Thursday, December 22, 2011

Café Slavia: Redoubt of Ideas

Credit: Martin Sutovec, via Don in Massachusetts
Ronald Reagan is credited with bringing down the totalitarian regimes of the Eastern Bloc, when in fact it was a writer. Not by himself, of course, but the playwright and scholar Vaclav Havel did more to instigate change with his typewriter and ideas than President Reagan with his bombs and secret wars.

I was reminded of that era of transition from nuclear standoff to popular uprising by On Point Radio's wonderful remembrance of Havel just after his death this week. From one of the participants in that discussion, I learned of the pivotal role of a particular Prague coffee shop in the advancement of Havel's cause. Kavárna Slavia is often cited as the most important of several of his haunts as he was writing and meeting and fomenting change in Czechoslovakia. The web site of Café Slavia (as it is also known) suggests a place much larger than a typical cafe, with an extensive menu and elegant decor that suggest "restaurant" more than "coffee shop." Visitors now flock to Café Slavia, both for its food (though some find it wanting) and for its connection to an important history.

The geography of coffee shops often puts them at the center of the local cultural geography because of their role in fostering conversations of substance. It is for this reason that wise politicians go to coffee shops to listen, opportunist politicians go to be listened to, and politicians who fear ideas seek to shut them down.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ayn Rand and the neo-Dickensians

In his AlterNet article "How Ayn Rand Seduced Generations of Young Men and Helped Make the U.S. Into a Selfish, Greedy Nation," clinical pyschologist  Bruce Levine writes:
The good news is that I’ve seen ex-Rand fans grasp the damage that Rand’s philosophy has done to their lives and to then exorcize it from their psyche. Can the United States as a nation do the same thing?
Rand was a writer and philosopher of an earlier generation who continues to damage the society in which she thrived. She elevated selfishness to a virtue, and helped make the United States a less caring nation in which poverty and inequality persist to degrees far greater than would be suggested by this country's wealth, Christian heritage, and rhetorical commitment to the value of children. (Even the conservative London Economist writes that the United States is "in a class of its own as the only rich country where women get no paid maternity leave at all.")

Levine describes in some detail the workings and influence of Rand's inner circle, improbably named "The Collective," which either included or influenced many important neocon figures, from Alan Greenspan and Ronald Reagan to Ron Paul and his rather demented son Rand.

The title and opening paragraphs of the article suggest that the influence of Rand came to define an entire generation. Though I do not think he makes the case for a reach that is quite so broad, Levine is right to take Rand's influence seriously. Because some of Rand's staunchest disciples do now have considerable power, his analysis of her most problematic ideas is quite useful to those concerned with today's politics.

Two passages illustrate some of the more pernicious contradictions of Rand and her followers. First, the champion of rugged individualism has helped to put economic liberty above political liberty, and has put individuals in the thrall of corporations. As Levine explains:

While Rand often disparaged Soviet totalitarian collectivism, she had little to say about corporate totalitarian collectivism, as she conveniently neglected the reality that giant U.S. corporations, like the Soviet Union, do not exactly celebrate individualism, freedom, or courage.
Second, Rand has been embraced by many who consider themselves Christian. Not only does this require believing in a Jesus very different from the Nazarene who delivered the Sermon on the Mount, but it also requires ignoring huge swaths of Rand's writing. Again, Levine explains:
In recent years, we have entered a phase where it is apparently okay for major political figures to publicly embrace Rand despite her contempt for Christianity. In contrast, during Ayn Rand’s life, her philosophy that celebrated self-interest was a private pleasure for the 1 percent but she was a public embarrassment for them. They used her books to congratulate themselves on the morality of their selfishness, but they publicly steered clear of Rand because of her views on religion and God. Rand, for example, had stated on national television, “I am against God. I don’t approve of religion. It is a sign of a psychological weakness. I regard it as an evil.”
To be pro-Rand and pro-Jesus requires a politics in which reason and evidence are diminished and even reviled. Unfortunately, even a cursory examination of talk radio and political debates suggests that is very much the world in which our politics now occurs.

