Navigating Turbulent Waters: Flooding, Housing, and Accessing Justice in Brazil’s Urban Amazon


The immediate effects of climate change include sea-level rise and changing rainfall patterns. These ecological risks cause unpredictable floods everywhere, aggravating socio-economic rights violations worldwide. Social and natural scientists have documented international and domestic institutional arrangements devised for the adaptation to and mitigation of such hazards. Yet, less attention has been given to institutional dynamics in subnational climate politics. In this study, I examine how social actors handle disputes in the course of political and legal mobilization against climate injustice. Drawing upon original data collected during fifteen months of fieldwork, I analyze contrasting patterns of flood governance in two cities in Brazil’s Amazon: Belém and Paragominas. Findings reveal the centrality of lawyers and policymakers in within-country variation in Brazilian climate politics. In Belém, they perceived floods as a matter of natural disasters, whereas their counterparts in Paragominas recognized these problems as issues of law and public policy.