A new threat now confronts the Amazon in the form of a massive infrastructure program, the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America, or IIRSA. This article presents results of a projection analysis showing that IIRSA could push the Amazonian forest past a “tipping point,” replacing it with tropical savanna. Such an event would degrade biodiversity, reduce carbon storage, and harm continental agriculture, dependent on moisture transport from forest-based rainfall recycling. The article considers environmental policy in Brazil and discusses its weakening over time. One short-term approach to conservation is provided by indigenous resistance to development forces. The article presents a case study of the Munduruku people, who recently stopped construction of a large dam on the Tapajós River in defending their territories. It argues that more research is needed to understand the impacts of IIRSA, which is proceeding in the dark.
One Earth Perspective, Volume 1, ISSUE 2, P202-215, October 25, 2019,