Brazil’s Geography Problem

This video was made possible by Skillshare. Learn from 21,000 classes for free for two
months at There are plenty of lines you can draw on
the globe but perhaps none is more consequential than the equator. Of the 15 wealthiest countries
in the world as measured by GDP per capita, all are in the northern hemisphere. Only 800
million of earth’s 7.6 billion residents live south of the equator. There is a clear
divide between north and south but of those 800 million people a quarter of them, about
207 million, live here in Brazil. The country is an exception to the global trend. Brazil
is the fifth most populous country in the world and the most populous entirely within
the southern hemisphere. Its economy has grown enormously and the country is quickly developing.
Although, the very land it sits on stacks the odds against it. Its location gives it
a disadvantage. Given this, the question is whether Brazil can develop into a world superpower
by the likes of the US, Europe, Russia, India, and China or if the country is doomed to fail? Brazil, of course, looks like this but in
reality almost 80% of the country’s population lives here—within 200 miles of the coast.
You do see a concentration of population near the coast in any country as it provides a
cheap and easy means of transportation by boats and a source of food through fishing
but few countries have such a severe concentration of people by the oceans as Brazil. This small
area, for example, is home to three of Brazil’s six largest cities. Normally this would help
development as the area in between cities will urbanize but this map doesn’t tell
the whole story—this one does. You see, this area of Brazil is rather mountainous.
The major cities mostly exist in small pockets of low-altitude, flat land on the ocean. This
is because major cities need easy water access to get goods in and out. The majority of Brazil’s
coast is defined by steep, sheer cliffs. Petrópolis, for example, a suburb of Rio, is a mere 13
miles from the ocean and yet it sits at almost 3,000 feet of altitude. The rare areas with
low-altitude land on the water are where cities like Porte Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, and Recife
are but this pattern has two consequences. First, these cities, while being on flat land
themselves are surrounded by cliffs and mountainous regions which means their growth is limited.
There are plenty of cities that exist in mountainous regions but the world’s largest and most
influential cities like London and Delhi and Beijing all exist in areas with absolutely
no geographical features limiting their growth. The fact that Brazil’s cities locate in
rare low-altitude coastal land means that the country will likely never have a megalopolis
by the likes of the Pearl River Delta or the US Northeast. It takes a surprising six hours
to drive between Rio and Sao Paolo and since there’s no low-altitude coastal land in
between them, there are really no major cities in between them too. Brazil’s cities are
confined to the geographically convenient areas which are spread out from each other.
This means the cities can’t collaborate easily with each other thereby limiting Brazil’s
impact on the world stage. Like any large country, Brazil’s development
potential is also linked to how it gets its food. This, in fact, might be Brazil’s greatest
obstacle as it really doesn’t hav e much great farmland, at least yet. The country’s
main agricultural region is its south which is blessed with great soil and great rivers
that help transport crops away from their farms. Interestingly, the same elevation that
leads to steep coastal cliffs causes rivers to run in a counterintuitive direction. The
Tietê river, for example, starts near Sao Paolo a mere 10 miles away from the Atlantic
ocean but then runs inland almost 500 miles where it flows into the Paraná River which
eventually flows out into the ocean near Buenos Aires, Argentina. If a farmer wants to export
their food abroad, it’s often cheaper to first ship it the thousands of miles by boat
on these rivers than just hundreds of miles overland to Brazil’s coast due to their
poor road infrastructure. This means that Argentina gets the business of packing up
and shipping Brazil’s food to other countries. That’s just lost money for Brazil as a result
of their geography. Brazil’s south, though, does not even have enough land to feed the
country’s own 200 million residents. Given that, the question is where to put the rest
of the farms. In Brazil’s north is the Amazon basin. The
central feature of this region is, of course, the Amazon River which is navigable for boats.
Normally this feature would lead to a significant population as navigable rivers serve as cheap
and easy transport for crops and goods but the banks of the Amazon are a tough place
to farm or live. Not only are they muddy and unstable which makes building difficult, but
the Amazon also regularly floods which means that every year many of the communities on
the banks of the Amazon can have their streets underwater for months. Building and living
in the Amazonian cities is difficult, but what’s more difficult is building the roads
in and out. The largest city in the Amazon, Manaus, is home to 2.6 million people, it’s
as big as Baltimore, and yet there are only three roads connecting the city to the outside
world. Many of the smaller towns around the Amazon have no roads going in and out as its
just incredibly costly and difficult to build roads through the rainforest. In fact, rather
unbelievably, there is not a single bridge spanning over the Amazon so there is no way
to drive from the northernmost region of Brazil to the rest without taking a ferry. Overall,
this whole area is just empty. Even if there was the infrastructure to transport crops
to market, farming in the Amazon involves clearing huge amounts of land and even then,
the soil is relatively infertile which leads to poor yields. Despite being Brazil’s largest
state, Amazonas is home to just 1.8% of its population. It just costs too much to build
the infrastructure needed to live there. To the south of the Amazon, though, is an
