Brazil is quickly becoming an influential actor on the world stage of geopolitics. The nation has achieved global economic and environmental recognition due to the extensive development of its hydrological resources in the form of hydroelectric power plants. As the world’s second greatest generator of hydroelectricity, Brazil has proven a staunch adherence to building dams in the large-scale. Though these dams have brought electricity to millions of people across the country, the socio-ecological toll inflicted by their construction has been devastating to natural biomes and local inhabitants. This article traces Brazil’s proclivity for large-scale hydropower to four motivational categories often invoked to justify their construction to local, national, and global audiences. It finds that large dams in Brazil are framed as being politically necessary, economically practical, technologically innovative, and environmentally clean. The analysis grounds these framings in a case study of the recently completed Belo Monte Hydroelectric Complex on the Xingu River in the Northern Amazonian state of Pará. Situated in a biotically sensitive region home to numerous Indigenous communities and endemic flora and fauna, the dam is regarded as one of the most controversial infrastructure projects in the Amazon basin. Drawing from relevant historical context, the Belo Monte dam has benefitted from various tropes employed from the four motivational categories in the face of intense local and international opposition. With a national identity closely tied to hydropower, Brazil has demonstrated a continual reliance on large-scale hydroelectricity even when its future developmental potential in the country is questionable.
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Hirons, Ian F., "Brazil, Big Hydro, and a Beautiful Monster: “Green” Energy Generation in the Xingu River Basin" (2020). Student Works. 17.
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