We tend to think of population in terms of human beings. Mumbai, for instance, is home to about 22 million people that live in skyscrapers, houses, shanties, and on the streets of the bustling metropolis. It is spread over 603 square kilometres and is one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
One square kilometre of the Amazon forest supports as many living creatures, that live in its soaring canopies, marshes, ferns, and rhizosphere. The sheer volume of life here is staggering. There are prehistoric predators like the caiman that cruise its riverine waters, flocks of parakeets and macaws fill the skies at dawn and dusk, and troops of primates swing from vines that are hundreds of feet from the ground.
This is a forest of mythic proportions. It stretches across nine countries in South America—from Brazil in the east of the continent to parts of Venezuela in the northwest—and packs in the greatest diversity of flora and fauna on the planet. But the Amazon rainforest is home to indigenous communities too, that have been fighting spiritedly to save their Earth Mother, or Pachamama as they call her.
Among these tribes are the Sapara people of Ecuador who live in the Napo Valley of the Upper Amazon where the photos in this essay were taken. Like many indigenous communities across the world, the Sapara have a deep relationship with their habitat and harmony with nature is crucial to their way of life. They consider all life equal, from the tiny tadpole to the mighty anaconda, and have been fighting against oil drilling in their piece of the Amazon for many years now. It is largely thanks to their efforts and that parts of the Ecuadorian Amazon remain intact.
Their message is simple. Instead of viewing the forest as a resource for energy, we might look to the Amazon as a source of wisdom. It is after all, a self-sustaining system than has thrived for millions of years. By observing its web of life, understanding the relationships between its inhabitants, and reconsidering our own systems, we can learn a great deal about how to live healthy, sustainable lives, wherever in the world we are.