• Film

Amazon Basin, Earth’s Mother

In 1976, when Brazil was torn and bitterly divided politically, I picked up my old knapsack and joined a group of young journalists who decided to see the magnificent universe born from the Amazon River, its affluents, and forests within forests. The most important source of clean water, rich soil, never-ending waves of trees and grass, and masses of birds, snakes, butterflies, jaguars, and monkeys.

The invitation came from the guardians of this Eden for centuries: the families who live in the Amazon Basin, mostly in peace, protecting trees and rivers and all kinds of creatures.

The situation had changed, though – both the forests and inhabitants were no longer safe. Rivers had been polluted; trees cut down. Armed bands had attacked villages in the forest. The very soil repeatedly blasted in the search for precious metals.

We were a small group waking up from a tragic and essential story that we had to push into the ears, and eyes of folks who were not very interested in sad stories from a faraway forest.

Some media had reported what was happening: trees cut down, animals killed, and sacred soil being dug, turned, attracted by tales of never-ending riches.

“There! There!” The young Kamayurá pilot called from the window of our two-engine plane, making a wide semi-circle over the banks of the Xingu River, waving to the kids playing soccer in their improvised athletic field to get out.

On a second semicircle, our pilot began descending between the soccer field, the majestic forest behind it, two rivers moving fast running toward a gigantic source, and, at the distance, the wounds of the forest: some of them fresh with massive trees falling as we flew over them.

When the small plane landed, we began to understand why the leaders from the communities of the Alto Xingu – the coveted border between rich minerals and majestic trees and animals – had decided to bring visitors from the big cities, with its big newspapers, TV, and radio programs and, who knows.

They were right.

The days were busy, from meetings with leaders to moments of music, dancing, and swimming in the calm river.

We would sit down with them, in a circle of hammocks under the shade during the day. At night, we would gather around the fires.

The tribe leaders told us invasions had become regular – and soil, forest, and people were the targets. They took us to areas clearly destroyed by men. “Tell them what you saw”, said the leaders – young and older – repeating it over and over, emotionally.

The women pointed to the smaller brooks and streams, all of them crucial to keeping alive both the small villages and the streams that nurture both humans, trees, and creatures and, finally, supporting the mighty rivers – the Tapajós, the Purus, the Araguaia, the Tocantins, the Jari, the mighty Xingu, all creating an ocean away from the sea.

We did what we could. On the last day, dancers from tribes close and far lit up the night with music. A group from the Rio de Janeiro Ballet Corps showed their version of dance, together with their hosts.

We were all speaking the same language.

Did we save the Amazon?

It took (and still takes) a long time to make clear how crucial what the Amazon Basin brings to our planet – a massive Eden – 587 million miles, carrying air, water, a balance of forces, and life.

Much had been broken, and it was all true. Beyond the narrative of an adventure in the jungle, we were called as witnesses.

Our memory guards what other groups, NGOs, and non-profits of all countries did and keep doing for the most important Environment on Earth.

What needs to be done to maintain our capacity to live on this planet: to breathe, eat, and survive? Without the Amazon Basin surviving in full, our Blue Planet will die.

The Amazon Rainforest holds 427 different mammals, 400 species of amphibians, 378 kinds of reptiles, 1,300 species of birds, 3,000 species of fish, and 2.5 million species of insects.10,000 of these species are at risk of extinction.

When the species begin to disappear, the environment dies at an accelerated pace.

The animals sustain the forest, and the forest sustains the animals.

The same happens with the forest itself: people cut down trees to hunt animals, obtain wood or dig the soil to find precious metals. It all leads to the extinction of the most diverse and lively environment on our planet.

The Amazon Rainforest stores 76 billion tons of carbon dioxide in its green lungs, including its vast family of plants and creatures – it gives oxygen to our atmosphere.

With its vast lungs, the Amazon Rainforest also stabilizes the climate – managing it and protecting against droughts and floods in its vast area.

Every day we understood everything better. It was a matter of seeing the opposite of our urban eyes into a vast horizon of pure Nature.

“The forest is the Mother”, our guide told us, repeatedly.

When we said our goodbyes – after a major party with lots of dancing, presents, colorful body paintings, and one more flight over the enthusiastic soccer players and an ocean of trees and sky – we found ourselves sinking in the noise of a loud airport.

It was still our country, our language, but for a bit, we were completely lost, away from the musical quietness of the forest.

33 years after our visit to Alto Xingu, a notable Hollywood star followed in our steps: James Cameron. Beyond movies and tech, Cameron had become a friend of the people of Alto Xingu, now threatened by plans for a series of dams in the heart of Amazonia. starting in 2011. “Tribal leaders of the Brazilian Xingu took to their feet, wearing yellow and red feather headdresses and clutching thick wooden clubs and spears. Having traveled for days to reach the gathering in the isolated village of Mrotidjam, the Xikrin Kayapó elders stepped forward to address their visitor, a man they knew simply as Camerón”, The Guardian described in 2011.

The dams are going forward. Avatar – inspired by Cameron’s visit to Alto Xingu – is a huge blockbuster.


Equal care of the Earth is essential as always.


We remember.