Chapter 5

Building a Model for Change

Stretching some four thousand miles across South America, the Amazon River is one of earth’s natural wonders. From its source just east of the Pacific Ocean, high in the Peruvian Andes, to where it empties into the Atlantic, the river and its network of tributaries drain into the surrounding landscape, creating an extraordinary rainforest ecosystem believed to be home to more than one-third of the world’s species. The Amazon basin is massive, an area the size of the contiguous United States, comprising 40 percent of the entire South American continent across eight countries. But Brazil, which is home to 63 percent of the entire basin, has long set the region’s course.

In the 1990s, that course was rushing ...

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