The Indigenous Brazilian territory of Ituna-Itatá was established in 2011 for the protection of an isolated group that has never been contacted by outsiders or fully confirmed to exist. But despite its special status, it has become one of the most invaded Indigenous territories in Brazil since the election of the pro-development, anti-regulatory president, Jair Bolsonaro, in 2018 — becoming something of a poster board for the Amazon’s eventual demise.
William Langewiesche explores the process of defending these preserves from outside harm, and uses Ituna-Itatá, which has now been heavily deforested, as a grim illustration of the intractable forces destroying the Amazon through logging, ranching and mining.
In this long read, the consequences these industrial activities have on biodiversity and the global environment are explained, using the vantage point of Ituna-Itatá to show how the land-grabbing, which was approaching inexorably upriver along the Xingu, has been propelled by the economic boom that resulted from the construction near Altamira of a large hydroelectric dam.
Everything is connected — but can the chain of destruction be broken?
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Additional production for The Sunday Read was contributed by Emma Kehlbeck, Parin Behrooz, Anna Diamond, Sarah Diamond, Jack D’Isidoro, Elena Hecht, Desiree Ibekwe, Tanya Pérez, Marion Lozano, Naomi Noury, Krish Seenivasan, Corey Schreppel, Margaret Willison, Kate Winslett and Tiana Young. Special thanks to Mike Benoist, Sam Dolnick, Laura Kim, Julia Simon, Lisa Tobin, Blake Wilson and Ryan Wegner.