Karim introduced us to everyone – the fellows who ran the mill and – most importantly – the man who cooked us an incredible breakfast of locally grown food and sawmill-raised eggs. I think the pineapple we ate that morning was the sweetest one I have ever tasted – and that is saying something. Breakfast was complete with tapioca crepes, fresh cheese, scrambled egg, fresh fruit juice, fresh rolls, sweet bananas, grapes and locally made jams. Everything was delicious. Later, our cook-for-the-day prepared an equally delicious jungle lunch – pink beans, rice, meat from a sustainable local farm and salad. We did not go hungry. After breakfast Karim gave us a tour of the sawmill – it is an impressive operation and reflects a great deal of thought on the part of its owner, Rick.
In terms of age, background and physique, Rick is a complete contrast to Karim but that does not matter. The two men share more important traits including a belief in environmental sustainability for the Amazon ecosystem – the rainforest, the rivers, the culture and the people who live there. While I already knew that this giant ecosystem is at risk, Karim and Rick explained more about the impacts of deforestation, illegal logging, agribusiness and other problems associated with development in the region. The Amazon ecosystem is not only important regionally, it is important globally, influencing natural systems in multiple ways from climate to ocean chemistry to species diversity to medically important plants. Despite some environmental laws, there are not enough protections. The ecosystem is fragile and it is at risk from exploitation and ignorance.