May 31, 2008

Uncontacted tribe sends a message

Reflections on the discovery of an uncontacted tribeUncontacted tribes expert, José Meirelles, who works for FUNAI and was onboard the flight, says that “What is happening in this region is a monumental crime against the natural world, the tribes, the fauna and is further testimony to the complete irrationality with which we, the ‘civilised’ ones, treat the world.”

I couldn’t agree more. The perilous situation to which Meirelles refers highlights the contradictions of capitalist globalization. Although these tribal people seem to be as far “outside” the global market as one could possibly get, they are being impinged upon by corporations that want to extract the tremendous resources of the Amazon, and convert the forest into farmland. Despite their avoidance of outsiders, these indigenous people are inside the capitalist world system, which today has no real “outside.” And even though they seem to be separated from us by a fathomless cultural and technological gap, our fates are thoroughly intertwined; we are truly linked in a global system. They are dependent upon the Amazon rainforest to meet all of their material needs, but we are dependent upon it as well. Often referred to as the “lungs of the world,” the rainforest produces over 20% of the world’s oxygen and is home to 1 in ten of the world’s species. The burning of vegetation in the Amazon releases large amounts carbon stored in the plants, contributing significantly to the greenhouse effect which is changing global climates.

The survival of their home is key to our own survival. Reversing our path of mindless destruction could allow their continuation. Haunting images of people far away, frozen on my flat computer screen, silently testify that we are really one world and one humanity. It’s time we act that way.
Comment:  To sum it up, the uncontacted tribe gives us a different perspective on our dominant culture. It gives us a multicultural perspective.

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