From the Rainbow Warrior's tour of the Amazon: a fine example of how the world's rainforests, like the one we have in the Congo Basin in Africa, are more than just a resource to be exploited - they are a way of life for countless interlinked communities, something that can't be replaced once it's cut down.
While the Rainbow Warrior sat at anchor on a wide expanse of the Amazon river, a small Greenpeace team set off in inflatable boats towards the village of Bailique, to meet with local people who are resisting the trend towards large scale agriculture and deforestation.
These people rely on the Acai berry, which has been a staple food for centuries here. It’s now getting popular in the US, where Beverley Hills housewives glug it by the gallon in the hope that it will make them look a few years younger. This small export business works well but there is a real awareness of the need to keep things at a small scale.
Instead of trying to maximize everything – their crop yields, income and material wealth – the people of this village are taking a different approach which depends on living in harmony with the forest. That means only taking out what the forest can sustain, and resisting the urge to get rich quick.
Respecting the vast natural resource of the Amazon in this way might sound a bit hippy, but this focus on quality of life instead of pure profit is gaining traction all over the world.
In France, the government is beginning to develop a ‘happiness index’, based not only on economic growth but on other things like time spent with family, a sense of wellbeing and healthy living. Perhaps we can begin to fix some of the problems of corporate greed by recognizing that the strength of our countries lies as much in our relationships with each other as it does in robust quarterly results.
While we were there I caught up with Ana Euler from the State forest institute. I wanted to know why Bailique had chosen this different path and what it meant for the people living in the village.