Worksample #1 for the 2016-2017 Fulbright - National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship
Cartographic Maps and Analyses: dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4860321/Estrada_Fulbright_NationalGeographic_Worksample01.pdf
by Leif Estrada, MDesS-Urbanism, Landscape + Ecology | MLA I AP 2016 candidate
ADV-9133 | Urban Theory Lab: Extreme Territories | Neil Brenner, PhD - Professor or Urban Theory | Harvard University Graduate School of Design | Spring 2014
[PROJECT BACKGROUND + METHODOLOGY] Mapping the Urbanization Processes in the Amazon
Following the research methodology of the Urban Theory Lab at the Graduate School of Design, the concepts proposed by Henri Lefebvre and Edward Soja were utilized as a theoretical base to test the hypothesis of “generalized urbanization.” (Lefebvre, 1970)
Along with Lefebvre’s anticipated form of urbanization (that the “urban fabric” would be extended to encompass the entire planet) was geographer Edward Soja’s declaration that “every square inch of the world is urbanized to some degree.” (UTL)
Most recently, it has also been popularly accepted that we have entered a new geological epoch—the Anthropocene, in which our actions are the primary driving force on Earth.
Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution “industrial agriculture and modern transportation have created new forms of human–ecosystem interaction across the full range of population densities, from low-density... to... high-density cities...” (Ellis and Ramankutty, 2008)
Grounding this theoretical framework within the context of the Amazon provides a contemporary understanding of the urbanization processes that inform, not only the ‘cities’ of dense settlements but most specifically the regulatory governance within the hinterlands of production, despite the common misconception that such regions are ‘untouched’ and ‘wild,’ which are falsely represented in the famed Night-time Lights map by NASA and NOAA.
Using cartographic representation, anthropogenic processes of urbanization are revealed through the creation of infrastructural projects that facilitate the extraction of resources to meet the demand towards global commodity and their eventual metabolization into the Capital. This also reveals the regulatory frameworks that necessitate the deployment of such infrastructure; in turn facilitating the agglomeration of urban development across the globe.
[SITE BACKGROUND] Uneven Urban Development of the Amazon
Prior to the twenty-first century, the governance of the Amazon relied fractionally dependent on the respective nations it fell under, based on jurisdictional borders. This, however, was not a productive economic generator despite the implementation of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) in 1978 as each individual nation was still self-reliant in the implementation of infrastructural needs.
The creation of the regional infrastructural project of IIRSA (Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America) did not only resuscitate the economy of Latin America, particularly of the Amazonian nations (under ACTO) at the turn of the millennium, but also served as a catalyst for regulatory transformation. This included the processes of resource extraction towards the facilitation of a neoliberal agenda of urbanization—concentrated forms (agglomerated settlements) and extended forms (operational landscapes). Eventually, this aided the formation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).
However, as much as the aspiration may seem to be towards complete planetary urbanization, the projective infrastructural connectivity that would link the Atlantic and the Pacific to further facilitate international trade—extraction and distribution—are already causing uneven development in the Amazon. This is due to the regulatory shifts in power brought upon by the partnerships of the Amazonian governing bodies and private financial and trans-national corporations. These partnerships are causing marginalization across the landscape brought upon by resource extraction (performed by private corporations that have been approved by the government, in exchange for financial support in the creation of such regional project). In turn, causing an exhaustive degradation to the ecology and the environment, which further causes dispossession of landownership, most specifically to the native indigenous population. As a result, these project implementations cause violent reactions from marginalized groups furthering the uneven development of the Amazon.