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Dossier. Repenser la nature dans les villes latino-américaines
Partie III. Vivre les inégalités environnementales au quotidien

Green gentrification and contemporary capitalist production of space: notes from Brazil1

Gentrification verte et production capitaliste contemporaine de l’espace : notes du Brésil
Gentrificación verde y producción capitalista contemporánea del espacio: notas desde Brasil
Pedro Henrique Campello Torres, Daniele Tubino Pante Souza, Vanessa Lucena Empinotti et Pedro Roberto Jacobi
p. 185-210


Le concept de gentrification verte a gagné en force dans les études aux États-Unis et en Europe, en particulier celles liées aux parcs urbains et aux infrastructures vertes. En Amérique latine, l’utilisation du concept est encore limitée. Cette étude évalue si le concept inventé dans le Nord global peut être appliqué au contexte de la région la plus urbanisée du Sud global et réfléchit sur les utilisations, les possibilités et les limites de ce concept, en particulier dans le cas du Brésil. Trois cas illustratifs au Brésil ont été choisis pour discuter et tester le concept de gentrification verte à la lumière de la nécessité d’une médiation en fonction des réalités et des expériences locales. Nos résultats démontrent que le concept offre un aperçu des processus observés en prenant simultanément de nouveaux contours lorsqu’ils sont appliqués à une réalité méridionale. D’un point de vue critique, cet article montre la nécessité de politiser la relation entre la nature et la production capitaliste de l’espace en Amérique latine.

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Notes de la rédaction

Article reçu le 29 juillet 2020, accepté le 5 mai 2021

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The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) supported this study, with the Process 2018/06685-9, which is part of the Thematic Project MacroAmb “Environmental Governance in São Paulo Macro Metropolis in a climate variability context” (2015/03804-9). The authors would like to thank the reviewers and their suggestions, which helped to improve this paper.


  • 1 Pedro Henrique Campello Torres and Daniele Tubino Pante Souza contributed equally to this piece of (...)

1Where is the contemporary place of nature [Smith, 2008; Querrien & Lassave, 1997] in Latin American cities [Sedrez, 2013; Angotti, 1996; García-Jerez, 2019] as one of most urbanized and uneven regions in the world? Concerning the historical, colonial and extractivist processes of uneven reproduction in this territory, the problem becomes even more critical as the absence of green areas can result in a decline in the quality of life of the population and adds to severe environmental inequalities such as air pollution, drinking water scarcity, and a lack of sanitation [Sabatini, 1997; Acselrad, 2004; Souza, 2019].

2In critical opposition to ecological modernization and the capture of solutions to environmental problems by capital, this article seeks to analyze the production of space, the place of nature and the inequalities present in the territory from the problematization of Green Gentrification concept in a Latin American reality: Brazil. Green Gentrification approaches social consequences of urban «greening» from a perspective of environmental justice and political ecology. Although greening is ostensibly intended to improve quality of life in communities and neighborhoods, it may generate green gentrification, pushing out the poorest, the vulnerable and the despoiled, and attracting white, and wealthy groups. As stated by Gould and Lewis [2016], urban greening “richens and whitens”.

3This approach has gained strength in studies in the United States and Europe, especially in those related to urban parks and green infrastructures. While studies on gentrification, spatial segregation and environmental conflicts are numerous throughout Latin America [Sabatini, 1997], studies on green gentrification are still scarce, and there is a lack of empirical research on the topic [Souza & Torres, 2021]. This article aims to contribute to filling this gap and stimulating the debate on the subject in Latin America, as in other territories in the Global South. Therefore, through a comparative analysis of three cases of urban greening in Brazil, we investigate whether such initiatives, despite their allegedly positive effect of improving environmental quality, are not likely to exacerbate inequalities and socio-spatial segregation.

4To that effect we discuss and test the notion of green gentrification in a Latin American context, more specifically in the case of Brazil, by analyzing its uses, possibilities, and limitations. The purpose here is not to seek epistemological acculturation, but rather to illuminate the differences and similarities that may contribute to the production of an interpretation based on the specificities of one of the most populous and unequal countries in Latin America.

5From the perspective of political ecology, interconnections can be established between the panaceas of ecological modernization and the emergence of environmental inequalities, a linkage that also leads to specific environmental conflicts in this Global South region. This study assumes that the use of the concept of green gentrification in Latin America requires, therefore, mediation for its calibration based on local realities, experiences, and peculiarities. The peculiarities are discussed using three illustrative cases from Brazil. The aim is not to assess whether these cases are clear examples of “green gentrification”, but to illustrate the debate, from a critical perspective, on the need for mediation, analysis and possibilities for a new research agenda to explore the topic in this context.

6The paper is organized as follows. The theoretical basis of the green gentrification concept is presented, differentiating it from classic conceptions about gentrification—although it is not the aim of this article to review the gentrification topic that has been, and continues to be, studied by many researchers worldwide [Sabatini, Sarella & Vásquez, 2008; Lees, Slater & Wyly, 2008; Smith, 1987]. Subsequently, we address the need to calibrate the concept when it is considered from the viewpoint of the southern region, observing the particular dynamics of the Brazilian context. Next, the materials and methods are outlined and the three case studies are described and critically analyzed. Finally, the cases are shown to enable an understanding of the nuances, possibilities, and limitations of the application of the green gentrification in a specific southern reality, and directions are indicated for a new research agenda. What interests us here is the political dimension of the environmental issue, not public policy and its management, but the politicization of nature and the power struggles over projects, agendas, society and natural resources.

