National Geographic : 1983 Jan
been squeezed out by the Indonesian big wigs who were its partners. The worldwide economic doldrums have taken the wind out of plywood sales, and pressure on Indone sia's dipterocarps, for the moment, is down. In Nairobi, at UNEP's tenth anniversary meeting last May, the diminishment of rain forests was seen as one of the world's largest environmental problems for the 1980s. Finally, in Brazil, where environmental sentiment has been said to be rising, the gov ernors of the Amazonian states invited the ambassadors of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru to a conference to explain that the de velopment of Brazilian Amazonia-they called it "occupation"-will energetically proceed, no matter what anyone says. This points up what more than one Latin American social scientist emphasized to me: That in many tropical countries where the few have a lot and the many hardly any thing, the rain forest is a political asset. The wealthy and powerful abhor land reform so why not shunt the land-hungry poor into that great green realm, especially if expenses will be underwritten by some international nonprofit lending institution? MY WIFE SAYS, can't you put some thing more cheerful at the end? I can. On the edge of a clear-cut plot in Papua New Guinea I saw a clump of tall trees left standing because the local people said these were the home of birds of paradise. While the chain saws and tractors did their work, the birds were gone, but now they had been back for months. At dawn four males whistled to attract fe males. The females came and the males preened, hopped on high branches, and made great fans of their golden plumes symbols of nature most magnificent. And in my eyes at least, symbols of sur vival. Surely some tropical rain forest will survive, with its treasures intact. That's what I want to believe. [ At home in the wild, a couple stops along a rainforest trailin Zaire. The destructionof rainforests altersthe lives of all their inhabitants,in some cases threateningthe existence of peoples totally relianton what they provide.