Thursday September 08, 2022

Last man unknown

Last man  unknown

Grab of a file video showing a tribesman in a loincloth, believed to be the last known survivor known as ‘the man of the hole’ of an isolated Amazonian community in Brazil

The body of the sole survivor of an “uncontacted” Brazilian indigenous tribe was found in a hammock outsite his straw hut in an Amazon reserve by an agent of that country’s Indigenous Affairs Agency (Funai). His body was covered in macaw feathers, probably in preparation for death. Although repeatedly threatened by loggers, miners, and farmers, it is believed the man, about 60, died of natural causes in July.  

Although his name was unknown, he was dubbed the “Man of the Hole” because in his flimsy straw shelters, which numbered to 50 in the wide area he roamed, he dug three-metre deep holes which may have been defensive or for religious purposes. He also dug holes and trenches equipped with sharp spikes to trap wild boar and planted maize, manioc and collected forest fruit and honey. He was first glimped in 1996 and last seen in 2018 by Funai agents who took video of him hacking at a tree with a hand-made tool. Funai occasionally left tools and seeds for him, revealing that some outsiders were friendly, were concerned about his welfare, thereby engendering a hint of trust.      

He was also known as the “world’s loneliest man” because he had been on his own since 1995. He escaped death when miners slew six of the remaining members of his tribe. The majority was killed during the 1970s genocide of multiple indigenous peoples by settlers thrusting into the Amazon. In the case of the Man’s people, ranchers massacred them in order to seize tribal lands in the 8,070 hectare Tanaru indigenous territory in the state of Rondônia on the Bolivian border. As the tribe had refused contact — even with Funai — it was never discovered what it was called or what language was spoken.

Brazil’s 800,000 indigenous peoples come from 300 distinct groups  — both “contacted” and “uncontacted” — have constitutional rights to their traditional lands but a restriction order must be renewed periodically to ensure local tribesmen and women still dwell on the land. Since the demise of the Man of the Hole, rights activists have demanded the Tanaru reserve be given permanent status.

“Uncontacted tribes” are indigenous peoples who avoid interaction with outsiders. While their way of life may be highly developed and sustainable in terms of the health of the planet, their existence is under constant threat from racism, disease, and attack. There are more than 100 “uncontacted” tribes living in South America.  The rest are found in India, the Andamans and New Guinea. The “uncontacted” are a small percentage of the total of indigenous peoples.

The World Bank estimated in April 2022 there are 476 million indigenous peoples the world over, they speak 4,000 languages (although many are at risk of disappearing), and are “more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and natural hazards.”

The Bank pointed out, “While Indigenous Peoples own, occupy, or use a quarter of the world’s surface area, they safeguard 80 per cent of the world’s remaining biodiversity. They hold vital ancestral knowledge and expertise on how to adapt, mitigate, and reduce climate and disaster risks.”

The Bank wrote, “Much of the land occupied by Indigenous Peoples is under customary ownership, yet many governments recognise only a fraction of this land as formally or legally belonging to Indigenous Peoples. Even when Indigenous territories and lands are recognized, protection of boundaries or use and exploitation of natural resources are often inadequate. Insecure land tenure is a driver of conflict, environmental degradation, and weak economic and social development. This threatens cultural survival and vital knowledge systems..”

In Brazil, indigenous peoples have been under greater challenge than ever before because sitting President Jair Bolsonaro, who took power in 2019, promotes development in the rainforest and is a “climate change denier.” The defender of the Man of the Hole, Funai has come under attack for obstructing development. A supporter of agribusiness and a proponent of profit over preservation, Bolsonaro has opened up the Amazon basin, one of the world’s largest forested “lungs,” to exploitation. Tropical forests, in particular, absorb twice as much carbon dioxide (CO2) as they emit.

An opponent of land reservation for indigenous peoples, Bolsonaro has opened vast tracts of the rainforest to developers and reduced official efforts to combat illegal logging, ranching, and mining in the Amazon. Deforestation has soared since Bolsonaro took power and during the first half of this year, the process broke all records with 3,890 square kilometres of forest destroyed.

Since Bolsonaro’s rival in the presidential race, leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is ahead in opinion polls, developers have stepped up efforts to burn and bulldoze rainforest before “Lula,” who has a green agenda, takes over. His aides proposed subsidized “green” farm loans to spur planting of soybeans and corn on degraded pasture and reduce deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

Writing in The Washington Post on Sept.1, Dino Grandoni and Brady Dennis discussed the high monetary costs of heat waves, droughts, and rising seas as reported in the journal “Nature.”

“The research team’s key finding: “Each additional ton of carbon dioxide that cars, power plants and

other sources add to the atmosphere costs society $185 — more than triple the {US] federal government’s current figure.” Therefore, it is essential that the Biden administration re-think its climate strategy.

The US is the second largest global pollutor, producing 5,416 million tons of CO2, after China which releases into the atmosphere more than 10,065 million tons of CO2. Next in line are: India with 2,654 million tons, Russia, with 1,711 million tons, Japan with 1,162 million tons, Germany with 759 million tons, and Iran with 720 million tons. Brazil, with 463 million tons, is sixth largest.

The authors of the Post article also listed the social costs of heat waves alone: increasing fatalities, lower crop yields and failures, more devastating fires, amd more freqent hurricanes. All of humanity has fallen victim to these man-made global warming crimes which impact peoples whose emissions of greenhouse gasses are minor. The current high-profile victims are Pakistanis who live in the third of their country flooded by heavy monsoon rains although their country produces less than one per cent of global pollutants.

Photo: AFP

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