Calibrating the green gentrification approach from the South: uses, limits, and possibilities

7The desired process of reducing the deficit of green areas in cities has in some cases produced conflicts between different social groups, increased environmental inequalities, and perverse effects on the production of space. This phenomenon, termed green gentrification, has been gaining ground in critical urban studies for at least a decade, led mainly by authors from the field of environmental justice and political ecology, and from a perspective centered on the Global North [Souza & Torres, 2021].

8The term gentrification was coined by the English Marxist sociologist Ruth Glass in the 1960s [Glass, 1964], and gained ground thanks to Neil Smith’s research in the field of critical geography of the 1960/70s [Smith, 1996]. The gentrification process is defined «as a process of neighborhood change through which the demographic, real estate, and business characteristics of a place reveal a transition towards a more educated, wealthy, whiter population, able to afford new or renovated pricier properties while also fomenting new cultural and consumption practices» [Cole et al., 2019, p. 3]. Green gentrification, in turn, can be defined as a process «which is facilitated in large part by the creation or restoration of an environmental amenity. Rather than cases where already gentrified neighborhoods develop constituents for local environmental amenities (where gentrification leads to greening)» [Gould & Lewis, 2012, p. 12].

9In Latin America, the theme of gentrification has been perceived, studied and problematized by several researchers [Lópes-Morales, Shin & Lees, 2016]. Despite classic gentrification effects, Rubino [2005], Leite [2010], Sabatini et al. [2008], among others, pointed out historical particularities for the region and the concept. In addition to the international gentrification agendas expressed in cases such as mega-scale interventions like Porto Maravilha in Rio, Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires, renovations in Santa Fé, or Nueva Polanco in Mexico City. Gentrification processes in the region also involve, among other themes, the revaluation and cultural occupation of historic areas of colonial resistance that have been abandoned or, instead of the most common gentrification observed in central areas, its emergence in peripheral areas or even without the removal of residents, as argued by Sabatini, Sarella & Vásquez [2008].

10For the purposes of this article, green gentrification is regarded from the perspective of Gould and Lewis [2012, 2016] and Anguelovski [2015, 2018], authors who have published a considerable amount of work addressing the issue, with a main focus on urban park renewals and the implementation of green amenities resulting in undesired outcomes such as the displacement of local populations, increase in land value and environmental racism. Empirical data show that African American communities are more exposed to environmental inequalities (pollution, toxicity, access to water, etc.), and challenge the principle that all peoples and communities have the right to equal protection and equal enforcement of environmental laws and regulations.

11Gould and Lewis [2016] presented three questions in their studies related to race, class and housing which are central to their approach to green gentrification processes: (1) does sustainability whiten an area?; (2) does greening richen an area?; and (3) does greening increase rent and housing prices? Moreover, other research led by Anguelovski and others drew attention to two central issues in this debate. The first concerns the extent to which the concept of “gentrification” may be used to describe the processes of socio-spatial segregation, as driven by the deployment of green amenities [Anguelovski et al., 2018a]. The second issue is related to the interface between environmental justice and the political ecology approach [e.g., Anguelovski & Martinez Alier, 2014; Anguelovski et al., 2018b], where the underlying assumption is that urban areas populated by marginalized residents will bear the brunt of negative environmental changes, whereas the more affluent parts of a city will enjoy growth in or increased quality of environmental resources [Swyngedouw, 1996]. Such inequalities are the result of an ecological modernization model of development whose environmental costs and benefits are unevenly distributed [Acselrad, 2010; Peet & Watts, 2004].

12When applying the green gentrification concept to a country of the Global South such as Brazil, it is necessary to recognize the social processes behind the displacement of the population as a consequence of green urbanization. More than that, it is imperative to recognize the specificities of the colonial, extractive and unequal formation of these territories that contribute to a long-lasting process [longue durée] of perpetuation of social inequalities and injustices. It is essential to understand first the reasons why such groups have been displaced from their land, and how institutions support dispossession processes [Rolnik, 2011]. Among the few green gentrification studies that focus on Latin America, Anguelovski [2018b] showed that the root of the double dispossession process of the low income population in urban areas in Medellín is related to the violence, land grabbing, agricultural modernization, and a lack of incentives, which force part of the rural population to migrate to urban areas and occupy the city’s outskirts which the state usually classifies as risk areas. Here we have a specificity, illustrated by the case of Medellin, but it could equally well be Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, Mexico City or San Salvador in the case of Latin America, and so many other cities in Africa and Asia. With no formal land property and rights, such populations are more vulnerable to dislocation and dispersal by green infrastructure projects. Hence when studying green gentrification, it is vital to recognize how social processes produce such conditions, as well as the ways in which material relations and uneven resource consumption, concepts of nature, and the politics of environmental management are worked into or involve gentrification processes [Quastel, 2009].

13In this regard, traditional populations and low-income marginalized groups in rural and urban areas have historically struggled over land access and rights, which allows the state and also speculators and private entrepreneurs to impose waves of land and natural resource grabbing to promote development and economic growth [Svampa, 2013; Deonandan & Dougherty, 2016; Irazábal, 2009]. Here lies another imperative specificity when considering gentrification and its calibration in the Global South. Environmental conflicts have urban-rural lenses and, more than that, they involve deep and historical roots of the state’s inability to guarantee decent housing provision for all citizens. In a heterogeneous territory such as Brazil, with the presence of a diversity of social groups with exacerbated socioeconomic disparities as well as traditional communities, conflicts will involve these groups, an aspect that is not observed in the present studies of green gentrification in the Global North.

