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The Amazon In Fact and Fiction

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Old 04-04-2008, 10:45 AM
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Default The Amazon In Fact and Fiction


Two books and a story I read many years ago created an idyllic picture of an Amazon rainforest that no longer exists.

The first was Green Mansions by W. H. Hudson, a novel about a young man who falls in love with a beautiful but strange "bird woman" who was raised in the rainforest as a wild child.

Although the story was fictional, Hudson was a naturalist who traveled extensively in the Amazon region in the late 19th century and his description of the rainforest is mesmerizing.

About the same time I read a short story titled "Among The Dangs" by a black author named George Elliott. He was an anthropologist who had done field work with native tribes in the Amazon.

Elliott combined experience and imagination to fashion the story. The main character is an anthropologist who is adopted by a fictional tribe called the Dangs. He learns a completely different way of life and gains a new perspective on reality by ingesting psychotropic plants that cause extraordinary visions.

Eventually, he hikes out of the rainforest and returns to the U.S. But he soon finds himself miserably dissatisfied with his old life. The story ends with the man parachuting out of a plane in the Amazon to rejoin the Dangs.

Years later, when I was studying anthropology in college, I read Yanomamo: The Fierce People by French antrhopologist Napoleon Chagnon.

Chagnon was one of the first whites to come into contact with the Yanomamo and live to tell about it. The tribe was known for killing outsiders on sight, indulging in constant internecine warfare and raiding other tribes for wives.

At great personal danger Chagnon lived with the Yanomamo for some time and returned later for additional studies.

There are no uncontacted tribes left in the Amazon. For the past few decades the region has been the scene of a vast resettlement program by the Brazilian government to ease overcrowding in the coastal cities. As a direct result, the population of native tribes has declined to an historical low. Some are virtually extinct and murderous encounters between well-armed settlers and outnumbered natives are commonplace.

A few good movies have been made about the situation, but they were too little too late to change anything. The Emerald Forest comes to mind because of one scene I recall: the natives call whites "the termite people" because everywhere they work, the trees seem to get eaten.

Today much of the Amazon has been deforested for huge cattle ranches and subsistence farming. In some places it looks like the American Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The beef is sold to American fast food restaurant chains like MacDonald's to keep the price of hamburgers low -- the most outrageous reason I can think of for destroying a pristine rainforest once called the lungs of the world because the trees generated so much oxygen.

Since I was a teenager, I have read everything I could find about the Amazon and it's more than depressing to realize the rainforest has practically disappeared during my one lifetime.

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Old 04-13-2008, 12:26 PM
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I echo your words starr, the slash and burn practise is sad indeed, and the earths other green lung the Russian Taiga is being cut down to provide cheep wood for Chinese factories. sad sad times
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Old 04-13-2008, 01:24 PM
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the taiga is actually the largest contiguous forested area on the planet...

http://www-pub.naz.edu:9000/~jwitten2/

and is, as you note, being depleted by man's greed, more than need, as is another lobe of our lungs, the indonesian forests...

http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/en/...still-rages-on

here's the sad stats as of 2006... we can assume deforestation has worsened since:

http://www.earth-policy.org/Indicators/Forest/2006.htm
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Old 06-18-2008, 07:07 AM
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Default Amazon in fact and fiction

Earlier this year there was a report on the T.V. news of an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon. Apparently a plane flew low over a native village that wasn't on the map, and when the inhabitants saw this plane they aimed bows and arrows at it. As far as I know they didn't succeed in hitting it. I don't know what if anything has been done to follow this up.

There have also been reports on the internet of a new species of pig-like animal, the giant peccary, being discovered in the Amazon only last year, and a new breed of guanaco (wild llama) discovered not in the Amazon but in Paraguay. Perhaps there is still room for a bit of mystery in the world.
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Old 06-18-2008, 01:09 PM
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I don't know what if anything has been done to follow this up.
i sure hope not!... it will be the end of them, otherwise...
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Old 06-22-2008, 11:18 PM
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The real "lungs of the world" exist underwater. Algae is responsible for 70% - i believe that's the number - of the oxygen produced worldwide. Regardless, Deforestation has become a startlingly common practice. Most nations see no reason to protect their forests when they can simply sell them. I have to wonder whether they'll still be there fifty years down the road when I am seventy.
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Old 06-23-2008, 12:11 AM
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but do algae absorb the co2 we produce, as the trees do?
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Old 06-23-2008, 01:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Pepper View Post
The real "lungs of the world" exist underwater. Algae is responsible for 70% - i believe that's the number - of the oxygen produced worldwide. Regardless, Deforestation has become a startlingly common practice. Most nations see no reason to protect their forests when they can simply sell them. I have to wonder whether they'll still be there fifty years down the road when I am seventy.
The world needs people to realise the dangers of deforestation, the commonsense of sustainable forests for our needs, and governments (and philanthropists) to invest in reforesting at least some of the vast tracts of land that have been devastated over the centuries.

We look now and see places like the Amazon and the Taiga disappearing, acre by acre, but how many forests were cut down to supply the material for the shipping industries of the past? And what about all the land earlier settlers and civilians cleared so they could build homes and have arable land to farm? It's easy to point a finger at those doing it now, but both Britain and America have ripped the lungs out of their countries in the past.

I have no idea what is happening in the US, although I do know that Teddy Roosevelt was involved in reforesting areas of upstate New York because he was alarmed by the destruction of natural habitats for man's selfish personal consumption. But I do know that in the Highlands of Scotland, where forests were cut down by entrepreneurs to supply industries in the south, and by greedy landlords who preferred raising sheep to supporting their own villagers (the Highland Clearances), new trees are being planted. At least some of the once barren braes are home again to deer and other wildlife. The same is happening in the area of Ireland where my father-in-law grew up (Connemara). If this sort of re-planting happened on a much wider scale, we might actually be able to sustain current levels of forestation, although whether we could ever force the balance back, I doubt.
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