It is currently estimated that twenty percent of the world’s oxygen comes from the trees of the Amazon rainforest. To live without this global ecological resource is about on par with a digit from each hand of every living person; yet this is the future that the current program of Amazonian deforestation promises us. On the other hand, the causes of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon are basic to the modern world as we know it.
Massive old-growth trees are harvested for their wood, which can be exported at significant profit to America and Europe; cleared land is often used for intensive cattle farming; and while funding for environmental conservation is scarce anywhere in the world, abundant capital is available from international investors for these projects, which bring much appreciated monies into Brazil from abroad. For those who find this projection questionable—more Big Macs, fewer opposable thumbs—recent research suggests a more sustainable past that gestures toward a more sustainable future.
In a study of the Brazilian Amazon by Michael Heckenberger et al. , published in Science magazine, a different notion of urbanism appears that is more ecologically viable in densely forested regions. When we think of the great ancient cities we usually imagine the megacenters made possible by a confluence of unlikely geographical phenomena. The Egyptian cities on the Nile, for example, model what we have come to see as the paradigm of urbanism, but in fact these are the exceptions rather than the rule.
The environmental factors contributing to the rise of Thebes and Cairo are unique to their situation and should be taken as neither the best nor the only kind of city. In the Upper Xingu region of the southern Amazon basin Heckenberger and company discovered a pre-Columbian alternative form of urbanism. Small cities and towns were arranged around a projected center which corresponded to the population size and urban development of the cities emanating from it.
For example, a town of fifty people with more complex earthworks might be found closer to the center of population concentration while a smaller, less built up village of ten people might be found at the periphery. What unites these disparate communities in Heckenberger’s study is the macrogeographic analysis that reveals there structural unity, a structure of roads connecting and facilitating exchange, and a shared set of ritual, religious, and ideological beliefs.
At a local level one sees many competing villages; at another one sees “galactic urbanism” in which cities are composed many sites of density interspersed with forestation that allows for the success of each, and so all, communities. The network of communities found in Pre-Columbian Amazonian civilization provides an alternative vision of what a city means and, paradoxically, it is a vision that is as post-modern as it is ancient. Heckeneberger cites an early twentieth century vision of garden states, low density communities shot through with vegetative abundance.
This vision can be found again in Frank Lloyd Wright’s version of American and in the current Utopian environmental imagination. Heckenberger shows that this is not just a pipedream wrought by disillusionment with the excesses of industrial urbanism. On the contrary, galactic urbanism is a very real part of the historical record, and one that can likely be found in similar forested areas. Far from a fantasy, galactic urbanism is as real as the need for oxygen.Sample Essay of PaperDon.com