I was in the Amazon talking to a boy, Yuri, 8 years old. He had paddled out to meet my boat in a little dugout canoe his father had made him. His hand was cupped in front of him, he looked up at me timidly hoping for a hand out. I asked him what he wanted most from life. His reply blew me away: “A black 4×4 double cabin pickup truck.”
It wasn’t what I expected to hear! I knew for a fact Yuri had never seen a road in his life, living on the riverside where boats are the only transportation. He had never seen a car, so it seemed like such an ironic statement: “A black 4×4 double cabin pickup truck.”
Yuri may not have a road, but he does have television reception.
He is surrounded by lush green forests, friends, family, community, biodiversity… yet he believes himself poor. In fact, we who drive 4x4s would probably say that Yuri is poor. This is perhaps one of the greatest misunderstandings of our time: equating material possessions with quality of life.
The media presents a degenerating, impoverished image of Yuri’s lifestyle, and entices him with false role models with perfect faces and spotless shirts who can eat all the French fries they want.
What they don’t tell Yuri about is the growing garbage dumps, the slums and the fast cash into the pockets of a few wealthy citizens made off the sweat and toil of the masses … one of whom Yuri may soon be.
A high maintenance infrastructure that relies on petrol already exists in the nearby city; there is no need to create a similar situation in his village. Instead we can present Yuri and his family with a positive image of the way of life his people have been living.
The grass is always greener on the other side right? Now people all over the world who own 4×4 pickup trucks wish they led a simpler life along a river somewhere where there are no roads!
Yuri may or may not pursue his desire for a set of wheels.
He may or may not aspire to go into sustainable lumbering like his father.
What we can do is present him with another perspective on the way of life he seeks in consumer society.
We have the opportunity to demonstrate to Yuri and his community a positive view on the way they have lived in harmony with nature for centuries.
Here we have the opportunity to serve these people by giving back the value to local industries. With enthusiastic community oriented activities motivating local sustainable lifestyles we can inspire many.
We can expose the frailty of the state of our planet and society with documentation- documentaries like 11th Hour and Food Inc.
People may need to go through the experience themselves to discover the falsehood of consumerism as a way of life,
But the reality of our planet with its accumulating toxins indicates that there isn’t time for everyone to learn the hard way. We are at the end of the line- if we allow Yuri’s village to turn into a gas guzzling society we are truly lost.