The Nature of the Brazilian Flag: An Environmental Turn under Military Rule (1964-1985)

Antoine Acker, University of Zurich

Nature in Brazil has been the subject of debates, competing representations and historical ruptures. This article argues that the period of the military regime (1964-1985) was that of a shift in the delimitation between culture and nature, which became clear by means of media, artistic, intellectual and political representations. During the 1970s, in particular, the “nature” envisaged by the military regime, a hostile nature which the nation must conquer in order to exploit resources, gave way to a fragile nature. In diverse sectors of society, environmental protection came to be seen as necessary to preserve national identity and sovereignty. The debate about the future of the Amazon proved crucial in this transformation. This article analyzes the reasons for this change and gives some illustrations of it. It begins with a perspective of the different visions of nature that existed prior to the arrival of the military in power. Then, it explains how the developmentalist ideology of the military regime, based on an anthropocentric idea of nature, was challenged in the context of the rise of environmentalist discourse in the 1970s. Subsequently, it analyzes the transversal character that ecological thought managed to adopt in Brazilian society during these years. And finally, it explores the diversification of the environmental movement in the context of the transition towards democracy and its aftermaths.

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