic details that cumulatively challenge the centrality of the West in the narrative of how the world is changing. This book will change our thinking about the planet.”
John Hartigan, University of Texas at Austin, author of Aesop’s Anthropology: A Multispecies Approach