14Recognizing such distinct perspectives in the green gentrification approach allows for more context-oriented reflection, and simultaneously promotes the foundations of a counter narrative to the modern development model, forging the structure of an emancipatory one [Alimonda, 2017]. Assumptions of how the modernization development model perpetuates the colonial practices of control, violence, and spoliation [Escobar, 1995; Esteva, 2010] redirects and contributes to the analyses of green gentrification using a particular form of epistemology from the South. Such insights contribute to the construction of an alternative model in which the environment is re-conceptualized from traditional knowledge and its cosmovision of human and non-human relations [Leff, 2015; Acosta, 2016], leading to a de-colonial perspective that breaks with the traditions of the European colonial modernity pattern and seeks to improve understanding with the help of reflections from South [Santos & Meneses, 2009; Alimonda, 2011; Álvarez & Coolsaet, 2018; Mignolo, 2009].

15Therefore it is a matter of rejecting the mere import of agendas, such as naive panaceas, in order to build up a field of knowledge and practice that anticipates the realization of these ideas in a hegemonic discourse, contesting and exposing them as a reproductive tool of a neoliberal economics and cultural agenda [Kotsila et al., 2020].

Material and methods

16Three typologies were chosen to discuss the green gentrification concept in Brazil, represented by three cases for analysis. The following cases aim to illustrate examples of green inequalities, in which aspects of green gentrification have emerged from the literature. This logic does not apply the concept based on the cases; instead the cases are used to illustrate the arguments from the ideas and concepts. In addition, they seek the limitations of the approach, as applied in cases in the Global North, realizing particularities pointed out in the first paragraph, such as the issues of conflicts involving traditional groups, articulations between real estate capital and public power to favor traditional groups, issues related to crime and social exclusion among others.

17The typologies of territorial dynamics were analyzed regarding their distribution, development, and access to green amenities in different Brazilian municipalities by different segments of social groups to investigate whether and how the concept of green gentrification may be applied. The typologies were chosen due to their recurrence in the Brazilian context and the complexity of the environmental processes that they engender, and included: (1) projects aimed at providing green areas (e.g., urban parks) in low-income neighborhoods that potentially imply the relocation of families; (2) projects that combine the creation of urban parks and the verticalization of the surrounding areas; and (3) the construction of upper-class condominiums close to nature conservation units that lead to changes in local use and identity. The typologies are illustrated by southern situations, but that could potentially be verified in other regions of the country.

18The first typology, Madureira Park in Rio de Janeiro, addresses a recurrent problem in Brazil: the lack of green spaces with adequate infrastructure in urban areas that are predominantly inhabited by low-income segments of the population. In Brazilian cities, there seems to be a tendency for concentrations of green infrastructure to be situated in more affluent districts rather than low-income districts [IBGE, 2012; Locatelli et al., 2018]. The second typology, Germania Park in the city of Porto Alegre, analyzes a dynamic that has been increasingly observed in Brazilian capitals since the 2000s: the creation and/or qualification of urban parks in association with real estate expansion, and the valorization of enterprises [Sakata, 2018]. In these cases, the areas surrounding the parks are usually verticalized, and changes in urban legislation are often undertaken to enable development and achieve the expansion of the constructive potential; a combination of actions that consequently leads to profit maximization. The third typology, the Laranjeiras Condominium in the municipality of Paraty, concerns the “privatization” of the Brazilian coastline as a recurring and complex process in the country [Rolnik, 2016]. In this context, there are historic complexities concerning the illegal occupation by wealthy social groups and outbreaks of environmental conflicts involving traditional populations, who are expelled from their territories with the arrival of real estate capital and the tourism market.

19The analysis was based on extensive bibliographic research and the collection of primary and secondary data from articles, theses, dissertations, articles from newspapers, specialized blogs and government reports.

Madureira Park, Rio de Janeiro

  • 2 The cost in Brazilian reals was R$ 390 million. In 2012, USD 1 = R$ 2.3 according to Central Bank o (...)

20Madureira Park is the third-largest (450,000 m2) park in Rio de Janeiro and is situated in the northern part of the city (see Figure 1). It is in an area with the least amount of green infrastructure in the municipality. The park was opened in June 2012 (and expanded in 2015) in the élan of the 2016 Olympics. Built at a cost of USD 169 million,2 it occupies an area that belonged to the public electricity company, “Light”, which was privatized by the State Government of Rio de Janeiro in 1996.

  • 3 Several papers discuss the intricacies of environmental certification programs. An important exampl (...)
  • 4 In 2010, Madureira had a population of 50,106 [Rio de Janeiro, 2013]. Madureira occupies an extensi (...)

21The park was the first Brazilian public space to receive the AQUA certificate of environmental sustainability, taking into account the areas of afforestation, recycling and waste management, water reuse and LED lamps, among other green amenities.3 The justification narrative was to implement the park’s dialogue with an “urban sustainability fix” [While, Jonas & Gibbs, 2004; Anguelovski, Irazábal-Zurita & Connolly, 2018], as the area had an extremely high rate of urbanization (99.93%) with less than 1 m2 of green space per inhabitant.4

Figure 1. Location of Rio de Janeiro and Madureira Park

Figure 1. Location of Rio de Janeiro and Madureira Park

Source: Maps produced by authors (based on GoogleMaps images); (A) Veja Rio (available at​cidade/​projeto-quer-atrair-investimentos-de-1-bilhao-de-reais-para-a-zona-norte; accessed July 15, 2020); (B) RRA Arquitetura, 2012 (available at​uploads/​production/​libraryitem/​pdf/​10/​MKT-WB-CON-PR-239-LI-R00.pdf; accessed July 15, 2020).

22Madureira Park illustrates some of the complexities and challenges of the application of the green gentrification concept in Brazil. In theory, who would oppose a park of this size in a region that lacks this type of infrastructure? However the central aspects that must be understood include the intricacies surrounding the execution of the project, the removal of more than 900 families from the area, the high cost, the low level of participation of society, and the propaganda around the environmental certifications.

