the birds and the bees

Hola from the Amazon jungle in Peru,

What a shame that it seems we have to perceive something as an economic asset before we value it. It all presupposes human primacy on a planet that we share with other life. The jungle in the Amazon is worth keeping, and not just for its economic value.

The Amazon jungle in Peru represents quite an extensive section of the total rainforest. The city of Iquitos is not the only place from which to start the Amazon journey but it’s an interesting one. One colleague at school opined beforehand, “Iquitos, eh, it’s pretty wild up there.” The city has almost half a million human inhabitants and no road access in or out. Venturing into the jungle is by boat.

The Amazon River here in Iquitos is already very wide but there are many watercourses in the area. It seems strangely reassuring that it requires a long journey by road and then boat from Iquitos (similar trek from Pucallpa and Tarapoto – other towns in the jungle region) to reach the jungle. On the one hand, it says that much has been cut down, or at the very least disturbed. But it also says that there is not a lot of infrastructure in between: not too much human development to spoil the nature.

Iquitos has the infrastructure to cater for such tourists. They are coming here to witness the jungle for its wonder. They are not pessimists here to see the jungle before it disappears under the rapacity of developers. They are optimists hoping that their presence helps to provide the jungle with a much-needed lifeline.

The big spoilers in the Amazon are the meat producers and the miners but the banks are guilty of encouraging development here with their loan money. In the Amazon, JBS (meat), Vale (mining), Alcoa (mining), MRN (mining) Marfrig (meat processing), Brasil Biofuel (agribusiness) and others are doing stupendous damage to the forests. All of these corporations do something to ameliorate their damage. They call this Corporate Social Responsibility.

Agropalma, for example, has ceased converting virgin forest into palm plantations. It also runs a school for 500 children. Minerva tracks the conditions of ranches ensuring that cattle purchased by them haven’t originated from illegally forested ranches.

Should we be congratulating these corporate citizens for their offsetting initiatives? They’re providing jobs and economic development are they not? It’s progress, is it not? Or, should we recognise that corporate greed has no limits and new horizons like the jungle only represent tempting challenges to them? Their acts of Corporate Social Responsibility don’t ever outweigh the costs to nature.

Will the increase in jungle tourism save the remnants? It’s the big hope. Make a natural landscape an economic resource and you give it a modicum of protection. This will hold for as long as capitalism prevails and nature is regarded as a resource to be utilised. That looks like being the foreseeable future.

from the Amazon


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