PUBLISHED: THE HILL: Changing America by Cyril Christo, Opinion Contributor April 15, 2020
““The world needs to listen to the cry of the Earth, which is asking for help. If you carry on killing people and you destroy nature and you take out all the oil, the minerals and the wood, our planet will become ill and we’ll all die.”
Davi Kopenawa Yanomami
This pandemic is symptomatic of a much larger struggle. And our last chance to save the Earth as we know it. In the last 50 years we have lost half the rainforests on Earth. The Amazon lost over 12 million acres last year. And 8.4 million soccer fields last decade! The first peoples of the Americas say we have forgotten our “original instructions.” With our modern lifestyles, all of us have become in essence, “invasores,” invaders of the Earth. We may not be logging for trees and gold in the jungle, but we are all of us living beyond our means. Things can never again be the same. The fight for the rainforests remains.
To voyage on a small boat for two weeks on several tributaries of the Amazon fosters wonders from clearly visible army ants, scarlet macaws and river dolphins to inner revelations too fantastic to fully understand. If we survive this pandemic and forget to honor the forests and the animate world, the first peoples would ask, what is the purpose of surviving? We can’t return to combusting the atmosphere as before.
The jungle itself was begun from the love of the moon and the fiery glow of the sun. The god Tupa separated them thinking their untenable union. The profuse tears of their separation became the Amazon. We entered a vast horizon of green fusing the conscious visible and unconscious and invisible realities woven in a seemingly endless emerald tapestry.
One of the elders on board, Don Jose, was inspired by the river dolphins on the Tiwayu River whom he saw in a unique vision and whom he could call on as allies whenever he needs their help in healing ceremonies. We never made it to the head hunting Jivaro tribe because our small boats could not get past the fallen trees in the tributary. But one of the American healers trained in the botanical lore of the jungle was once captured by this uncanny tribe in northern Peru. He was taken prisoner by five warriors and brought to the tribal council. The elders demanded that he prove himself, that he demonstrate that he was neither a missionary nor someone who had come to colonize their spirit. During the trial, he was to identify several dozen medicinal plants and use them to heal people in the village. After accomplishing the task, he was set free, having shown that he was neither foe nor proselytizer but a like-minded being who honored the ageless intelligence of the forest.
Photo credit ©Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson