Raised by the Rainforest
This is the introduction I wrote for my brother’s book: Letter To A Vegetarian Nation: Why We Need Livestock For Sustainable Food Production And Environmental Restoration, by Sheldon Frith. It is meant to explain his passion for sustaining natural systems by explaining a bit about our childhood. My brother, sister and I grew up outside of Porto Velho, Brazil and were luckily given pretty much free reign (and a machete) to explore the jungle around our house. Unfortunately, we witnessed the deforestation of the rainforest and many other misuses of the incredible green corner of the world. We moved to Canada and began our search for solutions to the devastation we continue to witness. My brother has spent many years learning about (and practicing) sustainable agriculture and permaculture gardening, and I decided to study mechanical engineering to try and better understand our fossil fuel needs. I would encourage you to check out his writing as his solutions are exciting, innovative and very promising. He continually offers me hope for the future of the natural world that we love so much.
There is nothing subtle about the jungle. Half the year is beaten down by oceans of rain. Charcoal blue clouds thundering with excitement light palm trees on fire when they reach out in lightning. Red dirt runs in rivers like veins of blood through the thriving green. Then suddenly the storm stops, and drought takes its hold for six months until the very last blade of grass has turned brown and the air sparks with the threat of fire. The stage for such weather is set year-round by a brilliant bouquet of colours bursting from every surface in the form of flowers, fruits, jewelled insects, birds and reptiles. An orchestra of cicadas, monkeys, macaws and the far off mewing of a jaguar endlessly accompanies the scene.
We grew up drenched in the Amazon rainforest. And all of it demanded our attention. Our senses were awakened by the crisp smell of guava. We stared up at the blues and reds of the birds flying by, wondering how the world could hold so many different creatures. Our bare feet reached out into the tall grass and brought back prickly news of ants and snakes. Time was effortlessly held by the plants as if they were our play mates. As if the fuzzy yellow flower shaped like a cup was made just so that we could include it in our jungle kitchen. The huge fallen trees made perfect bridges and supports for our palm branch huts. Our feet grew wide from climbing and racing through the busy trails of the jungle – pausing for the long line of ants carrying their leaf trophies like sails. Nature overflowed into our house: tarantulas and geckos crawled on the walls to watch our dinner, and the rain swept through our screen-only windows to wet a curious cheek. It was our whole world, and we respected it as such. We had an instinctual sense of how dangerous nature could be to us – we never dared to enter the wide brown river carrying along its crocodiles, anacondas and piranhas. But it wasn’t until we grew up and out into the wider world that we saw how much danger we could be to nature.
As those who’ve heard the whisper of the trees and understood the sign language of soft beetle feet, we have been infected with the world of nature. After stretching small arms to try to hold a fraction of a massive trunk, it is impossible to forget the significance of a Kapok tree. And reaching to cradle a baby anaconda we learned that it is with bravery and an understanding of time and place (not through sterility or separation) that we are able to live in a world bursting with life.