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Tropical Garden Cities: Cultural Values and Sustainability in the Amazon's "Arc of Deforestation"
Published: 01 November 2012 by MDPI in The 2nd World Sustainability Forum session Social Values for a Sustainable Economy
Abstract: In Garden Cities of Tomorrow (1902), Ebenezer Howard proposed a model of sustainable urban development, "garden cities." as an alternative to industrial urbanism. A forerunner of the urban green movement, he envisioned a type of galactic urbanism as an alternative to industrial urbanism. The model proposed tightly integrated networks of towns, each gravitating around a central public park, orbiting around a core town. Towns were linked by well-developed transportation and communication networks and the multi-centric form produced a more subtle gradient between urban and rural areas and coupled with well-developed transportation networks. Recent archaeology and indigenous history conducted in the Upper Xingu area has revealed small garden city-like clusters of settlements, composed of a central plaza settlement and four cardinally oriented satellite plaza settlements, tightly integrated by major roads and surrounded by mosaic countryside of fields, orchards, gardens, and forest. Far from stereotypical models of small tropical forest tribes, these patterns were carefully engineered to work with the forest and wetland ecologies in complex urbanized networks. Such multi-centric, networked forms were quite common, if not typical, in many parts of the pre-Industrial world, particularly major forest regions. This paper explores land-use and dynamic change in coupled human-natural systems, or bio-historical diversity, during the past millennium in the Upper Xingu. In particular, it examines how archaeology and historical memory not only provide means to consider what the Amazon was like 500 years ago but also have vital implications to urgent questions of sustainability and cultural heritage and rights in the face of rapid landscape change related to economic development in the southern Amazon, the "arc of deforestation." It promotes grounded or context-specific participatory approaches to sustainable development, which require robust collaboration between diverse stakeholders, each with very different social and cultural values and interests.
Keywords: Amazonia, landscape, indigenous peoples, urban, participation