A guest lecture by Professor Rachael Garrett of Boston University.
Abstract: For decades, deforestation and rural poverty have remained intractable sustainability challenges in the tropics. This talk explores why many of the farmers living in the Brazilian Amazon, home to the world’s largest tropical agricultural-forest frontier, persist in agricultural activities associated with low incomes and high environmental damage. To answer this question, we examine the factors that shape the development and distribution of land use behaviors, farmer perceptions, and household wellbeing. By highlighting the role of culture as a key structural factor determining land use perceptions and behaviors we hope to improve upon traditional monetary framings of land use motivations in the region and better inform policy interventions. We conclude that transitions away from low-income and environmentally degrading land uses in the Brazilian Amazon will require policies and programs that identify households based on cultural, not just financial attributes, and leverage social networks and values, not just monetary incentives, to shift behavior into more sustainable outcomes.