area known as the Cerrado. This vast savanna used to be in the same category as the Amazon—it
was empty. The problem was not only that there was no natural network of rivers to get crops
out of the area but also that the soil was too acidic and lacking enough nutrients to
easily grow large quantities of crops. Between both the Amazon and the Cerrado being off-limits
for large-scale farming, that meant that Brazil really didn’t have much land at all for
farming. 30 years ago, with only the south to farm, Brazil was actually a net importer
of food—it bought more food from other countries than it sold. That was until researchers discovered
that all you needed to do to fix the soil was add phosphorous and lime. The phosphorous
served as a fertilizer in the place of natural nutrients and the lime worked to reduce the
level of acidity. In the early 2000’s, the country spread more than 25 million tons of
lime per year and so today the Cerrado accounts for 70% of Brazil’s farmland. In addition,
Brazil has begun growing soybeans. This plant is normally grown in more temperate climates
such as the US, northern China, or Japan, but through cross-breeding and genetic modification
it can be modified to grow in warmer and acidic environments such as the Brazilian Cerrado.
Thanks to the enormous amount of land Brazil has and these technological advancements the
country has gone from producing 16% of the world’s soybean in 2005 to 31% today.
A country’s level of development is often to linked to how good its natural transportation
system is. That’s part of why the US developed so much so fast—it has a great system of
navigable rivers right in its agricultural heartland that helps get goods from the fields
to cities fast and inexpensively. The Brazilian Cerrado, though, does not have that. It doesn’t
even have much of a preexisting network of roads since before this recent agricultural
advancement barely anyone lived there. Therefore anyone who wants to farm in the Cerrado has
to find land, level it, treat it with phosphate and lime, and build roads to get supplies
in and crops out. Cerrado farms can be profitable but it takes an enormous amount of money to
build the infrastructure needed to start a farm. It’s not like the US or France or
China where all you need is some land. The consequence of this is that farms in Brazil
tend to owned by corporations rather than individuals because only corporations have
the money to build farms. That therefore increases the level of wealth disparity in Brazil. According
to the World Bank’s Gini index, Brazil is the 11th most economically unequal country
in the world. Lower wealth disparity and the emergence of a middle class are indicators
of economic development so the country should want to fix this. Brazil’s government has
recognized its infrastructure problem as a source of its wealth disparity and has therefore
worked to build roads in the interior so that more individuals can run farms but the government
only has so much money to spend and it’s a big country.
Brazil does, though, understand the importance of its core. It understands that the coastal
cities are constrained and that economic development will come from the center. It was partially
for that reason that the country decided to move its capital from Rio de Janeiro to here—Brasília.
The thinking was that putting the capital in the core would stimulate the economically
underdeveloped region and, in many ways, it worked. The city simply did not exist before
1960 yet today more than 4 million people live in its metropolitan area. Being located
on relatively flat land unlike Rio, the city can just grow and grow and grow without hinderance.
Brazil has potential, but its defining issue is that it’s an expensive place. It’s a
vicious cycle. In order to make money, Brazil needs to invest in its infrastructure but
without people making money it doesn’t have the tax money to build what it takes t o transition
into the first world. The question of why tropical countries are less developed is an
enormous one without a clear answer, but Brazil is one of the most likely candidates to break
this trend. It certainly lags behind other developing countries like China, but as its
agriculture industry develops it will become a bigger and bigger exporter which will bring
more money in. With time, its average income will inch up. The country already does have
major companies in other industries such as banking, manufacturing, and oil but with how
big Brazil is, agriculture is the one that’s the world’s focus right now. Only France,
Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States export more agricultural products per year
which is good company to be in. Brazil may not have the explosive growth rate of some
other less developed countries but by continuously taking what it earns and reinvesting it to
open up more of the country to agricultural production it will continue its path to superpower
status. One of the common questions I receive is how
I started making these videos. The first step was learning the skills needed from writing
to research to sound design and editing, but for each and every one of them there’s a
course on Skillshare. Skillshare, you see, is an online learning community that has more
than 21,000 classes on whatever you want to learn. The variety is astounding. You can
learn skills to help you make videos, to show off at parties, or even to help you get a
job. There are also some great courses taught by fellow YouTubers such as Mike Boyd and
Kurzgesagt. What’s best about Skillshare is that you can try it all for free for two
months exclusively by going to Skillshare makes this show possible and its
a great place to learn or improve your skills so please do check them out, once again, at Thanks for watching and I’ll see you again in three weeks for another
Wendover Productions video.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. O gringo fala que podíamos ser potência, se investirmos em infraestrutura, acho que essa tal infraestrutura não virá, a briga política no Brasil é pelo poder, não pela nação!

