Amazon Besieged tells the story of two writers’ long investigative trip along the basin in 2016 and 2017. As if travelling through history, the authors were able to trace the way an outside economic force arrives and dispossesses earlier inhabitants. They started their journey in the south of the Tapajós river basin, where modern Brazil is firmly entrenched, with its paved roads and huge soya plantations, and moved north, where outsiders are engaged in a violent tussle with the earlier inhabitants who still occupy much of the land. Travelling by canoe and pick-up, the authors visited remote indigenous villages and isolated communities of rubber-tappers and fisherfolk. They recorded moving testimony of the pressure these people are experiencing, with the arrival of dam builders, loggers and land-grabbers. At times, these outsiders show little respect for the law, openly sending in illegal militias to evict the original inhabitants.
Yet the outcome is far from clear, for today indigenous and riverine communities know full well that they are struggling for their very survival. Overcoming traditional hostilities, they have created powerful new alliances and are forging links with environmentalists, who know that they are the true guardians of the forest.
1. The Invisible People gather
2. Dynamiting Heaven
3. Terror comes to the Teles Pires
4. An award for the dam builders
5. The story of Sinop
6. Soya invades the Cerrado
7. The threat to the Amazon
8. The soya transport corridor
9. Why the ‘Amazon Soya Moratorium’ is greenwash
10. All crime and no punishment
11. Land speculators poised to gain control
12. The guardians of the forest
13. Deforestation becomes big business
14. Warming wood and wild-cat mining
15. Old enemies work together
‘Based on years of first-hand research and vivid testimonies gathered from grassroots communities in Brazil, Sue Branford and Mauricio Torres give a fresh and lucid overview of the complex issues behind mega-development projects and illegal resource extraction that are rapidly destroying the Amazon rainforest and its inhabitants. They expose political corruption and greed, and make a compelling and cogent call for action before it’s too late. This is essential reading for those concerned not just for the future of the Amazon and its rich human and ecological diversity, but ultimately for our planet.’
Fiona Watson, Head of Research, Survival International
‘Amazon Besieged is a compelling book that appeals equally to the head, the heart and to our sense of socio-environmental responsibility. It is a gripping exploration of the dramatic and challenging consequences of the ongoing absorption of the Amazon into market globalisation. In its pages we find the perverse and violent advance of Western modernity through a political nexus that privileges the interests of conservative politicians, construction companies, agribusiness farmers and corporations, at the expense of the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples, family farmers, subaltern groups and wider Brazilian society. Written with great wisdom and skills, the text reveals Torres and Branford’s lifetime commitment to the production of outstanding work. The book brings together excellent journalism and inquisitive academic research and is a great contribution to understand the planetary repercussions of Amazonian dilemmas. It is an absorbing, page-turner narrative that injects a real sense of indignation and that is a genuine invitation to critical thinking.’
Antonio A R Ioris, School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University
‘Amazon Besieged tells a frontier story, a tale of successive waves of land grabbing, cattle ranching, commercial soy farming, and transport and energy infrastructure development, which have degraded the lands, livelihoods and traditional cultures of indigenous people, peasant farmers and fishing communities. While this may sound like a lawless frontier, as Torres and Branford make clear, the Brazilian State is very much present and actively intervenes in support of the agribusiness interests that finance soy’s destructive incursion into the rainforest. Based on their reporting of visits to the region in 2016 and 17, Torres and Branford’s new book offers a vivid and lively exploration of the dynamics of life and death on Brazil’s Amazonian frontier and the threat that this poses to the world’s hopes of preventing catastrophic climate change.’
Graham Woodgate, UCL Institute of the Americas
‘This is a fascinating, important and astonishing account of the battle to save the living world and the future prospects of humanity.’
George Monbiot, journalist, activist, and campaigner
'This is investigative journalism at its very best! Torres and Branford deliver a meticulously researched yet hugely readable account of their travels through what I would characterise as the "colonial present" of the Tapajos region of Brazilian Amazonia. The stakes here could not be higher - if the processes of dispossession and destruction analysed herein are not halted, the region's peoples and forests are doomed. Yet the authors also find hope in forest peoples' vigorous resistance. A must read for all interested in the future of Amazonia.'
Dr James Fraser, Lancaster University
Mauricio Torres has lived and worked in the Amazon for 15 years; he has a PhD in human geography and has been consulted as an expert by the Federal Public Ministry in over a dozen cases involving social and environmental issues in the Amazon.
Sue Branford reports from Latin America for the BBC and The Guardian.