POR 221 Ecological Brazil: Key Environmental Issues

Department:  Portuguese and Brazilian Studies
Faculty:  Marguerite Harrison

Spring 2011

The course addresses current key environmental issues in Brazil and draws on a variety of texts, art, music and film. This course will be taught in Portuguese, though some materials will be presented in English.

Botanic Garden staff will give an introductory tour of plants native to Brazil or that have featured highly as Brazil’s economic crops. Prof. Harrison will give tours of the Lyman Plant House (in Portuguese) on the history of Brazilwood and other tropical woods, deforestation, sustainable forestry, and indigenous rights; and historical background to Brazil’s economic crops (sugar, coffee, rubber, cacao).

Supplemental course funds will be used for outside speakers, including Cristina Cox Fernandes, Curator of Fishes at Massachusetts Natural History Collections in Amherst, on ecology and evolutionary diversity of neotropical freshwater fishes from the Amazon River basin; Binka Le Breton, who directs the Iracambi Atlantic Rainforest Research and Conservation Center, in Minas Gerais, Brazil; and a Skype communication with Miguel Angelo da Silveira, a specialist from Embrapa (The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) on the development of fair trade coffee in Southern Minas Gerais.

Course activities will also include writing assignments on Botanic Garden visits, reading assignments (for example, by Amazon explorer and botanist Margaret Mee, and Brazilian poet Astrid Cabral), and individual interdisciplinary projects inspired by the visits to the Botanic Garden.

coffee plant with coffee beans


…[Helping students] make connections through other fields of knowledge is key to expanding the potential of their design work and their understanding of the built environment. As such, this project worked well within a liberal arts context.


Marguerite Harrison