THIS BORROWED EARTH

Brazilian Rainforest


The rainforest to some is a chaotic place not unlike that encountered by Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s novel as he penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness in search of Kurtz: “We were wanderers on a prehistoric earth, on an earth that wore an aspect of an unknown planet.” In the past, others have viewed the rainforest as a lush, mysterious wilderness inhabited by Rousseau’s noble savages and free of the trappings of civilization, or as the home of El Dorado, the mythical seat of a king drenched in oil and covered in gold dust. Early anthropologists categorized the rainforest as a haven of “primitive” people, the discovery of which could bring academic fame and fortune. In almost all cases, the impulse has been to enter and impose order.


The reality is that the rainforest already contains an order that puts most sophisticated mathematical systems to shame, and the rainforest is inhabited by women and men who have lived there for centuries and who have managed to survive off the forest without contact with outsiders. The rainforests of the Brazilian Amazon, as elsewhere, provide incredible biodiversity.  The plants in the forest are the source of critical medicines, and the forests help to cool the entire planet.  The Brazilian rainforest is under threat from beef ranchers, soy farmers, and mining companies for whom the rainforest is an economic, not a natural, resource.  Even today those economic interests continue to destroy thousands of acres of rainforest.




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