A nameless river: The team set off in a four-wheel drive truck from the town of Itaituba. Walker said the weather worked in their favor. The dusty Transamazon,…Read More »
often little more than a muddy track, was remarkably dry in June. Armed with laptops, cameras, and hammocks, Walker, Pereira, and Arima spent the next 10 days traveling 700 miles (1,100 kilometers) through the Amazon.
Near the town of Apui. Walker and his team encountered a colorful cast of characters on their journey. This man lived in a wooden shack in the forest surrounded…Read More »
by a menagerie of pets. In addition to this macaw, he kept ten dogs, two wild boars, a capybara (the largest rodents in the world) and a tapir. They all lived inside his house. His wife, apparently, had long since left.
Near Apui: Walker and his colleagues heard there was a gold mine in the area. Mines can be rough places, and off-limits to outsiders, but the researchers…Read More »
managed to convince the owner of their hotel to guide them here. They found about 200 people working this mine. At one point, the Brazilian government had shut down the operation because of the havoc it was wreaking on the forest, but people returned. It was unclear whether the current set-up was sanctioned or not, but men continued to work the pits, blasting the soil, and using hoses to suck out water and sediment in search of gold.
Vila Santo Antonio Matupi. The crew had some tense moments at this sawmill they found. They went down a logging road into the forest and realized they…Read More »
were being followed. When they saw the motorcycle on their tail, they decided to turn back, but a pickup truck and bulldozer blocked their escape. The man on the motorcycle shouted that they were on private property, and they better leave; they did as soon as the pickup and bulldozer let them.
"So we got out of town," Walker said. "When you're out there, stuff happens."
Leaving Labrea, on the road to Humaita. Here, two children in a typical dwelling look at the researchers as they pass by, on their way out of the Amazon.
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Walker said the trip yielded more good stories than bad ones, and, despite encountering the gold mine and the logging operation, he's encouraged that the Brazilian government seems to be taking environmental protection seriously. But he worried that if demand for bio-fuels continues to grow, more of the forest might be destroyed to make room for agriculture. In the wake of the BP oil disaster, Walker said, this threat has only grown.
"Where is the ethanol going to come from?" Walker said. "There could be some unanticipated costs as we switch to bio-fuels. We need to be very careful about the global reach of the supply chains, because they could reach all the way into the western Transamazon," he said. Which, at least for now, is one of the least touched areas of the rainforest.