For more about Rand, see my Reason Shrugged and Libertarians in Space posts, in which I describe her thinking on public-sector workers and the delusions of independence among fringe libertarians.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Morning Routine


Boston Globe reporter Lisa Zwirn finds plenty of anecdotal evidence that even in a slow economy, many people continue to splurge on coffee purchased outside the home. She finds that people are remarkably consistent in their habits of location, brew, and flavor, though some customers do have favorite "treat" coffees that they order only occasionally. 

The consumption patterns described in the article run the gamut in terms of timing, location, and quality, and provide some interesting insights into the factors that shape the geography of coffee shops.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Best Case Against Green Energy

Source: Wind Powering America
Every oil field on the planet runs a course from discovery through increasing production to peak production to declining production and eventually to exhaustion. The last drop is never really extracted from the ground; fields can be reopened if the prices rise or technology improves. Nonetheless, just as most of the world's individual oil fields have passed their peak, so also has the planet as a whole. Peak production of the other fossil fuels may not have been reached on a global level yet, but coal and natural gas will inevitably decline, albeit much later than oil has done.

I was reminded of this as I read an article against green energy in an April 2011 issue of Forbes magazine. In The Green Energy Economy Reconsidered, Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren do the great service of describing five important drawbacks to sustainable energy alternatives, with a particular focus on wind and solar power. I call their article a service because it is important to understand the limitations of these sources, if for no other reason than to understand why they have not yet been adopted much more widely.

The authors describe fundamentally geographic reasons that essentially free energy has not been widely adopted in the United States or elsewhere. Low spatial density and spatial mismatches between supply and demand are two of the major obstacles. For Taylor and Van Doren, these are among a handful of reasons to reject government efforts to promote green energy. The article implies at least a faint recognition of the peak-oil problem, but dismisses it as not particularly relevant to questions of electricity production, in which more-abundant coal is dominant. As free-market proponents, they argue that the burdens of green energy are so great that they do not justify market-distorting subsidies.

I would like to suggest the opposite. The limitations of green energy explain why the market has not yet allowed for their widespread adoption, but these limitations do not explain why that initial market response (or non-response) should be accepted. This may be the strongest possible case against green energy, but it falls short in several key respects. First, fossil fuels appear more cost-effective than they actually are, because important externalities -- including but not limited to pollution costs -- are ignored. Second, free markets in petroleum and the other fossil fuels would lead inevitably to the near-exhaustion of each resource described above, but this need not be taken as the only possible future.

Given the extremely high costs of climate change, our current goal should be to leave as much oil, coal, and natural gas in the ground on a permanent basis as possible. Subsidizing green energy in the short term -- though admittedly not easy -- can bring about some of the needed reductions; doing nothing will, of course, achieve nothing.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Bet Worth $4.81


I'll bet $4.81 that Mitt Romney wishes he had not suggested a bet to rival Rick Perry in a recent debate. As reported by Glen Johnson, when trying to make a point about his record on health care, he suggested a bet of a particular size -- small enough to be taken seriously, but big enough (for Rick Perry and most of the rest of us, anyway) not to be entered into lightly.

On one hand, Rick Perry should have taken the bet, as Romney was putting bravado ahead of evidence in defending one of his many reversals on health care. On the other, he was correct to demur at the amount, especially since this revealed him to be a bit closer to the average audience member than is his challenger.

Just George H.W. Bush revealed his status in the stratosphere of privilege through his fascination with grocery scanners -- he had never heard of them before a grocery-store tour during his campaign -- Romney has revealed his distance from the average American by suggesting this wager.

Based on the latest figures I could see for median net worth, his $10,000 bet would be equivalent to a $4.81 bet by a person of median net worth. (The mean net worth is much higher, since the numerical space below $102,200 is much narrower than the space above it.) As my favorite librarian has often observed, "The problem with rich people is that they don't understand that poor people don't have money." Next to Mitt Romney, almost all of us fall into that "poor people" category.

And by the way, I lied in the first line of this post. Like Rick Perry, I don't bet. And like Perry, I know that most of the evangelical right doesn't bet, either.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Hull High: Another Case for Regionalization

Taking Attendance is an excellent report by journalist Johanna Seltz in today's Boston Globe, in which she describes the problems associated with dwindling enrollment at in the town of Hull, particularly in its high school. Anticipating one of my first questions, she is careful to document this as a demographic trend, rather than a shift toward private schools. She then documents some of the reasons for the trend, including changes in available housing. The article also hints at a bit of a positive-feedback, or spiraling affect, as the problems of shrinking schools are to some degree self-feeding: fewer families lead to fewer families.

