Leonardo Boff: "The Amazon is neither wild, nor lung, nor barn of the world"

Leonardo Boff:

"If one day the Amazon were totally deforested, about 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide would be released into the atmosphere per year"

"The greening of indigenous people is the fruit of the urban imaginary"

"Specialists affirm that the Amazon rainforest is in a climax state, what some organisms release is taken advantage of by others"

"With the agribusiness and anti-environmentalism of the Bolsonaro government, today the devastation of the Amazon continues"

HeSynod Pan-Amazon that will be held from Sunday October 6 to Sunday October 27 of this year in Rome demands a better knowledge of the Amazon ecosystem. Myths must be dismantled.

First myth

The indigenous as savage and genuinely natural, and therefore in perfect harmony with nature. It would be regulated by non-cultural but natural criteria. He would be in a kind of biological nap before nature, in a perfect passive adaptation to the rhythms and logic of nature. This greening of the indigenous people is the result of the urban imaginary, fatigued by the excess of modernization and artificialization of life.

What we can say is that the Amazonian indigenous people are human like any other human being and, as such, they are always in interaction with the environment. Research increasingly confirms the interaction game between indigenous people and nature. They condition each other. Relationships are not "natural" but cultural, like ours, in an intricate fabric of reciprocities.

Perhaps the indigenous have something unique that distinguishes them from modern man: they feel and see nature as part of their society and culture, as an extension of their personal and social body. It is not, as for the moderns, a mute and neutral object.

Nature speaks and the indigenous understand her voice and her message. Nature belongs to society and society belongs to nature. They are always adapting to each other and in the process of mutual adaptation. That is why they are much more integrated than we are. We have a lot to learn from their relationship with nature.

Second myth

The Amazon is the lung of the world. The specialists affirm that the Amazon rainforest is in a climax state. That is to say, it is in an optimal state of life, in a dynamic balance in which everything is taken advantage of and therefore everything is balanced.

Thus, the energy fixed by plants through the interactions of the food chain is fully exploited. The oxygen released during the day by the photosynthesis of the leaves is consumed at night by the plants themselves and by other living organisms. That is why the Amazon is not the lung of the world.

But it works like a great filter for carbon dioxide. In the process of photosynthesis, a large amount of carbon is absorbed. And carbon dioxide is the main cause of the greenhouse effect that warms the earth (in the last 100 years it increased by 25%).

If one day the Amazon were totally deforested, about 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide would be released into the atmosphere per year. There would be a mass die-off of living organisms.

Third myth

The Amazon as the granary of the world. This is how the first explorers such as von Humboldt and Bonpland and the Brazilian planners thought in the times of the military in power (1964-1983). It is not. Research has shown that "the forest lives on itself" and largely "for itself" (cf. Baum, V., Das Ökosystem der tropischen Regeswälder, Giessen 1986, 39).

It is luxurious but with a poor soil in humus. It seems like a paradox. The great Amazon specialist Harald Sioli made it very clear: “the forest really grows on the ground and not on the ground” (A Amazônia, Vozes 1985, 60). And he explains it: the soil is only the physical support of an intricate network of roots. The plants intertwine at the roots and mutually support each other at the base. An immense balanced and rhythmic balance is formed. The whole jungle moves and dances. For this reason, when one is demolished it drags several others with it.

The jungle retains its exuberant character because there is a closed chain of nutrients. There are the decomposing materials in the soil, the vegetal layer of leaves, fruits, small roots, excrements of wild animals, enriched by the water that drips from the leaves and the water that runs off the trunks. It is not the soil that nourishes the trees. It is the trees that nourish the soil.

These two types of water wash and wash the excrement of arboreal animals and animals of larger species such as birds, macaques, coatis, sloths and others, as well as the myriad of insects that have their habitat in the treetops. There is also a huge amount of fungi and countless micro-organisms that, together with the nutrients, replenish the roots.

Through the roots, the food substance goes to the plants guaranteeing the ecstatic exuberance of the Amazonian Hiléia. But it is a closed system with a complex and fragile balance. Any small detour can have disastrous consequences. Humus commonly does not reach more than 30-40 centimeters thick. With the torrential rains it is washed away. In a short time the sand appears. The Amazon without the jungle can be transformed into an immense savanna or even a desert. For this reason, the Amazon can never be the world's granary, but it will continue to be the temple of the greatest biodiversity.

The Amazon specialist, Shelton H. Davis, noted in 1978 and also applies to 2019: “At this moment a silent war is being waged against aboriginal peoples, against innocent peasants and against the jungle ecosystem in the Amazon basin” (Victims of the miracle, Saar 1978, 202). Until 1968 the jungle was practically intact. Since then, with the introduction of the large hydroelectric and agribusiness projects, and today with the anti-environmentalism of the Bolsonaro government, the brutalization and devastation of the Amazon continues.

By Leonardo Boff


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