Rainforests are very rich in natural resources, but they are also very fragile. For this reason, indigenous people have become instinctive conservationists. For them, conservation is literally a way of life.


Indigenous people of the Rainforest - The Future

In the case of the Yanomami, there is at least some cause for optimism. They now live on reserves approved by governments and seem to be maintaining their traditions.  

Clearly there is a need for better health care and for more sympathetic policing of their lands by the military. They are perhaps the most famous of all rainforest peoples, and are therefore protected to some extent by public opinion. There would be world-wide outcry if Yanomami lands were threatened by development or mining again.

But how many other groups are struggling for survival in the rainforests of the world? How many people have heard of the Kaiapo, the Yekuana, the Iban, the Mehinacu or the Xikru? How much popular support could be rallied in their defence?  

The massive Belo Monte hydroelectric power scheme on the Xingu River of Brazil was initially blocked by a judge's decision after protests by Kaiapo Indians and the delivery of a petition containing no less than 600,000 signatures of people who opposed the scheme.  An article in The Guardian on 15 April 2015 reported that four groups of indigenous peoples faced the building of hydroelectric dams in their territory by the Brazilian government. They said, “The government builds dams without completing environmental studies, without seeking to understand the consequences of the destruction of nature in our lives. It authorizes the operation of dams without giving a response to indigenous people and leaving their lives without fish, without water, without hunting as they try to hide their negative impacts on our lives, our rivers and our territories,”

However, construction of the Belo Monte dam went ahead. It has since transpired that the dam may not even be capable of producing the electricity amounts promised by its builders. In 2019, the Xingu’s flow dropped drastically during the July to November dry season, and even with all but one of its 18 turbines operational, the plant produced a monthly average of just 568 MW in August, 361 in September, 276 in October, and 583 in November, according to Brazilian authorities.  These amounts are far less than the 11,233 MW per month promised to investors by its builders. With climate change and deforestation causing drought - the river levels could drop still further in the future. After the destruction it has caused, some people have changed the name of the dam from 'Belo Monte' ('Beautiful Hill', in Portuguese) to 'Belo Monster' (Beautiful Monster).

Indigenous people living in rainforests throughout the world are in need of protection. This protection should be granted as soon as possible by the governments of their nation states, but is bound to take time. Most groups live in poor countries. The forests are rich in natural resources and can make huge sums of money for a few years, thus making the countries involved richer. But after those few years all that remains is desert. Most former rain forest which has been exploited for other purposes will either take many years to recover, or will never recover at all. 

The only way to stop the destruction of the rainforests, of the animals and plants, and of the tribes which live in them is through greater public awareness of the problems we are creating for ourselves.  We need a world-wide realization of the importance of the rainforest and its inhabitants, and of the need for proper protection against its permanent destruction. 

There is now increasing global concern about climate change and about how destruction of the rainforest is likely to accelerate it.  This is leading to the world's governments taking a stronger interest in protecting rainforested areas for the future.  With financial assistance from the developed countries of the world, there is the potential for many areas of rainforest - and the people who live in them - to be saved for the future.  

The way of life of the forest peoples is as fragile as the forests they live in.  Most prefer to be left alone to continue living as they always have done, in harmony with their surroundings.  Their way of life could teach developed nations a great deal.

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