Alexander Zaitchik: Chinese Avatar in the Amazon

Photograph of an indigenous person in the Amazon.

International Studies in Planning Spring 2013

Alexander Zaitchik is an investigative reporter based in New York City. His reporting from more than two dozen countries has appeared in numerous print and online publications, including the NationRolling Stone, the New Republic, the New York Times, SalonBulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and the International Herald Tribune. His first book, Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance was published in 2010 by Wiley & Sons.

Zaitchik's talk explored China's growing extractive investments in Latin America and what they mean for the survival of indigenous groups as well as the stakes for local environments and the wider Amazonian ecosystem. The southeastern corner of Ecuador is home to one of the most important ecological hotspots and watersheds in the Neotropics — the Cordillera del Condor. The sub-Andean mountain range is also the stage for one of the most dramatic land-use conflicts in Latin America, in which the native Shuar are resisting the early stages of a massive Chinese-owned copper and gold mine called Mirador, scheduled to begin production later this decade. The government of Rafael Correa considers the mine a strategic priority and has begun militarizing the area amidst rising tensions. As a result, China's relatively recent arrival as a player in Latin America's resource scramble and mining boom is on course to result in explosive conflict and bloodshed. Zaitchik will explore how the outline of the story is in several key respects redolent of the James Cameron film Avatar.

Cosponsored by the American Indian Program