How will these resources help you?

April 2022 witnessed record levels of deforestation in the Amazon, despite pledges to halt the rate of deforestation at COP26. The Western view is that the destruction of these faraway lands is catastrophic, and the effects will impact us all through climate change. But students must understand the motives for deforestation, the conflicting demands and values placed on the Amazon by its wide-ranging stakeholders. Once this is understood, sustainable solutions to deforestation can be addressed. These resources begin at the heart of the Amazon, before expanding out into an analysis of wider Brazilian politics. They will help you explore the Amazon’s destruction from a range of viewpoints, develop empathy for those whose economic survival depends on it, and lead students to evaluate solutions and engage in their own activism.

The Amazon in context


by Bruce Parry, published by Penguin, (2009), 9780141037127

This book accompanies a BBC TV series, and it is the perfect starting point for context. Bruce Parry travels the length of the Amazon in this very accessible book for students and teachers. On his journey he spends time with those who rely on the rainforest, from indigenous tribes to illegal loggers, law enforcement, land grabbers, cattle ranchers, and others on the frontline on the war to save the Amazon. The images are spectacular and perfect for engaging students. The book hits home the devastating impacts of deforestation but offers empathy to the many stakeholders who use the forest as a resource in their struggle to survive. The book is ideal for teaching students that we must consider the viewpoints of all that use it. As one review highlights, the book is ‘very fair, and gives voice to all sides’.  

Fighting for the forest

The Burning Season: The Murder of Chico Mendes and the Fight for the Amazon Rain Forest

by Andrew Revkin, published by Shearwater Books, US, (2004), 9781559630894

The tragic story of Chico Mendes is a favourite among Geography teachers in exploring the wide-ranging demands on the Amazon in the form of a murder investigation. Students invariably have a host of searching questions, that I must admit I struggled to answer until I read this book, which gives great context and a thorough account of the murder and the events before and after. The story examines the motives of all suspects and leads the students to understand the reasons for deforestation by the many stakeholders. While tragic, the book provides an interesting angle to explore reasons for deforestation in the Amazon. The author quotes that ‘the threat of violent death hangs in the air like mist after a tropical rain. It is simply a part of the ecosystem’. 

Brazil on the world stage

Brazil: The Troubled Rise of a Global Power

by Michael Reid, published by Yale University Press, (2015), 9780300216974

This book is ideal for setting the scene, exploring the role of the Amazon in Brazil, a country that, after decades of military rule, has emerged as a powerful global player. But problems remain; corruption is rife, the politics turbulent, and poverty and violence widespread. The writer explores the roots of Brazilian nationalism and its relationship with the Amazon. Very valuable background when studying the widespread motives for deforesting the Amazon and helping students make sense of the distant tragedy.

The politics of deforestation

Beef, Bible and bullets: Brazil in the age of Bolsonaro

by Richard Lapper, published by Manchester University Press, (2022), 9781526165459

A very up-to-date analysis of the politics of Brazil and its current president. Academics and environmentalists believe that the Amazon will ‘collapse if Bolsonaro remains in power’. Backed by Agri-Business giants (as the ‘Beef’ in the title), Bolsonaro sees the Amazon as a source of economic growth and undermines the state’s effort to tackle illegal deforestation. This book gives students and teachers an up-to-date context, and helps explain why April 2022 saw record levels of deforestation in the Amazon. Chapters 10 and 11 focus on the environment and the Amazon, so after an introduction into his political ideas, it may be worth heading straight there.

Record levels of deforestation

Amazon deforestation in April was the worst in modern records

by Adam Vaughan, published by The New Scientist, (2022)

This article provides an effective way to begin a student enquiry into the topic, by introducing this worrying development that April 2022 witnessed record levels of deforestation in the Amazon. The graph in the article shows a clear upward trend, with Greenpeace blaming ‘President Bolsonaro’s sabotage of environmental law enforcement in Brazil’. 

Audiovisual clips

The Amazon under Threat - Indigenous communities in the Amazon

published by BBC, (2019)

Jair Bolsonaro's politics endager the livelihood of local communities such as the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, an indigenous group, as shown in this clip.
Our World - Illegal deforestation

published by BBC, (2020)

Columbian laws make Amazon deforestation illegal, but some local loggers feel like they have no other option to survive.

Further materials

I Bought a Rain Forest, Part 1 by Charlie Hamilton, published by National Geographic, YouTube, (2016) Watch this video
Tracking Amazon Deforestation from Above by the NASA Earth Observatory, (2019) Access this resource
David Newell is Head of Geography at Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex. He has held the GA’s Secondary Geography Quality Mark since 2015, and has worked as a Specialist Leader in Education, advising schools on improving their Geography provision.

Text © David Newell, 2022.