Material Flow Accounting in Amazonia: A Tool for Sustainable Development

This report presents experiences from a research project carried out by members of IFF-Social Ecology in conjunction with researchers from Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, and Bolivia. It demonstrates the application of Material Flow Accounting (MFA) tools in the region of Amazonia. The tools are tested for their ability to generate data in a series of cases, but also for their explanatory power of making a meaningful contribution to information systems on sustainability in the region. The concept and approach are briefly discussed, followed by a lengthy presentation of research results and data gaps for each of the studies. The research follows a multi-level approach by applying the MFA methodology to the national level as well as to local-level case-studies. While both perspectives generate results in their own right, the combination of insights leads to a fuller understanding of issues involved when assessing sustainability policies in such a diverse area. While national studies provide structural reasons for the relative de-linking of material intensity and industrial growth in wealthy nations, Amazonian economies are identified as extractive economies, structurally unable to decrease exporting materially intensive raw materials. Local-level studies investigate micro-structures producing their own sustainability issues. Subsistence societies coping with rapid change and approaching industrialization show distinct characteristics in their material resource management, depending on respective histories, geographical place or position in the wider national/political economy.

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