The Green Economy and Hydropower Dams

Friday, November 9, 2012
Weil Town Hall (Belfer Building, gound floor)
3:00 - 5:00 pm


The Green Economy and Hydropower Dams:
Clean Energy,
Displaced Communities
and Economic Disparities


Alexania Rossato & José Alves de Oliveira

Movement of People Affected by Dams


Sara Mersha

Grassroots International

moderated by

Richard Parker

Lecturer in Public Policy and Senior Fellow of the Shorenstein Center
Harvard University Kenedy School of Government

Brazil has projected very large energy needs to sustain the growth of its economy. Rather than pursue sources of energy such as solar, wind, and ocean power, it has chosen instead to focus on the development of large scale hydro-electric dams, many of which are being constructed in indigenous reserves of the Amazon. Experienced organizers Alexania Rossato, from the Brazilian Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), and Sara Mersha, from Grassroots International, will explore the perspective of local communities (urban and rural, including indigenous communities) in the context of the green economy, hydropower dams, and environmental economics. 

About the participants:

Alexania Rossato, Movement of People Affected by Dams

Alexania is the daughter of farmers in the region of Dona Francisca hydroelectric plant in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Trained in journalism, she has coordinated MAB’s communications sector since 2004. She is the movement’s representative in local and national networks of social justice and faith-based organizations, such as the Brazilian People's Assembly. Alexania is a member of MAB’s national coordination committee. Established in 1991 as an autonomous national popular movement, MAB represents hundreds of displaced families, including indigenous and Afro-descendent communities, who have self-organized in areas impacted by the construction of large hydroelectric dams. The threat from increasing numbers of mega-dams has risen dramatically as the climate and energy crises have fuelled the growth of “clean and green” energy sources like hydropower. MAB has been successful in several efforts to stop the privatization of rivers and other natural resources, and it advocates for alternative energy policies that are beneficial to both poor people and the environment. 

Sara Mersha, Grassroots International 

Sara Mersha is the Director of Grantmaking and Advocacy at Grassroots International. She served as Visiting Faculty in the Ethnic Studies Department of Brown University, and entered a graduate program at Brown’s Center for Environmental Studies in 2009. Sara’s academic and movement-building work focus on climate justice and food sovereignty, including with the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance. Grassroots International works to create a just and sustainable world by building alliances with progressive movements. It provides grants to Global South partners and joins them in advocating for social change. Grassroots’ primary focus is on land, water and food as human rights and nourishing the political struggle necessary to achieve these rights. 

José Alves de Oliveira, Movement of People Affected by Dams

José Alves de Oliveira is a farmer originally from Brazil’s Northeast state of Ceará. He joined MAB in 1998, as he and his family were affected by the construction of the Castanhão dam. He is one of the main leaders of the movement in Northeast Brazil, where he played a critical role in the organizing effort to reclaim land, housing and social services for thousands of displaced families. Josivaldo also supported communities in the Brazilian Amazon that were displaced by the Jirau and Santo Antonio dams on the Madeira River in Rondonia state. He is a leading organizer against the multi-billion watershed transposition project in the São Francisco River in Northeast Brazil. Like Alexania, Josivaldo is a member of MAB’s national coordinating committee.

Richard Parker, Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government 

Professor Richard Parker is a Lecturer in Public Policy and Senior Fellow of the Shorenstein Center at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. An Oxford-trained economist, his career before coming to the Kennedy School in 1993 included journalism (he cofounded the magazine Mother Jones as well as Investigative Reporters & Editors, and chairs the editorial board of The Nation); philanthropy (as executive director of two foundations he donated more than $40 million to social-change groups); social entrepreneurship (he grew the environmental group Greenpeace from 2,000 to 600,000 supporters, helped launch People for the American Way, and raised over $250 million for some 60 non-profits), and political consulting (advising, among others, Senators Kennedy, Glenn, Cranston, and McGovern). From 2009 to 2011 he was an economic advisor to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.