November 9, 2020

Country, calypso or carimbó? The role of cultural value shifts in advancing Amazonian deforestation frontiers

Country, calypso or carimbó? The role of cultural value shifts in advancing Amazonian deforestation frontiers

This inter-disciplinary project addresses the intractable problem of how to reduce tropical deforestation. Current strategies such as REDD+ are failing and rooted in assumptions of rational economic decision-making. However, emerging research highlights the socio-cultural roots of environmental problems and solution pathways (e.g. Chan et al. 2020, People & Nature). Understanding people’s environmental values is increasingly recognised as central to achieving sustainability and reducing biodiversity loss. Kendal & Raymond (2019, Sustainability Science) propose a conceptual model for understanding social-ecological value change, but this requires empirical testing. Interestingly, ethnographic work in Amazonia suggests that diffusion of ‘cattle culture’ (e.g. fashion, music, cultural events) causes Amazonians to become less attached to forests.

This project aims to understand whether migration to deforestation frontiers leads to local cultural value shifts and increased deforestation. It addresses three questions:

(1) Does in-migration of cattle-ranchers lead to cultural value shifts among Amazonian populations?

(2) Do cultural value shifts accelerate deforestation?

(3) Are there ecological-cultural tipping points (see Fernández-Giménez et al. 2017, Anthropocene) in Amazonia which cause or follow rapid environmental change?

Answering these requires drawing on concepts and methods from sustainability science, demography and environmental psychology. For example, using demographic data and Facebook markets data to examine whether in-migration of cattle-ranchers causes a shift from Amazonian carimbó, towards Country music. You will conduct a mixture of large-scale data analysis (demographic, cultural, environmental data) and field-work (e.g. conducting surveys) in the Brazilian Amazon.  You will have a co-supervisor at the Federal University of Pará in Amazonia, and learn Brazilian Portuguese.

You’ll be part of the postgraduate community in the Lancaster Environment Centre and Nottingham’s School of Geography. In addition to ‘in-house’ training, you’ll be encouraged and supported to attend summer schools in Europe and conduct overseas research internships where you’ll further develop inter-disciplinary skills and collaborations.


First-class or 2.1 (Hons) degree, with a Masters degree in an appropriate subject. For instance, you would benefit from a background in geography, demography, psychology, conservation social science, environmental studies or cognate discipline. Preference will be given to candidates that can show evidence of interdisciplinary interest, training and working. Some experience of statistical analysis (e.g. in R) would be advantageous.  Can be completed on a full or part-time basis.


For further information or informal discussion, please contact Dr Luke Parry ( or Dr Chris Ives (