Cure of the earth

July 14, 2020

The Amazon is one of the most intensely alive places on Earth. I won’t bore you with a rendition of its ecological services, nor its role in anchoring the planet’s patterns of rainfall....

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The Amazon is one of the most intensely alive places on Earth. I won’t bore you with a rendition of its ecological services, nor its role in anchoring the planet’s patterns of rainfall. Nor will I recite the horrible things that may happen to us humans should it disappear.

Why won’t I? Simply, because no one can be scared into falling in love.

Imagine if the Amazon weren’t ecologically important after all. Suppose we would be just fine if we converted it into a gigantic strip mine and lumber yard. Suppose we could replace its ecological services with technology. Suppose we could replace its carbon sequestration functions with carbon-sucking machines, its role in preventing floods and droughts with huge engineering programs, and its foods and medicines with synthetic chemicals. Suppose we could replace its intense beauty with high-resolution replicas of everything we’d destroyed. If we could, I ask you, would we want to?

I think the Amazon alarmists are right in their predictions, but even if they were wrong, I would be no less ardent in my desire to protect and heal the Amazon. The majority of the population probably believes the alarms too; however, daily lived experience tells them they have nothing to worry about – so far, the destruction of the Amazon has not visibly altered their quality of life. The Amazon has lost at least half a million square kilometers of forest since the 1980s. How has that harmed you? One could make the argument that it has indeed made you less healthy, safe, or prosperous, but seriously, how many people think saving the Amazon will help with their next rent payment? To the contrary, Bolsonaro’s popularity attests to the perception that liquidating its natural wealth will help with the next rent payment (by boosting economic growth).

Environmental scare tactics aren’t working. Dire warnings have failed to motivate significant slowing of Amazonian destruction; indeed, under Bolsonaro, the destruction is accelerating. Facing the failure of current communication strategies, we could ramp up the alarm, or we could try something radically different. We could invite our society into a love affair with life.

Most people reading this will never visit the Amazon, and it is hard to love something in the abstract. Those most capable of loving the Amazon are its most intimate companions: the people indigenous to that place, the cultures who have lived in and with it for thousands of years. That is why rainforest conservation and healing must be in intimate dialogue with the people who steward the land. They themselves understand this principle; hence the concept Brazil’s Indigenous people use to describe themselves: “Cura Da Terra” (the Cure of the Earth).

Excerpted from: ‘The Cure of the Earth’.

Commondreams.org



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