23In the case of Madureira Park, in fixing one problem, another was created, since “green dispossession” and “environmental gentrification” were observed. In order to bring more green areas (or more leisure areas—perhaps the most appropriate term for this case) to this neighborhood, which lacked this infrastructure, a displacement process was carried out. Official data states that over 8,000 people were evicted from their homes by non-consensual forced removal in the Vila das Torres favela (see Figures 2 and 3). The displacement processes for the 2016 Olympics were not isolated events but part of a structural project aimed at reconfiguring the city in conjunction with private capital [Souza, 2015].

Figure 2. The Vilas das Torres community area before removal, and its vegetable garden and designated park area

Figure 2. The Vilas das Torres community area before removal, and its vegetable garden and designated park area

Source: RRA Arquitetura, 2012 (available at​uploads/​production/​library_item/​pdf/​10/​MKT-WB-CON-PR-239-LI-R00.pdf; accessed July 15, 2020).

24The displacement process was a public policy of the administration of former mayor Eduardo Paes [Faulhaber, 2012], and took place during Brazil’s real estate market “boom” which saw rising prices in the city of Rio de Janeiro. In this heated real estate market, the value proposed to residents was practically symbolic at USD 3,478 to USD 7,300, while a private property would not normally be sold for less than USD 34,782. The former Vila das Torres favela, located where the park is today, was for decades a terrain authorized by the “Light” electricity company for urban agriculture (see Figure 2), and families were allowed to grow food on a lending basis along the existing watercourse. According to the company’s view, the presence of agriculture in the area would protect it against possible further invasion and informal occupation.

25According to Gomes [2019], the area where the park was implemented was considered risky by public agencies, and 264 families of the 1,017 removed from Vila das Torres were relocated to a social housing complex in the Realengo neighborhood [Ximenes, 2019]. A survey conducted with the displaced residents revealed that more than half preferred living in their previous homes and/or neighborhood. This number was also higher when it included those who would prefer to live in a different place than their current one, and 84% of residents were dissatisfied with their current housing conditions [Cardoso et al., 2013].

26Concerning green gentrification, Gould and Lewis [2016] presented an important question that helps in the analysis of the Madureira Park case: Does greening raise rent and housing prices? The answer is a clear yes. A note from the Association of Directors of Companies of the Real Estate Market (ADEMI) admitted that the region’s construction profile and property market values have changed (see Figure 3) since the public investments made by the local government [Cruz, 2018]. According to ADEMI, between 2010 and 2013 the value in Madureira per square meter went from USD 1,188 to USD 2,430; a variation of 104%. Further, the government’s investments coincided with the construction of new buildings in the region [Souza, 2015].

Figure 3. (Left) the Vila das Torres community and the protests before removal; (top right) Madureira park; and (bottom right) real estate developments brought about by the valorization of the area

Figure 3. (Left) the Vila das Torres community and the protests before removal; (top right) Madureira park; and (bottom right) real estate developments brought about by the valorization of the area

Sources: (Top left) Informal City Blogspot (available at​2013/​03/​in-this-post-i-will-indicate-major.html; accessed July 15, 2020); (bottom left, A) A Nova Democracia (available at​no-67/​2903-9633-moradias-serao-derrubadas-por-paes-e-cabral; accessed July 15, 2020); (bottom left, B) Fazendo Media (available at:​parque-de-madureira-deve-ser-entregue-em-2011-mas-moradores-criticam-o-projeto/​; accessed July 15, 2020); (top right) Cidade Olímpica (available at:​parque-madureira/​; accessed July 15, 2020); (bottom right) Local Negócios Imobiliários (available at​ficha.aspx?cod=LOL033.006; accessed July 15, 2020).

27Gould and Lewis’s [2016] additional question on “whether sustainability whitens an area” adds complexities to the analysis of the Madureira Park example and the green gentrification process that took place in the area. Despite the displacement of part of the local population and the increase in land prices, the patterns of new residents and/or of those appropriating the new public space cannot be classified as a white majority.

28Furthermore, after the cultural appropriation of the space, the park became the site of numerous events concerning the valorization of African-American culture, such as Brazilian funk dancing practices, freestyle funk battles and “passinho” battles, and was a meeting point for a protest against structural racism, among other important cultural events.

Germania Park, Porto Alegre

29Germania Park (150,809 m²) is located in the northern district of the city of Porto Alegre. The city became known for hosting editions of the World Social Forum and launching a pioneering model of participatory budgeting in which communities from different city districts define local investment demands based on a decision-making process. This model, however, has been weakened in recent years by, among other factors, the increasing incorporation of private capital through public-private partnerships that focus on large urban development projects [Soares, 2010] and follow a model that is globally widespread [Harvey, 2012]. Germania Park is a development of this type.

30Germania Park is part of the Jardim Europa district that was created in 2006, and is next to the Iguatemi and Bourbon shopping malls (see Figure 4). High-rise residential and office buildings are positioned all around the park. The new district, where there was once a farm, is situated between wealthy neighborhoods (to the west and south) and less prestigious middle and lower-middle-class neighborhoods (to the east and north). Land values in this region have increased enormously over time due to the opening of the elitist Iguatemi shopping mall in 1982, which led to the creation of a new urban center in the city [Soares, 2010]. Jardim Europa was implemented in a vacant area of around 406,000 m2 and was strategically located in the heart of this urban center, but development was partly restricted due to the fact that it was classified in the 1979 City Master Plan as being of environmental interest. Therefore, alterations were made in the urban legislation to enable the venture to go ahead and promote the increase of potential for construction in the region [Sanfelici, 2010; Souza, 2013]. It was then developed by means of a partnership between two major national construction companies (one local and the other from São Paulo) in association with a local real estate developer [Soares, 2010].

