On display at the Museum do Amanhã, in Rio de Janeiro, the exhibition presents the complexity of this unique ecosystem that covers 60% of the brazilian territory, but is still unknown to many.

Informing  to the public what the Amazon was, is and will be is strategic for Brazil. Although the Amazon is 60% of the national territory, many Brazilians do not know the complexity of this ecosystem. The exhibition at the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, entitled “FRUTUROS Tempos Amazônicos” (Amazonian Times), is a beautiful work of synthesizing the past, present and possible future of this unique ecosystem Critical for our planet. It is open to the public until June 12.

This story also appeared in plenamata.eco

The exhibition is divided into 6 contiguous blocks that interact with each other: 1) Amazonian Times; 2) Millenary Amazon; 3) Secular Amazon; 4) Accelerated Amazon; 5) Possible Amazonons and 6) We are all Amazon. It is a journey through the imagination of the people who inhabit Amazonia, showing that the forest is much more than the 390 billion trees integrated in 9 countries, with thousands of indigenous ethnicities, thousands of languages, many unknown to our civilization. 

The “Millennial Amazonia” room emphasizes the importance of the diversity of peoples, languages and cultures of the forest, also formed by these populations over thousands of years. 

The “secular Amazon” room shows how the non-indigenous traditional peoples settled in the region, with their cultures and singularities. Today, riverbank dwellers, quilombolas, extractivists, rubber tappers, fishermen and other groups are facing the social, economic and environmental challenges of climate change, deforestation and rapid urbanization.

The “accelerated Amazon” reveals the changes in the last decades as seen by satellites, with deforestation and fires. It highlights the degradation of rivers and streams, polluted by lack of basic sanitation or with toxic compounds from illegal mining such as mercury. This area of the “Fruits” exhibition invites us to reflect on the need to slow down degradation and accelerate the demarcation of indigenous lands and new environmental reserves. It is time to regenerate the Amazon. 

The block of “Possible Amazons” shows that it is impossible to look at the future of South America without thinking about the future of the Amazon. Conserving the Amazon biome means protecting its natural resources and using them in a sustainable way, guaranteeing the forest’s full existence for future generations. To do this, we have to understand and listen to the more than 30 million people who live in the cities, indigenous communities, quilombos, extractive reserves, or in stilt houses along the rivers, so that we can build economic dynamics that are beneficial to the tropical biome and its population. 

Finally, the block “We are all Amazon” explores the multiplicity of cultures and contemporary artistic expressions that attract the gaze of Brazil and the world to the Amazon.

It is easy to see throughout this exhibition the complex natural functioning of the Amazon ecosystem, of unparalleled beauty. The integration between the biological behavior of the forest, the climate, and its multiple agents of natural equilibrium, from the depths of the soil, through the forest’s serapilheira (burlap), the canopy of trees and their trunks – all these components have a harmonious balance, unique among terrestrial ecosystems, and of unparalleled beauty. 

In the same way, it is beautiful to observe how the Amazon biodiversity helps the different species complement each other in their role of defending the integrity of the ecosystem as a whole. The exhibition shows how much the socio-economic system destroys this balance, in search of riches, without realizing that they are much more limited than those of the original forest, aiming at unbridled short-term profit for the few. 

It is possible to reverse this destruction, and science already has the tools to do so. Listening to the scientific community and the traditional knowledge of the indigenous peoples is all we need to change the course of destruction of this beautiful ecosystem. 

Let’s go down the path of building a new society that respects the fragile and beautiful balance between the forest and the climate on which we all depend. A path that respects the rights of traditional peoples, that doesn’t see everything in figures, but sees into the soul of our indigenous people and considers the dependence of our planet on the living, whole Amazon. It is important to listen to the voices of the forest in order to build a future of opportunities for generations to come.

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

About the writer

Paulo Artaxo is a professor at USP's Institute of Physics, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC), World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), and vice president of the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC).

E-mail: [email protected]