Shrinking enrollments reduce variable costs and crowding, allowing for a more tranquil and perhaps more productive learning environment. But the fixed costs of maintaining a building are spread over fewer students, the ability to offer specialized courses is reduced, with the definition of "specialized" eventually extending to basics, such as shop and foreign language. In Massachusetts, high fixed costs at the district level are an additional burden, and Seltz reports on the efforts of Hull Superintendent Kathleen Tyrell to address this through regionalization.

As I have written in some of my earlier posts on this topic, only in Massachusetts (and perhaps New Jersey), would the combination of two tiny towns be considered a regional consolidation. Even this, as Tyrell has found, is difficult, especially for a district that is isolated on a long peninsula, limiting its potential partnerships. Even more limiting than the physical situation of Hull, however, is the ideological commitment to "local control" in school districts. It is sadly ironic that school committees and the citizenry at large is not willing to set aside ego in order to cooperate in genuine regional districts at the county level.

The state provides some incentives to regionalize, but it aims too low. Massachusetts has a few hundred school districts, where states of similar size might have a few dozen. Nobody actually agrees on exactly how many -- one has as few as 2 children. (That is not a typo.) Combining Hull with another small town would be an improvement in the short-run, but county-wide districts would be a more reasonable long-term goal.

As illustrated in Hull, the cost of maintaining 351 fiefdoms is simply too high. A regional district could allow for some real creativity, too, perhaps to include magnet schools or shared resources for 50/50 online courses in some subjects.

I understand why Gov. Patrick and Lt. Gov. Murray have been slow to act on the recommendations on this issue from the 2009 Citizens Task Force Report (the relevant section of which I authored). Inertia is difficult to overcome both at the local level and within the state bureaucracies employed to oversee them. But it is long past time for the state to offer stronger incentives to encourage districts that combine the back-office functions not of two or three towns, but of ten or twenty.

As the Globe report suggests, regionalization would not solve all of the problems associated with Hull's slipping demographics. But it would certainly help!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Ho Chi Movement

Place and movement are among the five principle themes in the study of geography. Both are captured beautifully in a 2m20s video clip comprising 10,000 stop-motion photographs of public areas in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). It comports very well with what my friend Vernon Domingo has told me about his experience in the city earlier this year.


by Sommer Mathis


Political Fetishes


In today's political discourse the difference between actual conservatives and the radical right is that the latter has turned two conservative ideas into radical fetishes.

A generation ago, Grover Norquist pressured conservative politicians to pledge never to raise taxes. His intention was not simply to balance budgets, but to combine balanced budgets with lower taxes in order to shrink government. His objective, he said, was to weaken and shrink government until it could be drowned, metaphorically, in a bathtub. Even before that, readers of Ayn Rand's fantasies became convinced that the private sector is always more efficient than the public sector, and that it is impossible for the latter to ever be productive.

The results have these obsessive thoughts have been profound for the quality of life in America, particularly with respect to education and health care. An additional result is aesthetic, as public spaces are increasingly privatized and turned over to marketers to make up for gaps in public funding, brilliantly illustrated by Morgan Spurlock below

Sound fiscal  policy and a vibrant private sector can provide sure footing for a democracy, but today's bipedal fetishists view the body politic only from the ankles down.


Lagniappe
During the California wildfires of 2016, Brad Craig exemplified the hypocrisy of "fair-weather libertarianism." He was wearing this anti-tax, anti-government t-shirt as he smiled and thanked the tax-supported government workers who saved his home.
Brad Craig, False Patriot

Material World


Thanks to my favorite librarian for sharing a delightful and thought-provoking video from our friends at the Center for the New American Dream. The High Price of Materialism is not the doom-and-gloom piece that its title suggests. Rather, it is a cheery, geographic, and research-based discussion of ways to reduce the influence of materialism in our own lives and in our communities.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

São Paulo Sights



São Paulo has legendary traffic, which can be avoided in three ways: subway, helicopter, and motorcycle. I was probably in the city six times before I knew it even had a subway, and when I rode it, crowding was minimal, though admittedly I was there very off-peak. Helicopters are pricey.