Figure 4. Location of Porto Alegre and the area before development in 2002 and 2020

Figure 4. Location of Porto Alegre and the area before development in 2002 and 2020

Source: Maps produced by authors (based on GoogleMaps images).

31The Jardim Europa venture began with the construction of Germania Park. The park is a result of the land subdivision law, which sets a compulsory area of 35% to be devoted by the developers to the creation of parks, roads, schools, and so on within the land to be parceled out (in this case, the compulsory area was designated as a green amenity [Souza, 2013]). The developers bore all the costs of the urbanization of the park and took on a formal commitment to manage it for twenty years [Sanfelici, 2010]. The park is one of the best equipped in the city (with sports court, playgrounds, walking paths, etc.), and includes an environmental protection area around a watercourse, intensive security, fencing (it was the first in the city to be fenced), and fixed opening times. The investment in the park was a crucial element for the valorization of the properties to be sold to the upper-class, to the extent that it was strategically launched before the residential towers, and was one of the main components of the advertisements that were based on a narrative constructed around ideas of exclusiveness, security (a plea that resonates positively to the inhabitants of a city with high crime rates), sustainability, and a “healthy life close to nature”—which echoes the elitist demand that seeks to consume these elements [Sanfelici, 2010; Souza, 2013; Mog, 2017]. This new elite-focused district has been created to detach the high-end properties from the less prestigious neighborhoods that surround it (see Figure 5), rather than letting the area remain a part of them (the Vila Ipiranga district) as it was previously.

Figure 5. Current zoning of the Jardim Europa district and its surroundings

Figure 5. Current zoning of the Jardim Europa district and its surroundings

Source: Map produced by authors (based on GoogleMaps image).

32Germania Park is popular and is used by many people (see Figure 6) from diverse social groups from districts all over the city. This fact is attributed to the centrality of the region due to the presence of the shopping malls; yet the residents of Jardim Europa and the surrounding neighborhoods are the main users [Souza, 2013]. However, further research that analyzed the relationship between the different social groups that use the park detected a clear social distance within the space, especially between the residents of the informal residence and other visitors [Mog, 2017]. As the study observed, despite living in the region for far longer, members of this low-income community use a specific area southeast of the park that has less privileged infrastructure, and behave in an isolated manner by avoiding using other spots or mixing with other visitors, a form of behavior that corresponds with the physical structure of the park. This finding resonates with the forms of green gentrification other than physical displacement, and is related to the social-spatial segregation within a green space due to the cultural or racial differences of users [Anguelovski et al., 2018].

Figure 6. Germania Park on the weekend

Figure 6. Germania Park on the weekend

Source: Associação de Amigos do Jardim Europa (available at​mapa-do-parque-germania/​; accessed July 12, 2020).

The Laranjeiras Condominium, Paraty

33All along the coastline of Brazil, it is common to find upper-class condominiums that block or restrict access to the beaches. The limits of what is considered public and private have been obscured without legal authority, thus reducing the access to a common natural good in many cases. Brazilian Federal Law no. 7661 [1988] establishes that in Brazil, beaches “are public goods for the common use of the people, being assured of constant free and unhindered access to them and to the sea, in any direction, except for those stretches considered to be of national security interest or included in areas protected by specific legislation.”

  • 5 The term Caiçaras originates from the Tupi-Guarani caá-içara, and over time it has come to refer to (...)

34The Paraty municipality is situated in the middle of the Atlantic Rainforest in Rio de Janeiro’s coastal region, and is internationally known for its historical heritage and natural beauty. Its suitability for the tourism market has created a new dynamic since the 1970s through the exclusion of the local traditional population known as the Caiçaras,5 who lived off fishing and subsistence agriculture before the process of tourism development, which favored tourism by urban elites from abroad [Fontes, 2013]. Within this context, the village of Trindade in Paraty caught the attention of a multinational real estate developer in the 1970s, who planned to build a luxury condominium in the region.

35At the beginning of the 1970s, the construction of the luxurious Laranjeiras Condominium started. The area occupied by the condominium was originally covered by the Atlantic Rainforest, and extends over 1,131 hectares where more than 240 houses were built on plots measuring 1,000 to 2,000 m2, making the four beaches that comprise the gated enclave “private” [Ministério Público Federal (MPF), 2018]. The condominium is located within the Environmental Protection Area of Cairuçu (APA Cairuçu) (see Figure 7), whose task is to ensure the protection of the natural environment, which is a habitat for rare and endangered species, scenic landscapes of outstanding beauty, hydrological systems of the region and the Caiçaras communities that are integrated in this ecosystem [MMA, 2018].

36Due to the implementation of the condominium, the traditional population (see Figure 8) in the area was relocated to Oratório village—close to one of the development entrances. The surroundings of their houses and roads belong to the condominium. The movements of the people who live in the village are controlled by security guards [Daflon, 2017].

37Nevertheless, due to pressures from the traditional communities and several national environmental agencies over time, the situation improved by the end of 2018 when the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office filed a lawsuit against the Laranjeiras Condominium to grant the traditional Caiçaras population the right to circulate freely on the beaches of the region, as stated by the constitutional right to come and go as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of 1988 [MPF, 2018]. Within this context, public agencies such as the Institute of National Historical and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN) and the Secretariat of Union Patrimony (SPU), as well as prosecutors in the country, have opened lawsuits in order to regulate the opening condominiums of this type, yet they are faced with economic interests that influence local political power, impact legal power, and are contrary to public interest [Rolnik, 2016].

Figure 7. Location of Paraty and the Laranjeiras Condominium

Figure 7. Location of Paraty and the Laranjeiras Condominium

Source: Maps produced by authors (based on GoogleMaps images).

Figure 8. (Left) the local population’s traditional fishing techniques; (right) surveillance systems and movement restriction barriers in the Laranjeiras Condominium

Figure 8. (Left) the local population’s traditional fishing techniques; (right) surveillance systems and movement restriction barriers in the Laranjeiras Condominium

Source: (Left) G1 Globo (available at​rj/​sul-do-rio-costa-verde/​noticia/​2013/​07/​festival-de-inverno-da-praia-do-sono-em-paraty-rj-comeca-nesta-sexta.html; accessed July 12, 2020); (right) Apublica (available at​colecaoparticular/​2017/​11/​condominio-laranjeiras-segregacao-ameaca-e-processos-em-paraty/​; accessed July 12, 2020).

38The Laranjeiras Condominium case poses issues regarding the privatization of beaches and the simultaneous disruption of the traditional ways of living of the local population. According to Loureiro and Layrargues [2013], the Laranjeiras Condominium case reveals the structures of social and environmental inequality that are established in unequal societies through political, social, and economic mechanisms that concentrate decision-making processes and privatize public goods, promote residential displacement, and use collective and natural assets for private interests. This reflects the permissive juridical logic that creates enclaves of environmental privilege, which results in the displacement of, low-income and minority communities from their original territories [Anguelovski et al., 2018]. This case also expresses a clear example of environmental injustice as a result of constraints affecting the local population and their subsistence posed by wealthy social groups that grant themselves exclusive access to areas of natural beauty, thus promoting socio-spatial segregation and environmental conflicts. The living environments of these traditional communities that are, in many cases, located in protection units have been threatened by the exclusion of areas, triggering a series of obstacles to local sustainable living and provoking environmental conflicts [Acselrad, 2004]. Finally, the “richen and whiten” of a region [Gould & Lewis, 2012] is also an explicit feature in this case as it is possible to observe a shift in the residents’ profiles, thus characterizing the logic of elitist gentrification. This case opens up new possibilities for exploring the green gentrification process from novel perspectives.


39The three cases demonstrate the authors’ assumption that the need for a mediation of the green gentrification concept is both relevant and necessary in the southern context, based on the Brazilian case. While the processes do not occur in the same way that they do in the Global North, the empirical material offers an analytical lens that opens up possibilities for different applications of the concept on the one hand—as seen in the Laranjeiras Condominium case—while comprehending its limitations and difficulties in handling the data associated with the profile of new residents, costs, and displacement of local population on the other—as seen in the Madureira Park case. Furthermore, specific processes that involve institutional policy arrangements to facilitate regulation changes in favor of an enterprise are another specific feature identified in this analysis proposed by this study—as seen in the Germania Park case. None of these elements seem to be borne out by the results of the empirical studies carried out by the scholars who have contributed significantly to advancing the concept of green gentrification [e.g., Dooling, 2009; Gould & Lewis, 2012; Anguelovski et al., 2019].

40Throughout the analysis, it was possible to observe that some of the critical elements (as mentioned above) made sense for the debate, while others did not. For Dooling [2009], green gentrification occurs when the implementation of the environmental planning agenda of public green spaces leads to the exclusion of the most vulnerable. From this understanding, the Madureira Park case presents numerous vestiges of the green gentrification process.

41Meanwhile, it is difficult to understand the case of Madureira Park as having green spaces that lead to “new environmental privileges” [Park & Pellow, 2011]. This case seems to affirm Dooling’s understanding [2009] of “displacement or exclusion of the most economically vulnerable human population while espousing an environmental ethic”; the other scholars who state that green gentrification can be perceived or experienced by residents via threats or risks of displacement, eviction, or social exclusion, Anguelovski [2016], make the assumptions that the resettlement sites that the urban poor are moved to in the name of public health concerns or environmental upgrades might not be free from the risk of hazards, and might lack access to livelihoods and social networks.

42The Germania Park case, in turn, did not involve the displacement of local populations as commonly reported in the literature on green gentrification [e.g., Gould & Lewis, 2012; Cole et al., 2017; Anguelovski et al., 2019]. Yet, it reveals complexities of green gentrification processes related to both the operation of neoliberal capital through public-private partnerships and the amendment of legislation to enable the creation of a new district and park that directly benefited upper-class segments of the population; the use of the park to increase the selling price of units of the office and residential towers built around it; and tensions from the coexistence of different social groups within the park.

43Land valorization was so high in this case that it enabled the developers to execute all the urbanization and still obtain a high level of profitability [Sanfelici, 2009]. This real estate development, combined with the creation of the park, enabled two interconnected phenomena to be observed in this study: the “rent gap” and “green rent.” The first, described by Neil Smith [1996], stems from the increase in profitability not fully captured from the land due to the maximum advantage taken from the proximity of the property to points of reference [Sanfelici, 2010]. The latter, coined by Anguelovski et al. [2018] and based on the rent gap idea, occurred since the region lacked a public park the size of Germania, which also turned out to be a key player in the generation of “green rent” arising from the overvaluation of the venture by the presence of the park itself. Moreover, the Germania Park case shows the circumstances that have led to the “richening and whitening” [Gould & Lewis, 2016, p. 34.] of the area due to the implemented green amenity, and also indicates that despite this land being located among affluent neighborhoods, it could have been developed in a different direction by the municipality. Nevertheless, it was designated to the wealthier segments of the population as a result of a public-private partnership.

