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Susanna Hecht

Professor of Urban Planning; Director, Center for Brazilian Studies
Department: Urban Planning, School of Public Affairs
5270 Luskin School of Public Affairs
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1656
Campus mailcode: 165606
Tel: 310-825-4676; 310-206-6571
Fax: 310-206-6859
Keywords: Geography, Latin America, Development, Brazil, Mexico, Central America, Bolivia

Dr Hecht’s research focuses on political ecology but her results have major implications for climate change adaptation, mitigation and longer term rethinking of longer term resilience strategies.   Her research on deforestation policy and the tropical livestock sector has had important impact for changing the incentive patterns that resulted in rampant deforestation in the 1980s. 

Dr Hecht’s interest in alternatives to deforestation involves engagement in the analytics of non timber forest products and their development, including extractive reserves, which now cover more than 10 million Ha in the Amazon Basin.   Her engagement with the soy sector has further engaged conservation landscapes and practices within industrial agricultural production systems.   Her research on agroforestry systems has emphasized women’s roles in landscape management.   With increasing globalization of labor markets and large scale male outmigration, larger portions of rural landscapes are managed by women.   As recent research on the Sahel shows, reforestation and forest transition is largely carried out and managed by women, as is the case for much of Central America.   Forest resurgence in the tropics is now a widely documented phenomena.   Through complex analyses that range from Forest transition theory, global markets, agrocecology and the foucauldian politics of governmentality, the widespread occurrence of forest recovery suggests a huge realm of new policy interventions and practices for this largely orphaned segment of forest dynamics.   Terra Preta, or Amazonian Anthropogenic soils are based on pyrolytic “char” practices that produces a highly stable (and nutrient rich) form of “black earths.   This technique, originally discovered by Hecht and Anthropologist Darrell Posey is a means by which agricultural residues can be stored within soils, thus reducing the oxidation of these by 50%.   Finally her research focuses on historical ecology and environmental economics through the optic of resilience studies.

Using archival research, remote sensing, palynological data and forest census materials Dr Hecht has been engaged in the analysis of “Deforestation” before modern Deforestation: that is understanding the nature and social dynamics of forest change over time including carbon loss and uptake in Amazonian ecosystems 100 years ago.   These researches feed into an understanding of landuse change under current regional development scenarios.

Dr. Hecht is also a distinguished environmental historian of 20th century Amazonia. Her book on the Scramble for Amazonia Amazon Odyssey (forthcoming from University of Chicago Press) and her prize winning classic Fate of the Forest document the entrance of the Amazon into modern circuits of commodities and politics.   She is at work on the third volume for this trilogy on contemporary Amazonia under Globalization and Global Change.

Dr Hecht’s work has been funded by NSF, NASA, MacArthur Foundation, ACLS Guggenheim and the Institute for Advanced studies among many other sources.