For quick delivery of packages, then, "motoboys" are the answer. Sitting in traffic with a friend in October 2008, I was amazed by their frequency. On an earlier trip, I had actually seen a motoboy pivot his cycle by grabbing the bumper of a delivery truck. A friend whose sister is an emergency-room physician in the city sees these young drivers all the time. But she is a Paulista who needs to get around quickly, so she herself gets to work on a motorcycle.

The helicopters are expensive, but increasingly common for executives whose companies can justify the expense by comparing the cost of flights to their hourly wages. São Paulo is a city of high rises -- much bigger than Manhatten, for example -- and every one of them is topped with a helipad. The Discovery Atlas program Brazil Revealed is a great survey of the cultural geography of Brazil that includes the story of Clarissa Pinheiro Pereira, a young pilot who is among the very few women pursuing the highest levels of professional pilot licensure.

I was thinking about São Paulo this morning because of something I learned last night from Morgan Spurlock's new film The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, in which the Supersize Me veteran immerses himself in product placement, as he previously did with McDonald's menus. The result is nearly as toxic, as he documents the way that school budget-cutters have turned over student eyeballs for rental to marketers through Channel One, school bus ads, and the like. But the ray of hope comes from a change in São Paulo that I had somehow missed: outdoor advertising in almost all its forms has disappeared. As one shopkeeper told Spurlock, this has meant refocusing on the quality of products and customer service to attract attention!


Monday, December 05, 2011

Prices of Progress

Today in my Geography of Latin America class, we read a report from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs entitled The Price of Civilization, which the impact of large-scale resource developments in Brazil, Chile, and Bolivia.

I divided the class into groups, asking first that individual students answer "Who?" questions about the projects: who stands to benefit and who stands to lose something? I then asked them to work in small groups to address "Where?" questions about the location and scale of the projects and the affected communities.

Below are some quick links to what they found, posted here primarily as a way to facilitate our discussion later this week.

Brazil
Map from Coastal Care
Square Kilometer - Acre Converter (useful for all sections of the article)
Defending the Rivers of the Amazon (a GoogleEarth 3D movie with narration by Sigourney Weaver)
Another map:
Rendering of the dam itself:
Protests:

Chile
Map of Chile
Anger over proposal, reported by BBC in May 2011
Court suspension of project, reported by BBC in June 2011
BBC maps of proposed dams
Patagonia's Rivers at Risk
Project map from Glacier Change
Damming Patagonia: Simply Concrete? from Pedal for Change

Bolivia
Protesters marching to dam site
Highway route map from Intercontinental Cry
NGOs Wrong on Morales from the Tlaxcala blog
Morales Halts Amazon Road After Protests from AlterNet, with photo of protest clash
Project route and community maps from Flickr user Oscar Salgado

Using these images and maps as a starting point, I then asked the students to answer questions about where the projects themselves and the benefits and dis-benefits are likely to be located. From the answer to the locational questions, I hoped that the students would find their way to interesting discussions of how and why questions, and from the preliminary conversations, it seems to have worked!

As we left class, I gave students a copy of "What a Difference a Century Makes," my contribution to a collection of essays about the Amazon region published in Brazil nearly a decade ago. In it, I invite the reader to compare frontier developments of the twentieth century -- which we sometimes find morally dubious or even horrific -- with those of an earlier time much closer to home.

I will also speak of a specific example of a hydroelectric plant I visited in the western Amazon. It is in the Municipio of Candeias do Jamari (shown below). I should not have been surprised that this town -- whose population I saw explode between 1996 and 2000 -- now has a blog!


View Larger Map

Garrett Hardin's influential and controversial 1968 essay The Tragedy of the Commons may provide some insight into the trade-offs between individual and universal costs and benefits.

The Invention of Necessity


I rely on my students to bring me the best lessons, and today a student from South Africa -- where yacht-building is a big part of the economy, by the way -- sent me an advert (as they are called in those places that speak the Queen's English) that seemed at first to be a parody.

I checked the link in the ad, however, and either this is an elaborate ruse or Hargrave Custom Yachts in Ft. Lauderdale really did create it. Hargrave -- which has the chutzpah to use a non-profit *.org address -- has really taken a surreal turn by arguing that such yachts are a necessity. A necessity!

