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Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life

By George Monbiot
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Feral by George Monbiot

Feral (2013) is both an analysis and a manifesto. Author George Monbiot addresses what people are lacking in their day-to-day lives: nature and true wilderness. The book argues that certain areas should be left to nature and rewilded, and that the benefits of doing so – to both the planet and people – will soon follow.

Key idea 1 of 10

Gold mining in the Brazilian rainforest endangers the environment and harms indigenous tribes.

Big claims regarding the environment are a dime a dozen, and the author himself will make some wide-ranging arguments over the course of these blinks. But to lend credence to his views, he knows that a little background information is necessary.

Monbiot was working for an environmental organization in 1989 when he was dispatched to the gold mines of Brazil to monitor their impact.

It was quite the adventure. It started with the author and a Canadian friend breaking through a police cordon near Boa Vista airport. From there they headed to the Amazonian rainforest, where they were witnesses to an ugly horror: large tracts of forest had been felled and uprooted to allow easier access to the gold-rich river sediment.

Violence was also endemic. During the six months the author spent there, more than 1,500 miners were shot in confrontations involving gold supplies and mining companies.

But the local indigenous Yanomami tribes suffered even more, as their very survival was at risk. To begin with, some 15 percent of the Yanomami fell victim to diseases brought in by the miners; they simply hadn’t developed immunity to them. Many more were shot, and several Yanomami villages were destroyed.

Intrigued and appalled, the author went in search of the Yanomami. It took a long jungle trek, but he eventually found a community living in malocas, traditional round houses thatched with palm leaves.

As so many of the elders had died or been killed, the role of village chief had been taken on by an 18-year old boy. The sick lay sprawled upon hammocks, while old women performed ritual dances to repel the sickness.

The author, as one of the few able-bodied men around, was also called upon to perform these ritual dances himself. He also helped out by fixing roofs.

But, in the end, there was little that could be done. Despite belated international calls for protection, the Yanomami's population dwindled by 20 percent during the gold rush.

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