Greening Brazil

Environmental Activism in State and Society

Greening Brazil

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 5 tables Published: August 2007

Environmental Studies, Latin American Studies > Brazil, Politics > Political Science

Greening Brazil challenges the claim that environmentalism came to Brazil from abroad. Two political scientists, Kathryn Hochstetler and Margaret E. Keck, retell the story of environmentalism in Brazil from the inside out, analyzing the extensive efforts within the country to save its natural environment, and the interplay of those efforts with transnational environmentalism. The authors trace Brazil’s complex environmental politics as they have unfolded over time, from their mid-twentieth-century conservationist beginnings to the contemporary development of a distinctive socio-environmentalism meant to address ecological destruction and social injustice simultaneously. Hochstetler and Keck argue that explanations of Brazilian environmentalism—and environmentalism in the global South generally—must take into account the way that domestic political processes shape environmental reform efforts.

The authors present a multilevel analysis encompassing institutions and individuals within the government—at national, state, and local levels—as well as the activists, interest groups, and nongovernmental organizations that operate outside formal political channels. They emphasize the importance of networks linking committed actors in the government bureaucracy with activists in civil society. Portraying a gradual process marked by periods of rapid advance, Hochstetler and Keck show how political opportunities have arisen from major political transformations such as the transition to democracy and from critical events, including the well-publicized murders of environmental activists in 1988 and 2004. Rather than view foreign governments and organizations as the instigators of environmental policy change in Brazil, the authors point to their importance at key moments as sources of leverage and support.


Greening Brazil is a superb analysis of the growth of the Brazilian environmental movement since the 1950s. The authors bring to the task a sophisticated understanding of Brazilian politics and a deep knowledge of international trends in environmental politics. Greening Brazil is the most satisfying account yet written of any environmental movement outside of Europe and the United States.” — Angus Wright, Latin American Politics and Society

Greening Brazil is an important contribution to Brazilian studies and Latin American environmental issues. . . The writing is excellent, the story is compelling, and the argument is clear: that Brazilian environmental politics have deep domestic roots.” — Christian Brannstrom, Bulletin of Latin American Research

“[A]n excellent primer on regional environmental politics generally, and would be well situated in an undergraduate or graduate class on comparative international environmental politics. An excellent primer on regional environmental politics generally, and would be well situated in an undergraduate or graduate class on comparative international environmental politics.” — Hannah Wittman, Society & Natural Resources

“A well informed and closely studied portrait of Brazil’s environmental movement. . . [F]ills a large gap in the understanding of Brazil’s internal politics on environmental issues—politics with broader global implications.” — Henry Veltmeyer, Left History

“At long last, we finally now have the first book that traces and analyzes the politics of environmental protection in Brazil over the last three decades in a rigorous, nuanced, and engaging manner. This book . . . will undoubtedly become the definitive work on the environmental politics of Brazil.” — Jordi Diez, Governance

Greening Brazil is a vital contribution for readers interested in the development of social environmentalism in Brazil, as well as the recent rise in environmental politics in Brazil and Latin America. Kathryn Hochstetler and Margaret Keck . . . produce a persuasive view of the social, institutional, and governmental interactions that have shaped governance of the environmental movement and politics in Brazil. . . . It should be seen as a pioneering book in the field, hopefully encouraging more research on the subject.” — Isabel DiVanna, Canadian Journal of History

Greening Brazil, a breakthrough book, makes an outstanding contribution to this puzzle. It demonstrates how small agencies in low salience issue areas confronting powerful detractors survive, expand and make a difference. Kathryn Hochstetler and Margaret Keck persuasively argue that extensive interpersonal and professional networks carefully cultivated by key leaders, along with their finely honed discernment over which battles to fight and how to fight them, are the key explanatory factors. . . . Moreover, the book is a vivid example of how to advance knowledge, informed by theory, on the real workings of Latin American institutions beyond deductive analyses of pathologies in institutional design followed by prescriptions on how to fix them.” — Eduardo Silva, Journal of Latin American Studies

“This book provides a valuable contribution to the debate on environmental policy and governance in the context of democratization and decentralization of environmental management in Brazil. This book is strongly recommended for graduate-level students and scholars from diverse social science backgrounds interested in studying public policy and environmental planning and management.” — Luiz Fernando Macedo Bessa, International Affairs

“This is a fine book that can be used in advanced undergraduate and in graduate courses focused on global and/or Latin American environmental issues and politics. Concise and easy to read, it can also interest the non-initiated reader. It will take considerable time or a comparable book to be written on the same subject.” — José Drummond, Environmental History

“Together, [Hochstetler & Keck] represent 40 years of regular visits to Brazil to interview key players, attend meetings, and study archival material. The result is a model of thoughtful and perceptive analysis and a terrific example of how to study national environmental politics, how to integrate in-depth research with the broader relevant scholarly context, and how to tell a complicated story in a clear and engaging style.” — Gary Bryner, Review of Policy Research

“Two lifetime students of Brazil combine extensive participant observation with hundreds of interviews and a mastery of relevant academic theory to offer a sophisticated insider recounting of Brazil’s environmental travails.” — Foreign Affairs

“With Greening Brazil, Keck and Hochstetler create a comprehensive overview of the creation, transformation, and transition of environmentalism in Brazil from the period of military dictatorship to democracy, including the roles of actors on the local, state, national and international levels and encompassing institutions and individuals within and outside the government. The authors spare no detail in providing the reader with an effective, well-written account of where environmentalism in Brazil came from and where it is going. Perhaps most importantly, this book adequately demonstrates that environmentalism and sustainability, in Brazil and across the globe, are complex, multi-level processes involving various actors that cannot be analyzed through one paradigm or one societal component alone.” — Cori Sue Morris, International Affairs Review

Greening Brazil is an extremely interesting, insightful, and important book. It is important precisely because it fills a huge gap in outsiders’ understanding of Brazil’s internal politics on environmental issues, providing insights into an often misunderstood country whose environmental performance has truly global implications.” — J. Timmons Roberts, coauthor of Trouble in Paradise: Globalization and Environmental Crises in Latin America

“Kathryn Hochstetler and Margaret E. Keck have vast and complementary direct experiences with environmental reform in Brazil, and their long-term commitment to following these issues has clearly paid off in their analysis of the country’s long, rich, and distinctive reform history.” — Jonathan Fox, University of California, Santa Cruz


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kathryn Hochstetler is Professor of Political Science at the University of New Mexico. She is a coauthor of Sovereignty, Democracy, and Global Civil Society: State-Society Relations at UN World Conferences and a coeditor of Palgrave Advances in International Environmental Politics.

Margaret E. Keck is Professor of Political Science at The Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of The Workers’ Party and Democratization in Brazil and a coauthor of Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Tables viii

Preface ix

List of Acronyms and Organizations xv

Introduction 1

1. Building Environmental Institutions: National Environmental Politics and Policy 23

2. National Environmental Activism: The Changing Terms of Engagement 63

3. From Protest to Project: The Third Wave of Environmental Activism 97

4. Amazonia 140

5. From Pollution Control to Sustainable Cities 186

Conclusion 223

Appendix: List of Interviews 231

Notes 239

Bibliography 249

Index 273
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, 2009 Lynton Caldwell Prize, presented by the Science, Technology, and Environmental Politics section of the American Political Science Association.

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4031-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4048-5
Publicity material