  2. This video does not understand the definition of megalopolis of which Brazil has 7. And a megalopolis does not determine national success. Also, Brazil is a world leading agricultural exporter…………


  4. Geography isn't the problem.
    Corruption on the other hand IS

    The taxes we pay are enormous and why we don't get the results? Because it's not going to where it should.

  5. só avisando, brasileiro adora falar mal do próprio país, mas é só um estrangeiro falar um ai do nosso país…

  6. e assim, a Amazônia não é um problema, é uma bênção. Ninguém tem que estar preocupado com criar cidades, fazendas, plantações, ou qualquer coisa na Amazônia, nós temos que nos preocupar em preservar o espaço

  7. cara, de onde esse cara tirou todas essas mentiras? desde quando o solo do Brasil é ruim pra plantação de alimentos?

  8. The brazilian problem is not its geography, its the politics. Brazil is one of the most hard countries to open a business.

  9. É sério que você estão reclamando desse vídeo? eles estão simplesmente falando a verdade nua e crua. E vai piorar com o BOSTAnaro na área. Tava ruim agora parece que piorou.

  10. Bullshit mate, Brazil was fourth richest country in the world at 2 centuries ago, the problem is the republic is made to be corrupt, the capital is made just to do this, to avoid the protest to try clean these politicians, the problem is, we tried to copy USA, to be honest all Latin America and now is a disaster, we have 3 power, Executive, Legislative and Judiciary and all is mixed to corruption.

  11. Em toda minha vida eu nunca vi uma interpretação tão precária vinda do pessoal BR pqp. O vídeo contém legendas tanto em inglês e português e mesmo assim o pessoal conseguiu tirar conclusões do cu do que o autor do vídeo falou. Senhor amado…

  12. hahaha esse cara do video não tem muita base… exportação via Argentina e Amazonia sem ninguém… hahahah

  13. Let's be real here I think he's very aware that corruption is a very big problem but the video is about Brazil's geography problem

  14. At 4:56, I think you meant to say Baltimore Metro Area because the Baltimore Metro Area has that many people, not the city itself which only had 611,000 people in 2017.

  15. Brazil is not entirely located in the southern hemisphere. Including some islands in the Atlantic Ocean its territory reaches from some 6 degrees north to 34 degrees south.