44The Laranjeiras Condominium case does not clearly represent a process of green gentrification, which is defined by Anguelovski et al. [2018, p. 1] as “new or intensified urban socio-spatial inequalities produced by urban greening agendas and interventions”, but rather represents a specific logic of what we may call an elitist enclave of coastal areas in Brazil. This recurrent phenomenon of many Brazilian beaches does not imply the deployment of a green amenity, but rather encompasses processes of territorial expropriation, privatization of natural spaces, and exclusion of traditional populations. The claim for environmental justice [Agyeman, Schlosberg, Craven & Matthews, 2016], in this case, is related to the recognition and respect of the traditional ways of living by the local population in a given territory, as well as the “complex connection between locality, place, identity” and preservation to ensure the safeguard of the natural goods, since these communities (the poor) have their survival tied to the careful cultivation and conservancy of the place in which they live [Anguelovski & Martinez Alier, 2014, p. 170]. These cases reflect how in different situations, populations have been affected by a logic that reproduces the continuity of development at the expense of the loss of land ownership and negative environmental change.

45Moreover, it is essential to consider the contextual historical processes that produce and reproduce inequalities. For Brazil, its colonial history of exploitation, spoliation, violence, disregard for human lives, and disrespect for forged social and economic relations of unevenness has promoted specific models of modernization and urbanization [Prado Jr., 2011; Furtado, 2005; Oliveira, 1982]. Such original conditions of inequality are reproduced today through the ecological modernization of capitalist practices of production that promote unequal access to natural resources and environmental degradation among different social groups, leading to both the foundation of environmental justice in Brazil [Acselrad, 2010] and what we understand by green gentrification in this context. The table below presents a synthesis of the main aspects observed in the cases analysed.

Table 1. Synthesis of the main undesirable side-effects related to the three Brazilian cases analyzed

Madureira Park
Rio de Janeiro

Germania Park
Porto Alegre

The Laranjeiras Condominium Paraty

Increase in the land price

Displacement of socio economically vulnerable communities

Elitisation of the area

Lack of local communitu participation in the planning process

Tensions between different social groups within the area

Disruption of traditional ways of living

46In Latin America (and in the case of this study, Brazil), the most vulnerable populations tend to live in areas with low forest cover or have the presence of nature in their everyday lives, thus the problem is even more perverse. The depoliticization of the process led by the real estate market and the state combined with the sustainability narrative used to face the urban-environment (and now climate) crisis could neutralize the possibility of complaints and the mobilization of those affected. To this effect, in view of this process, the formation and instrumentalization of local social movements that could politicize the process is crucial and could lead to the denunciation of environmental inequalities and the exposure of the fact that the desirable expansion of green spaces is welcome, but not at any cost. This is especially true if it requires the displacement of marginalized populations (who will have less access to this type of infrastructure) and an increase in the land value of private property, as this would provide an area of influence and produce profits for the reproduction of real estate capital. In Brazil, there are legal mechanisms, although little used, that could act as essential tools to aid these struggles and mobilization, such as the Contribution of Improvement—present in the City Statute [Rolnik, 2013]—which states that the valorization of land around the implementation of infrastructure can be captured for later redistribution.


47In this article we sought to demonstrate the need for mediation for the use of the green gentrification concept in the context of the Global South, represented by Brazil. Based on the key ideas of authors such as Gould and Lewis [2012, 2016], Anguelovski et al. [2018] and Dooling [2009], this study sought to illuminate the green gentrification process in this context and its forms, limits, and the possibility of uses in a different reality from which it was coined. From an approach that considers environmental justice and political ecology, the undesirable and perverse effects of the processes of “greening cities” led by capital widen inequalities and negatively impact the most vulnerable strata in many cases, a dynamic that can be observed and analyzed. This study considers, therefore, that although there is limited literature devoted to Latin America (and the entire Global South), undesirable and perverse effects may be occurring when “greening” projects are implemented to make the territory more “sustainable” and the evidence of the three cases analyzed—Madureira Park, Germania Park, and the Laranjeiras Condominium—suggests that the initial assumption of the investigation is supported.

48The processes observed from the three cases are not new, and could be applied to several other examples in Latin America [Torres et al., 2019]. What is new—and needs to be tested more throughly with further empirical research as shown in this study—is the concept of green gentrification through an analytical lens. In some of the cases, the approach of some authors seemed to work better than others. Other examples, such as the Laranjeiras Condominium, seemed to expand the original definitions with their own contours. In this sense, empirical research and analysis with examples from the Global South would be welcome, and should be conducted in order to understand more completely the uses and limitations of the green gentrification concept—both in Latin America, a highly urbanized region, and in the cities of Africa and Asia that show rapid and expressive urban growth. Simultaneously, the resistance to such practices is indicative of the active influence of the subalterns over a system of oppression and their agency in promoting a different model of development [Imamamoto et al., 2020; Svampa, 2011].

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1 Pedro Henrique Campello Torres and Daniele Tubino Pante Souza contributed equally to this piece of research.

2 The cost in Brazilian reals was R$ 390 million. In 2012, USD 1 = R$ 2.3 according to Central Bank of Brazil data [available at accessed July 2020].

3 Several papers discuss the intricacies of environmental certification programs. An important example is the work of Dan Klooster [2006]. Another particular case produced in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics period was the Ilha Pura Condominium, which was a failure in terms of design and implementation [O’Donnell et al., 2020] and was also awarded the AQUA certificate of sustainability.

4 In 2010, Madureira had a population of 50,106 [Rio de Janeiro, 2013]. Madureira occupies an extension of 378.76 ha, of which 0.03% (0.12 ha) contains secondary vegetation; 88.91% (336.75 ha) contains an urban area; 1.43% (5.43 ha) contains agriculture; 3.46% (13.12 ha) contains shrubby vegetation; and 5.21% (19.72 ha) contains reforestation [Rio de Janeiro, 2013].

