soft and green

Hola from the Amazon jungle in Peru,

Picture the scene, a very long way from the Amazon: a classroom in Dubai. All of the students are Arabs from the arid Middle East. They’re used to desert landscapes and they’re used to coping with the vicissitudes of such places. They’re not only used to deserts, they’re vested in the manner in which the people of the region are managing to build cities in the driest landscapes on Earth. A student in a class is reading about jungle landscapes. He comments that they’re “dangerous” (and nobody else in the group demurs). It gives rise to a double take from me.

What’s he thinking (along with the other millions there in the Middle East, and elsewhere)? That there is a multitude of creatures with venomous bites and stings. It’s dark and dank, and easy to get lost. It’s a quagmire of swamp and water, where it’s easy to get stuck. It turns out, all of the above. It takes some thought to destroy the misconception. “It’s soft and green, calm and quiet, exciting and different,” I tell him, but I can sense he is not mollified.

To visit the Amazon jungle is to see for yourself, and to arrive at your own judgement. Of course, in the jungle preconceived notions will be reinforced by the reality. Be careful of that tree – there are fire ants up and down. Taste this fruit – you may never have had this before.

The distant notion of jungle being dangerous is bad for the planet. It begets the thought that we are better off without it. That deforestation and development of the area is removing the danger. The reality is that the jungle is good for us all, no matter where we live. We all need the oxygen given off by the huge mass of dense vegetation. The medicines stored within are untapped and largely unknown. The biodiversity here is essential for all life. It’s a global asset for global good. Avaricious corporations such as miners and meat producers need serious halters placed on them before the damage is irreversible.

The Amazon jungle in Peru is in the headwaters of the valley. The good news is that there are large swathes of jungle protected and preserved by national park status. The education task for people in distant places is immense.

Ciao from the Amazon jungle


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