In addition to providing jobs for the boating industry, the yachts provide a means for entrepreneurs to escape from "every two bit politician" [sic -- Hargrave apparently could not afford an English major to hyphenate that compound modifier] who might try to shut down their business or tax their self-made wealth.

The yacht shown, incidentally, is being offered for $19 million, which would buy my entire middle-class neighborhood. A single fill-up of its fuel tanks would cost about as much as my car, and would allow me to drive it around the world -- with a heavy foot -- four times!

This copy was written at a time of record-high wealth concentration and record-low (for the past half-century, at least) taxation. It is a valuable insight into the spirit of entitlement among the super-rich who really feel their wealth arises entirely from their own hard work and brilliance, not realizing the extent to which they depend upon market manipulation, the toil of the poor, and someone else to bear the cost of their pollution.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Geography of Coffee Storage


The coffee fiends who write Adam@Home are at it again! Readers of the strip know that Adam is a work-at-home guy (I keep forgetting the actual job) who as often as possible finds an excuse to be a work-at-cafe guy. This has been inspirational, both as a lifestyle to envy and as fodder for my work on the geography of coffee shops.

In Friday's strip, cartoonists Bassett and Harrell kicked the coffee connection up a notch. More precisely, they moved the discussion a couple of steps up the commodity chain, with barista Andre discussing important aspects of the geography of coffee care. The timing and location of coffee storage between roasting and brewing is geographic, in that choices about how and when to store the coffee are closely intertwined with choices about where to store it.

Because light, oxygen, and time (after the first 12-24 hours) are the enemies of roasted coffee, the distance between roasting and brewing has a tremendous impact on the quality of the brewed product. This, in turn, has implications for farmers, as they are less likely to be compensated for their care in cultivation if people further down the supply chain obscure their good work through sloppy handling.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Strength in Diffusion

When we take our EarthView geography program to middle schools, one term we always discuss is archipelago, because students are able to see so many more Pacific island groups than they usually notice on maps or smaller globes. I am always reminded that I first learned the word when I was in high school, and that I first saw it used in a figurative sense, in The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn's grim report on the work camps that were scattered throughout the former Soviet Union.

It was probably my frequent reflection on Solzhenitsyn's brilliant phrase that led me to coin the word occupeligo in October, upon hearing a few interesting stories about the spatial configuration of what is more commonly called by the oxymoron "occupy movement." Since the entire point of the demonstrations is to be a fixture in public places, the idea of movement is not entirely sensical to me, though of course the occupations are spreading to a growing number of locations -- hence occupeligo.

Today Radio Boston's Dan Mauzy held a fascinating discussion with Professor Timothy McCarthy, who teaches about human rights and social movements, and Philip Anderson, an Occupy Boston protester who is quite consciously diffusing the movement from the core urban areas to which it has been largely confined to date. Listen to Can Occupy Boston Continue Without Dewey Square? for a really intriguing discussion of the great complexity of the relationships between the uses of physical space and the exercise of political rights such as assembly, association, and speech.

Anderson's diffusion efforts are presented on We Can Occupy, which rejects the notion that the occupeligo has no clear objectives. The site encourages much broader participation in promoting a cause that is actually not vague at all. We Can Occupy argues for the physical decampment of the occupeligo with these assertions:

You don’t have to sleep in a tent to understand what’s wrong with our economic and political system.  You don’t have to march in the streets to believe that we should have a healthy economy for all and a government that serves the people.  You don’t have to get pepper-sprayed to change the direction of our country.

AP Photo via Radio Boston

Founding Principles

Many thanks too Richard Latimer of Falmouth, for his brilliant letter to the Boston Globe this morning. I am taking the liberty of copying the entire piece here, because it is short enough to fall within Fair Use and because it is important enough to have a life online after the usual expiration of online letters sections.

It ran on today's Editorial page under the title


Anti-tax pledge drove Republicans from duty to serve


JOSHUA GREEN attempts to blame the Democrats for Republican obstructionism in assessing the budget impasse (“Picking up pieces after ‘super’ fail,’’ Op-ed, Nov. 24). Try reading both the congressional oath of office and Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge before laying blame here. Governing a democratic society is necessarily about pragmatic compromise, where many diverse interests must be harmonized.


“We the people,’’ contrary to the libertarian ideology of rugged individualism, is a collectivity, as are the common defense and general welfare listed in the preamble to the Constitution. That collectivity is what every member of Congress is sworn to serve when taking the oath of office, to “bear true faith and allegiance’’ to the Constitution, and to do so “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.’’


The mindless Norquist pledge, however, requires both a mental reservation and ideological evasion as it pertains to Congress’s fundamental duty to pay the national debt by raising revenues, as stated in Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution. Ideologically driven Republican intransigence against this clear congressional mandate is what drives the budget impasse.

Richard K. Latimer
Falmouth

The essential message here is that the Constitution should guide members of Congress, all too many of whom seem to be guided primarily by Norquist's political playbook and Ayn Rand's fantasies. Libertarianism as currently practiced is closer to anarchy than it is to conservatism and closer to nihilism than to patriotism. Actual conservative Republicans (and many millions still exist) who wonder why their party is increasingly distrusted and even reviled should consider how far certain "movement" members of their party have departed from the country's founding principles and from the ideals of the party's great leaders, from Lincoln to Roosevelt to Eisenhower.

Amazon Perspectives

This entry is intended to supplement a short presentation on Amazon deforestation that Diana Ramos -- president of BSU's Students for Sustainability -- and I made as part of the Brazil Magic Event. The event, organized by another student group, La Sociedad Latina, is a chance to celebrate and learn about a country of great and growing importance to Southeastern Massachusetts. The celebration takes place just days before BSU's president accompanies Governor Deval Patrick on a trade mission to Latin America's largest country.


"The Amazon" means several different things. It is the name of the world's greatest river -- perhaps even longer than the Nile and by far the river with the greatest discharge, at 20 percent of the world's total. The Amazon also refers to the watershed of that river -- a massive drainage basin containing a thousand named tributaries, a dozen of them more than a thousand miles long. Finally, the Amazon is the world's largest rain forest, home to the greatest concentration of terrestrial biodiversity, the greatest source of oxygen, and the greatest biological sink for carbon dioxide on the planet -- the "lungs of the world" as it is sometimes called.

The Amazon -- particularly the rain forest -- is the place that made me decide to become a geographer. More specifically, the destruction of the rain forest had that effect, leading me to switch disciplines (from linguistics), learn a new language, and dedicate years to learning about the complex interplay of river and forest, settler and rubber tapper, rancher and logger. Much of what I learned is presented in Rondonia Web, a part of my web site that remains one of the few English-language resources about the Arizona-sized state in the southwestern part of Brazil's portion of the basin. (Most of the other South American countries control some part of the Amazon basin and rain forest, leaving Brazil with half of the total.)

For the presentation, Diana and I are showing one video, with a promise to provide a link to it and to a couple others. Each video presents a part of the current and continuing story of deforestation in the Amazon: logging, violence, and cattle ranching. In my view, no single story of the Amazon is the complete story, just as no fundamental shift in the geography of a place can be explained by a single factor. The three videos collectively provide, however, a good point of departure for understanding the region.

Deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest describes a transect across the Amazon basin by a geographer who studies the impact of logging and who suggests that a herringbone pattern of clearing would be less destructive than the random pattern he encounters. He offers no support for this assertion, which in fact tends to be contradicted by the experience of Rondonia, where a herringbone pattern of land give-aways led over a million people to settle in a program that was expected to attract ten thousand. Broken Promises for the Amazon is a Greenpeace video focused on cattle ranching as a driver of deforestation. Environmentalist Slain for Protecting Amazon is a reminder that the ecological destruction is accompanied by violence against those who might object. In this case, a victim of that violence predicted his own demise, just as Chico Mendes had done a generation earlier.

The videos are a reminder that this region is not only vast, dramatic, beautiful, and imperiled; it is also complex, experiencing both a variety of threats and an equally varied array of opportunities. In fact, one of the most rewarding EarthView experiences in recent months was our visit to a school where students had been assigned to about a half-dozen different roles -- logger, settler, indigenous person, rubber-tapper -- each of which has a particular cluster of interests. Brazilian colleagues and I actually published a small book in 2003, documenting not only varied interests in the region but also varied perceptions of what the place represents and what it is experiencing.

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