5 The term Caiçaras originates from the Tupi-Guarani caá-içara, and over time it has come to refer to the straw houses built on beaches to shelter the fishermen’s canoes and equipment [Fundação SOS Mata Atlântica, 1992], and later to refer to the residents and communities living along the coast of the states of Paraná, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro [Diegues, 1988].

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Location of Rio de Janeiro and Madureira Park
Crédits Source: Maps produced by authors (based on GoogleMaps images); (A) Veja Rio (available at​cidade/​projeto-quer-atrair-investimentos-de-1-bilhao-de-reais-para-a-zona-norte; accessed July 15, 2020); (B) RRA Arquitetura, 2012 (available at​uploads/​production/​libraryitem/​pdf/​10/​MKT-WB-CON-PR-239-LI-R00.pdf; accessed July 15, 2020).
Fichier image/jpeg, 604k
Titre Figure 2. The Vilas das Torres community area before removal, and its vegetable garden and designated park area
Crédits Source: RRA Arquitetura, 2012 (available at​uploads/​production/​library_item/​pdf/​10/​MKT-WB-CON-PR-239-LI-R00.pdf; accessed July 15, 2020).
Fichier image/jpeg, 424k
Titre Figure 3. (Left) the Vila das Torres community and the protests before removal; (top right) Madureira park; and (bottom right) real estate developments brought about by the valorization of the area
Légende Sources: (Top left) Informal City Blogspot (available at​2013/​03/​in-this-post-i-will-indicate-major.html; accessed July 15, 2020); (bottom left, A) A Nova Democracia (available at​no-67/​2903-9633-moradias-serao-derrubadas-por-paes-e-cabral; accessed July 15, 2020); (bottom left, B) Fazendo Media (available at:​parque-de-madureira-deve-ser-entregue-em-2011-mas-moradores-criticam-o-projeto/​; accessed July 15, 2020); (top right) Cidade Olímpica (available at:​parque-madureira/​; accessed July 15, 2020); (bottom right) Local Negócios Imobiliários (available at​ficha.aspx?cod=LOL033.006; accessed July 15, 2020).
Fichier image/jpeg, 380k
Titre Figure 4. Location of Porto Alegre and the area before development in 2002 and 2020
Crédits Source: Maps produced by authors (based on GoogleMaps images).
Fichier image/jpeg, 460k
Titre Figure 5. Current zoning of the Jardim Europa district and its surroundings
Crédits Source: Map produced by authors (based on GoogleMaps image).
Fichier image/jpeg, 568k
Titre Figure 6. Germania Park on the weekend
Crédits Source: Associação de Amigos do Jardim Europa (available at​mapa-do-parque-germania/​; accessed July 12, 2020).
Fichier image/jpeg, 548k
Titre Figure 7. Location of Paraty and the Laranjeiras Condominium
Crédits Source: Maps produced by authors (based on GoogleMaps images).
Fichier image/jpeg, 376k
Titre Figure 8. (Left) the local population’s traditional fishing techniques; (right) surveillance systems and movement restriction barriers in the Laranjeiras Condominium
Légende Source: (Left) G1 Globo (available at​rj/​sul-do-rio-costa-verde/​noticia/​2013/​07/​festival-de-inverno-da-praia-do-sono-em-paraty-rj-comeca-nesta-sexta.html; accessed July 12, 2020); (right) Apublica (available at​colecaoparticular/​2017/​11/​condominio-laranjeiras-segregacao-ameaca-e-processos-em-paraty/​; accessed July 12, 2020).
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Pedro Henrique Campello Torres, Daniele Tubino Pante Souza, Vanessa Lucena Empinotti et Pedro Roberto Jacobi, « Green gentrification and contemporary capitalist production of space: notes from Brazil »Cahiers des Amériques latines, 97 | 2021, 185-210.

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Pedro Henrique Campello Torres, Daniele Tubino Pante Souza, Vanessa Lucena Empinotti et Pedro Roberto Jacobi, « Green gentrification and contemporary capitalist production of space: notes from Brazil »Cahiers des Amériques latines [En ligne], 97 | 2021, mis en ligne le 01 mars 2022, consulté le 04 octobre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Pedro Henrique Campello Torres

Institute of Energy and Environment, University of São Paulo.

Pedro Henrique Campello Torres est titulaire d’un doctorat en sciences sociales de la Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio). Il est actuellement postdoctorant en sciences de l’environnement à l’Instituto de Energia e Ambiente (IEE), Universidade de São Paulo (USP), et professeur à l’Instituto de Pesquisa e Planejamento Urbano e Regional (IPPUR), Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).

Daniele Tubino Pante Souza

Institute of Energy and Environment, University of São Paulo.

Daniele Tubino Pante Souza est titulaire d’un doctorat en sciences de l’environnement (USP, Brésil). Elle est actuellement professeure adjointe à l’Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (Unisinos).

Vanessa Lucena Empinotti

Engineering, Modeling and Applied Social Sciences Center, Federal University of ABC.

Vanessa Lucena Empinotti est titulaire d’un doctorat en géographie de l’université du Colorado à Boulder, aux États-Unis. Elle est professeure adjointe en politique et planification rurale dans le Programa de Pós-Graduação em Planejamento e Gestão do Território, Universidade Federal do ABC (UFABC), Brésil.

Pedro Roberto Jacobi

Institute of Energy and Environment, University of São Paulo.

Pedro Roberto Jacobi est titulaire d’un doctorat en sociologie (USP, Brésil). Il est professeur titulaire à l’Instituto de Energia e Ambiente (IEE), Universidade de São Paulo (USP), et rédacteur en chef de la revue Ambiente e Sociedade.

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