Large-scale collective action to avoid an Amazon tipping point - key actors and interventions
Journal article, 2021

The destruction of the Amazon is a major global environmental issue, not only because of greenhouse gas emissions or direct impacts on biodiversity and livelihoods, but also due to the forest's role as a tipping element in the Earth System. With nearly a fifth of the Amazon already lost, there are already signs of an imminent forest dieback process that risks transforming much of the rainforest into a drier ecosystem, with climatic implications across the globe. There is a large body of literature on the underlying drivers of Amazon deforestation. However, insufficient attention has been paid to the behavioral and institutional microfoundations of change. Fundamental issues concerning cooperation, as well as the mechanisms facilitating or hampering such actions, can play a much more central role in attempts to unravel and address Amazon deforestation. We thus present the issue of preventing the Amazon biome from crossing a biophysical tipping point as a large-scale collective action problem. Drawing from collective action theory, we apply a novel analytical framework on Amazon conservation, identifying six variables that synthesize relevant collective action stressors and facilitators: information, accountability, harmony of interests, horizontal trust, knowledge about consequences, and sense of responsibility. Drawing upon literature and data, we assess Amazon deforestation and conservation through our heuristic lens, showing that while growing transparency has made information availability a collective action facilitator, lack of accountability, distrust among actors, and little sense of responsibility for halting deforestation remain key stressors. We finalize by discussing interventions that can help break the gridlock.


Tipping point

Conservation policy

Large-scale collective action




Mairon G. Bastos Lima

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)

Niklas Harring

University of Gothenburg

Sverker C. Jagers

University of Gothenburg

Åsa Löfgren

University of Gothenburg

Martin Persson

Chalmers, Space, Earth and Environment

Martin Sjöstedt

University of Gothenburg

Bengt Brülde

University of Gothenburg

D. Langlet

Center for Collective Action Research (CeCAR) and Department of Law

Will Steffen

Australian National University

Francisco Alpizar

Wageningen University and Research

Current Research in Environmental Sustainability

26660490 (eISSN)

Vol. 3 100048

Subject Categories

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Environmental Management

Information Systemes, Social aspects



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