A surprising bit of apathy

I cannot begin to tell you the excitement that went through me when we finally made it to the Amazon. After 3 days, 4 flights and 8,000 km, we were finally entering the boat and the adventure down the Tapajos River. Flying into Santarém I saw many small fires around the airport. Once we got to Alter de Chão the team and I noticed a relatively large fire burning right across the river from us. I was surprised at how nobody seemed to notice or talk about this fire in our midst. At the hotel, the party boats kept dropping off and picking up people, and visitors were enjoying swimming in the Amazon, ordering food and drink, or enjoying an evening stroll, all while this fire loomed in our midst. This made me think about our current climate crisis and the people who are most effected. To the majority of people who now live in cities, or those tourists at our hotel, environmental destruction is something that is seen on TV and not something that effects their day to day actions. I am encouraged by the recent climate protests happening around the world, but wonder whether this will solve the problem of public apathy. In many cases, the people most affected by environmental disasters are those who still use the land, including many local and indigenous peoples. Perhaps not suprisingly, the topic of the fires came up frequently when causally speaking with community leaders throughout the Amazon basin. In one of the first communities we stopped in, the wife of the leader of the community described how she viewed the recent fires in Brazil as punishment for people destroying nature. In another community we heard how last year the fires got very close to their community and they were very worried. It is the same situation with climate change. Northern communities in Canada are reporting drastic change, while the majority of us sit and watch on television. Many view this as system overload. We see too much on at TV these days so nothing can move us into action. The fire in Alter de Chão may be a single observation, but if people can’t be bothered to notice a raging fire in our own community, when will we act to these issues?


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