In This Review

With Broadax and Firebrand: The Destruction of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest
With Broadax and Firebrand: The Destruction of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest
By Warren Dean
University Of California Press, 1995, 482 pp

The late Warren Dean, who was professor of Brazilian history at New York University, has left his many admirers a formidable posthumous testimony to his skills and passionate concern for Brazilians and their environment. A pioneer in environmental history with several major books to his credit, Dean has written a magnificent and disturbing account of the destruction of the Brazilian Atlantic forests, which once covered a million square kilometers and have been reduced over several centuries to small patches scarred by logging, pollution, and scavenging. With Broadax and Firebrand is the story of the long history of devastation and recent desperate battles for conservation. The Atlantic forest has always been Brazil's most populous and developed, and this book is much more a history of Brazil informed by environmental concerns than a history of the environment. "Avarice," he writes, "is so pallid a word to describe this expropriation, and avarice itself is only a minor character flaw compared to ignorance, indifference, and alienation that accompanied it." Finely written, profoundly thoughtful, never sentimental, and exhaustively documented, the book concludes with a sense of alarm and foreboding: "The last service that the Atlantic forest might serve, tragically and forlornly, is to demonstrate all the terrible consequences of destroying its immense western neighbor."