The Rain Forest

We spent the first few minutes trooping through a well-trodden stretch. Almir was in his glory, explaining that the saplings we see planted every 20 feet or so represent the leading edge of the Surui's reforestation plan, which eventually will encompass 7000 hectares of recovered forest. Everybody takes pictures, and we hurry along in the fading light of late afternoon.

And suddenly we realized that we had passed into genuine old growth forest, because the woods were darker, denser, wetter. The path was mostly gone; we were crunching through a heavy, matted underbrush of dead leaves, wide ferns, pools of muddy mulch crossed by fallen tree trunks. Thin shafts of sunlight spilled into the gloom, pink and yellow butterflies and orange insects danced amid hanging vines.

That moment captured what this trip is all about. It's clear to us that the Surui deserve their ancestral land, and that their children should learn how the Internet can protect their future. It's also clear to us that the preservation of the rainforest is crucial to combating climate change and the protecting who knows how many species of animals and plants. But none of that matches the purity of this glimpse of what Earth was like when it was young. "The trees are almost always worth more dead than alive," observes Vasco. The goal is to reverse that equation. "If you just do it with economics, you're never going to win. Why do Indians protect the forest? Because they don't see only the short-term economic argument. They have spiritual, cultural and historical ties to this land."

Perhaps in some small sense all of us who are visitors do too. We are learning from the Surui about the power of connections between people. And we're honored to join them and their partners -- ACTKanindeUSAIDFUNAI and others -- in support of their goal to protect their land, unify their people, preserve their traditional culture, and engage as equal participants in a global dialogue about their future, and the future of the Amazon.

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