Fordlandia’s biggest challenges were the bugs and epidemics of the Amazon. The
South American Leaf Blight was one that would started to ruin the entire
operation. When the rubber trees top leaves began to touch it eased the spread
of the leave blight throughout the plantation, many plants would die but some
would continue to live. Belterra was approved by Henry Ford so that operation
commenced. It continued on a track that was similar to Alberta, a city that
Henry was building in the United States. Belterra was more desirable to the Americans
that lived in Brazil than the amazon because it was much less isolated. Insects
were also a problem on the plantations, caterpillars got so bad that they
entire population of the plantations did a walk to pick all of them up and they
collected over two hundred thousand.
Back in the United States labor unions began to grow in power and even though
Ford was a strict opponent, eventually agreed to the labor unions terms.
Similarly in the Amazon, Vargas’s government pushed for labor reform also. This
made the workers less willing to do some of the tasks that the plantation
required. This is at the point that the leaf blight really does start to ruin
the plantations. By late 1940, nearly 70% of the plantations trees had been
infected and started to die out. And then when WWII started, Johnson was called
back to Dearborn to assist in setting up the plants to produce planes for the
US military. While Johnson was away, the
blight continued to spread and spread.
At this point the operation was a complete failure. Ford was trying to sell of
the plantations and during WWII the plantations became subsidiaries of the US
government. The US government allied with South American countries, and said
that they would invest millions into rubber cultivation, and pay a higher price
that typical for the rubber. But the insects and the leaf blight never allowed
the plantations to actually be profitable. The hospitals were turned into
research centers, and the US built a runway Belterra because of German boats
off the Brazilian coast. When Edsel died in 1943, Henry finally went off the
wall and Henry’s grandson, Henry II, then took over the company. In 1945, he
decided to sell off the Brazilian operations to the Brazilian government for
much less than the company had put into the operation. Henry II also began to
shut down other various Henry created cities in the United States, all of this
caused by WWII and the prior Great Depression. In 1947, Henry Ford died, and
the Fordlandia dream died with him.
This book is a great representation of environment ultimately limiting humans.
The leaf blight completely destroys the planation no matter how hard everyone
tries to avoid it. Not only do the insects and the blight diminish the plantations,
but the weather and the hilly area make it impossible for easily sustained planation
agriculture that they originally wanted.
WWII is what eventually allows the Ford company to release the plantations. The
US government implemented various policies that made neighboring countries
wanted to get along and cooperate with the American war effort. The American
interaction with the world is what caused Fordlandia to ever be developed in
the first place. Because of the ease of interaction and trading the idea of
Fordlandia was born and able to be created.
In the years following World War I, the United States pursued a unilateral
foreign policy that used international investment (Key Concept 7.2 II, C.)
The United States investing is the sole reason that Henry II was able to sell
the planation back to Brazil, they felt that if they could cultivate the land
themselves then they would be able to sell the rubber to the United States.