- JLAG Perspectives: Videography for Participatory Cartography in a Site of Wind Power Conflict in Coastal Ceará State, Brazil
Installed wind power capacity in Brazil expanded rapidly from 28.6 megawatts (MW) in 2005 to 10.6 gigawatts (GW) installed electrical capacity in 2016—roughly a 37,000 percent increase in just over a decade. Highly favorable wind climatology (Silva et al. 2016), emergency electricity rationing, and state incentives motivated wind farm construction in coastal areas of Ceará (1.6 GW) and Rio Grande do Norte (3.2 GW).
Reports describe Brazilian wind power as a win-win situation (Juárez et al. 2014: 833). However, recent work describes social conflict and environmental impacts from wind farms located in coastal environments. Impacts include leveling dunes, burying interdune lakes, impeded access through the wind farm, heavy truck traffic, and unfulfilled promises of employment generation (Brown 2011; Meireles et al. 2013; Gorayeb et al. 2016; Brannstrom et al. 2017). [End Page 159]
Here, we discuss the process of creating a 20-minute video, “We Made Our Map: Territory, Participatory Cartography, and Wind Power in the West Coast of Ceará, Brazil” (LabocartUFC 2016), which shows results of a participatory mapping project that helped a traditional community secure land rights when threatened by a wind farm. The participatory mapping process (2011–2015) included continual critical reflection regarding the community, its territory, its engagement with cartography, and the impacts of large infrastructure projects.
Community leaders requested a map from the Department of Geography, Universidade Federal do Ceará, in the course of seeking technical assistance to show traditional livelihoods in Xavier. The mapping project was to include sea, beach, dune (including interdunal lakes), river, and mangrove environments used for livelihoods (fishing, mollusks, and agriculture) and leisure. The specific motivation for resource mapping was the 2009 construction of a wind farm, licensed by Ceará state authorities without obtaining community consent. The wind farm has caused social tensions between the community and the wind farm owner, and within the community (Meireles et al. 2013; Gorayeb et al. 2016; Brannstrom et al. 2017).
Xavier community is a traditional settlement of twenty-two families (sixty-six residents) who rely on fishing with nonmotorized boats, collect shellfish and shrimp, and practice small-scale agriculture. Common property, rather than definitive land title, prevails. In 2005, Xavier residents noted the presence of outsiders taking measurements and installing equipment. Construction of the wind farm started in 2007, and in 2009 the wind farm began producing power from fifty turbines capable of generating 104.4 MW. This wind farm was Brazil’s largest until December 2016. Houses in Xavier were 200 meters away from the nearest turbine. After many complaints by Xavier residents, in 2013 the wind power firm donated R$540,000 (approximately US$130,000) to the Xavier community association for the construction of twenty-two brick houses, one per family, to mitigate the negative impacts of the wind farm.
We received an extension grant in 2014 from Brazil’s Ministry of Education to conduct participatory cartography workshops among traditional fishing communities in western Ceará. Our application of participatory cartography follows the concept of new social cartography developed by Henri Acselrad and Alfredo Wagner Berno de Almeida (Acselrad and Coli 2008; Almeida et al. 2010), which has broad parallels to trends in critical cartography that Crampton (2009) reported. Our group has used new social cartography techniques to produce seventy-two maps of traditional communities (indigenous groups, quilombolas, ribeirinhos, and small farmers) in northern and northeastern Brazil (Meireles and Gorayeb 2014; Gorayeb et al. 2015; Mendes et al. 2015; Costa et al. 2016; Evangelista et al. 2016; Galdino et al. 2016; Leite et al. 2016).
We aimed to facilitate participatory mapping by transferring technologies and knowledge to residents. The workshops resulted in thematic maps that showed conflicts over resources. During the workshops we also interviewed community leaders and participated in community activities, creating synergies between research and extension. In 2014, project leaders Gorayeb and Meireles decided to make a documentary film about the problems caused by the wind farm in the Xavier community, and...