  16. Wendover with its masonic pyramid with a god symbol on top, matches the US dollar bill and many other things like Starfox 64's pyramid with an imaginary alien spaceship descending upon it, and many company logos besides this one, and that scene in the Mummy.


    BHP = Miners from England, Australy, Norway and Israel. VALE = (George Soros) ISRAEL (bankers). There are currently 800 gigantic toxic waste barrages under the responsibility of these companies. 2 tragedies recently happened BRUMADINHO and MARIANA. In Brumadinho 250 people died and a unique destruction of the environment. EUROPE, come and fix what you're doing here. You are destroying the Amazon too.

  18. Em nenhum momento o vídeo disse que o Brasil não tem outros problemas … ele só quis focar em um e não na corrupção vocês são muito idiotas

  19. also, the megacity Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo is slowly forming. So, it's likely thatBrazil will have a megalopolis, but it's unlikely that it will take a small amount of time.

  20. There IS a bridge that connects Manaus to other cities, and it's the only bridge to cross the Amazon River (kinda because it's not really the amazon river but it is one of it's afluents)

  21. Superpower is not a thing that tropical countries will ever have to deal with. It's why Indonesia and Nigeria won't get there either. Regionally the can be powerful, but Superpower is a different tier.

  22. Ainda bem que o final do vídeo era levantando a moral do Brasil, porque agente não é um povo muito educado, se falarem mau da gente agente fica louco

  23. I remember a scene in Elite Squad that Captain Nascimento said you can't reach Favela by climbing the mountains.

  24. Hey, Brazilians, look at the burning Amazon and tell me you guys don't have a geography problem.

    I'm all for clearing some of the Amazon but it's getting out of hand.

  25. O problema do Brasil é o estado gigante que acha que domina a vida das pessoas como se fosse gado (e do gado que vai atrás), que tem como consequência corrupção interminável.

  26. To be honest most of the Southern Hemisphere is improving rapidly.
    Most of those countries mentioned in the GDP per capita, well the middle east ones anyway are one trick ponies and will return to wastelands when the world transitions from fossil fuels.
    Australia, New Zealand and Chile are already wealthy countries and Argentina is not far behind.
    Yes rivers are beneficial but so are railways and roads. Just give Brazil time to build up its infrastructure and they will be a force to be reckoned with. The only thing holding them back is stable government.

  27. "O Brasil não tem condições de alimentar sua população" disse isso o cara que não sabe o que é um arroz, feijão e um pão de queijo

  28. How is it the biggest land by population in the southern hemisphere? Since Indonesia as well has a the majority of its country south of the equator.

  29. "farming in the Amazon involves clearing huge amounts of land, even then the soil is relatively infertile"

    fire: "I can fix that"

  30. I believe Brazil by its size,population and many water routes and proper allies, has the potential to become the 4th Super Power, then we would not have to take on China and Russia alone, The USA is England's successor in protecting the world, and I see Brazil as Spain's, especially since we are both much bigger then our predecessors and with modern tech and transport our only threats are the corruptions that socialism brings which they are fighting with much success i hear just like Us.

  31. Brazil would probably already either almost be or be a global superpower if it's government didn't go socialist at the turn of the 21st century. Goes to show that socialism never works long term

  32. " Brazil can't feed it's population (4:05)"
    What really is the truth is that the government dosen't really cares for who dosen't pays taxes for them, meaning if no free money, no food for them. That's how Brazil works. Also, here in Colombo, it's basically the nest of the bandits of Brazil, where they get their glocks and blow up nearly everthing, and knowing that this is just their f***ing training, this just makes me want to die. Think about this: bikers gather up in a bus and grab a part of it to go with the bus. When the bus stops, all the bikers go directly at the driver of the bus and fight against the driver. Yeah, that happened here like 2 days ago. We can't do nothing otherwise we will be sent to prison just because police is blind and can't see that the bad ones are the bikers.

  33. Not pretty accurate. Look carefully in the soya plantation sites. It is basically bigger than France you skip it … About Amazon soil being harsh, yes it is, that is why they increase the retained soil minerals by burning the forest over it. To be good for agriculture and cows.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment