Nothing like absence to show being. Life is a transfer of games and births, an incessant concert of grays where harmony does not always win. From the sculptor Jorge Oteiza we learned the generating capacity of the void, their dynamic ability to connect, in true communion, with the mystery and tragedy of existence. Only from these premises can the current situation of the Amazon rainforest be understood, the largest forest on earth. In theory, this sanctuary is constituted by about 7.000.000 million square kilometers of forests spread over nine countries. The trap lies in taking the wikipedic quote at face value, to peek at the map and entrust ourselves to that green stain that colors the venous belly of South America. We'd better believe that the Roman Empire still exists in Europe, when we can only search its ruins, your absence, its pulverized memory.
For my part, I began to open my eyes during a trip that took me to Brazil in 2009. After a boat trip down the Amazon, I followed the BR-163 highway that crosses the states of Pará and Matto Grosso from north to south. The bus ride lasted four days. The memory of the first two nights, leaving Pará, it is occupied by the ghostly memory of the fires. All the horizon, towards all the cardinal points: fires, destruction. The deadly and incandescent advance of civilization. Ya en Matto Grosso, the suspected dystopia was evident in all its harshness; and the void appeared, the nothing that Michael Ende wrote about. There was no more Ivory Tower, nor child empress. But hundreds of miles of soy fields, where on my tourist map - which was barely a decade old- aparecían unas ya inexistentes “;selvas vírgenes”;. Soy destined to make ethanol for passenger cars, it was just one of the heads of the hydra. Few decades ago, the Panamaericana was the only highway in the jungle. But from the hand of multinationals, in their search for access to natural resources, others were born, until creating an intricate network that covers everything like a metastasis. Where they arrive, further, in a hell of a loop, new companies and settlers, that devastate the jungle at surprising speed.
On the borders between the different states there are vast wild regions where the power of the administrations barely reaches. They are places of rich biodiversity, where, further, se refugian los últimos elementos amerindios en “;aislamiento voluntario”;. Taromenanes, maskho red, machiguengas, Korubos or Toromonas are the names of some of the last uncontacted tribes of America. But the shadows of the trees also harbor horrors. Where the control of states is conspicuous by its absence, It is where the big mafias operate; who control cocaine plantations, illegal gold and gemstone mining, cutting without permission of protected plant species, as well as the murder and kidnapping of members of indigenous communities, either to kick them off their lands, extort them, or to use their girls as sex slaves in brothels.
Whatever its color, the political powers or collaborate in this drift, or are they powerless to stop it. Not even National Parks escape disgrace. In the Yasuní of Ecuador - in whose intangible zone the isolated people of the Tagaeri defend themselves with spears from the ravages of colonization- I myself witnessed the action of the oil companies, that poison and destroy the protected space. In Peru, especially in the Department of Loreto, there is not a week that there are no oil spills, poisoning the aquifers that nurture so many human species and communities. South of the Madre de Dios River, around towns like Mazuco, entire tracts of mercury poisoned silt remain as testimony to the action of illegal gold mining, controlled by powerful outlaw organizations. Even in Bolivia, where until recently the indigenous Evo Morales has ruled -in departments such as La Paz-, each year new extractive permits have been granted to transnationals. No Amazonian country escapes this debacle, but it is in Brazil where it adopts its most terrifying face. The devastation that began decades ago - since 1970 the country has lost a wooded area the size of France -, It has now run amok with the arrival to the Presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, a leader bent on destroying the already weak counterpowers - embodied by political opponents, journalists, indigenous community leaders, Environmental NGOs, etc.- that try to stop the inevitable.
Opposing this invasive logic is not dangerous at all. According to data from Ecologists in Action, in 2018, three out of four activists killed were dedicated to defending the environment, to indigenous communities or to denounce extractivist industries, especially in South America. But nobody takes deception. The jungle is much more than a forest that houses animals - approximately 30% of the terrestrial species on the globe- and native peoples. From its plants we obtain most of the drugs with which to cure many diseases. Y, Of course, the Amazon is the lung of the planet; its vegetable mass processes every year 70.000 millions of carbon released from factories into the atmosphere, proving to be a decisive actor to stop climate change.
For all this it is necessary to think about the Amazon from its absence, with oteizian logic, like Eden that lives its last days. Well, as Milton said, paradise is not lost, has already been lost. Soon, in less than two decades, Of the great forest of the world, only the memory and the involuntary lie of maps and dictionaries will remain. And a dystopian void that, like a domino piece, will bring unpredictable global consequences
Lessons from Notre Dame
Before this panorama, defeatism seems inevitable, as when last April 16, the world witnessed the collapse of the spire of the temple of Notre Dame. And yet, the cathedral still stands. A small group of twenty firefighters, with serious risk to their lives, controlled the fire from the inside, As chains of brave and committed people saved the relics. And an unprecedented mobilization later raised 900 million for its reconstruction. In the amazon, in the meantime, in the face of a disastrous example offered by leaders such as Evo Morales or Jair Bolsonaro, a small but inspired group of activists, intellectuals, scientists, Lawyers and politicians maintain hope and invite us to act and trust our courage without giving up. Why, as repeated by the Peruvian photographer and environmental activist Pavel Martiarena, “;es demasiado tarde para ser pesimistas”;