A Garden of Eden?
Rainforests are very rich in natural resources, but they are also very fragile. For this reason, rainforest peoples have become instinctive conservationists. For them, conservation is literally a way of life. If they were to take too much food in one year, the forest would not be able to produce enough new food for them to be able to survive in the next year. Many rainforest tribes gather their food from small garden plots, which are shifted every few years. This method is less productive than western agriculture, but is also much less harmful to the rainforest environment. As they cannot produce food in large quantities, most tribes are forced to limit their numbers so their gardens and the products of hunting expeditions are able to feed them, and all tribes have a great respect for their forest and for the animals and plants they share it with.
The rainforest lifestyle may sound like a kind of paradise, a Garden of Eden for the lucky few who live there. It certainly has its advantages. There is little stress, little mental illness and little high blood pressure among rainforest dwellers. Physical fitness is generally good, and few people need to work for more than four hours a day to provide themselves and their families with adequate food and other necessities.
However, life is far from perfect. One in every two children born in the rainforest dies before their second birthday, and if they make it to forty years of age they are considered tribal elders. Most rainforest dwellers who make it through childhood tend to die from a disease trivial to western medicine.
It is estimated that the Amazon rainforest supported about six million tribal people before 1500AD. By 2000, there were less than 250,000 of them left. Over 90 tribes are thought to have disappeared from the Amazon alone during the 20th Century. Many were wiped out when western settlers brought diseases they had never encountered before - like measles - which wiped out thousands of tribespeople.Read More: A Battle for Survival