• The entire Pacific island of Tuvalu is literally vanishing as speak. Click here to read the article.
  • Two new ecomartyrs have given their lives  in the effort to save tropical rainforest, joining the roll of honor that includes Dian Fossey and Chico Mendes (for whom I coined the term ecomartyr—a deliberatly grating hack-journalism confection, an antagonism you could call it if there were such a figure of speech, designed to heighten the reader’s indignation: not only were these people murdered, now they’re being called ecomartyrs).  But their deaths have attracted very little notice. The vogue for saving the rainforest has come and gone, but the destruction continues. Bruno Manser, a 47-year-old Swiss activist who devoted 12 years to trying to save the Penan tribe, a small tribe of nomadic hunter-gatherers who live in the rainforest of Sarawak, in northeastern Borneo, was last seen on May 22nd of last year and presumed to be dead.  He was setting out to climb a 7,000-foot limestone pinnacle called Batu Lawi to dramatize the plight of the Penan, whose way of life is being extinguished by commercial logging, the cash economy, Coca Cola, television-- the usual Western toxins. Or he may have gone to the mountain in despair, to commit suicide because he realized that the Penan were history, his efforts were useless. To learn more, read Simon Elegant’s September 3, 2001 cover story in Time Asia,
  • In l990, Manser wrote: “Each morning at dawn the gibbons howl and their voices carry great distances, riding the thermal boundary created by the cool of the forest and the warm air above as the sun strikes the canopy. Penan never eat the eyes of the gibbons. They are afraid of losing themselves in the horizon. They lack an inner horizon. They don’t separate dreams from reality. If someone dreams that a tree limb falls on a camp, they will move with the dawn.” 
  • The other ecomartyr is a 36-year-old Brazilian activist named Ademir Alfeu Federicci and nicknamed Dema. He was shot in the head by an unknown assailant in front of his wife and children on August 21st of this year, apparently because he vociferously opposed a hydroelectric dam that the Brazilian government plans to build on the Xingu River, in southern Amazonia, and because he had been making a huge stink about the illegal logging that is going on in the region. Like Chico Mendes, who was the president of the rubber-tappers’ union, Dema was the president of a union of small agricultural workers. For more information, contact Tonya Hennessey at Greenpeace, tonyah@bb.sfo.us.gl3 
  • On top of this, Greenpeace's own operations chief has just received a death threat. see tonya's site. In the Amazon, such threats should be taken very seriously, because they are often anuncio. Not threats, but announcements, statements of fact, that you are dead meat, we're going to get you, you can count on it that are designed to prolong and increase the victim's suffering. See a past dispatch about Chico Mendes
  •  “Where do you go if you’re young and the world comes to an end?  Do you go into history? ” Isabelle, a first grader in Montreal, quoted in the Montreal Gazette.
  • How often do porcupines do it?  Very carefully and very often. Improbable as it seems, a porcupine copulates every day, 365 days a year, whether it is in breeding season or not, Natalie Angier reports in the 7/10/01 New York Times
  • The preferred wood for violin bows is something called Pernambuco wood. But there are only 2000 of Pernambuco trees left in the world, in northeastern Brazil.  For some reason, they aren’t being cultivated. My source, a Montreal violin-maker, doesn’t know why. Maybe they can’t be cultivated. 
  • A friend of mine named Kenny who runs a beautiful heiffer farm in Orwell, Vermont, and is keenly observant of the weather and the seasons, told me that last April started as the latest spring on record and ended as the earliest. Due to the lingering heavy snowcover, followed by weeks of no rain and record heat, which probably had something to do with global warming and brought out the leaves and flowers weeks ahead of time and messed with the timetables of the returning birds. This provides anecdotal support for Dr. Terry Root’s chapter about the disruptive climate-change-related effects on bird migration at the onset of spring and fall, in the latest report of the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change. 
  • Just got a call from Mervin Roberts, who is pushing eighty and works as a consultant for a philanthropic institution called Maine Coastal Resources, which was thinking of making a grant to a leper colony in the Amazon where some Franciscan monks had reported 4000 destitute lepers were “eating garbage.” Roberts went down to check it out before the grant was finalized. It turns out that I visited the colony, which is seven miles from the city of Manaus, in l976 and devoted a few paragraphs of my book, The Rivers Amazon, to it. Roberts had read the book before going down and had called me to see if I had any contacts or suggestions. Everything was as I had described it, he reported, except that the Franciscans who were running the colony had left, and so had all the lepers except for three. It was, as he described it, a “depressed leper colony.” With the advent of the new sulfa drugs, he explained, most lepers can be treated so that within six months they are no longer contagious and can return to the general population, which is what the other 3997 lepers had apparently done. Other healthy Amazonians had moved into the abandoned compound with their families because there was electric power “to run their boob tubes,” Roberts went on. “This place doesn’t need American help. The people are better off than they are in many parts of America.” So this is good news for Maine Coastal Resources, I said to Roberts. It doesn’t have to make the grant. “I suppose,” he said, “but I’m furious with the Franciscans. It didn’t pan out. That’s why these benevolent organization have to be so careful before they send out the check.”
  • Here’s a bulletin forwarded by David Simpson, a freelance environmental editor in Kenya: for the last twenty years, 10,000 bears in China have been imprisoned with catheters draining their gall bladders for shampoos, aphrodisiacs, and “miraculous” remedies. There is heavy poaching of the black bear in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, also for their gall bladders, which are sold to Asian agents, who also make monthly stops at local convenience stores to  buy ginseng roots as far north as Vermont. 
  • The news about the 100 to 400 remaining spirit bears, a recent item in the Montreal Gazette reports, is much more heartening. The 100,000-hectare Great Bear Rainforest has been set aside in British Columbia for this rare white subspecies of black bear, also known as the kermode.
  • From another severe bout of resistant falciparum malaria (I nearly died of blackwater fever, one of its complication, in the Peruvian Amazon in l976) last fall which I picked up in Congo and came down with in the Adirondacks. The minute you get the splitting headache, that means your lariam tablets aren’t doing any good, he explained. Don’t ask any questions, just pop three fancidars and a cocktail of the antibiotics kotexin and doxycyline. There will be bulletins with this sort of practical advice for world travelers. The composition of your tropical kit. This column could also have news about and web addresses of organizations or individuals who are doing unusual things in unusual places. Reader input welcome. 
  • The International Parliament of Writers opens its website.

  • Autodafe, The censored library

    The journal Autodafe, appearing in eight languages, adds a multilingual Internet site this fall christened http://www.autodafe.org/, which serves as a relay and an extension of the publication¹s initiative. A wide selection of writings published in the review Autodafe is available on the site in four languages‹French, English, Spanish and Portugese‹original articles in French and English will also be inserted regularly. The site¹s three captions respond to its aim of addressing current world affairs, literary efforts and issues dealt with by writers today:

    • Writings of authors giving their perspectives of given social or political situations, such as violence or the death penalty in the United States, the Basque dilemma, the Zapatista movement in the Mexican province of Chiapas, war in the Balkans, contemporary Russia, etc..
    • Interviews with authors from all points of the world such as Afghanistan, Congo-Brazzaville, Cuba, Algeria, China and Iraq, who are being hosted in Asylum Cities and whose individual experiences strike a singularly common note with those of their colleagues.
    • Analyses and thoughts on literary creativity, on its link to the society that produces it and on the current status of cultural activities and the examples of censoring currently practiced in the world.

    Autodafe.org provides more general coverage of the International Parliament of Writers and the Asylum City network. The Parliament¹s history, a complete description of the Asylum Cities program, a list of cities and regions that are members of the network, as well as a presentation of writers hosted in them, and a selection of some of their works are included on the site. A "Bookstore² houses a section containing unpublished literary works that have been censored throughout the world.
    To be informed of the website updating, you can be registered in our mailing-list http://www.autodafe.org/contact/contact.htm.

    The editorial section of Autodafe ­ both the publication and the Internet site ­ is intended to provide the following:

    • reactivate exchange ­ nowadays injured not only by censorship but also by the hegemony of the media - between writers of the five continents.
    • to make known contemporary literary works that are difficult to obtain because they appear in minor languages, are excluded because of no funding or are censored by political or religious powers.
    • to give the opportunity of self-expression, not only to individuals, but to peoples and experiences struck mute, to vanishing cultures, to endangered languages
The international journal Autodafe is published through a partnership of nine editors including Agra in Athens, Asa in Porto, Anagrama in Barcelona, Denoël in Paris, Feltrinelli in Milan, Pangloss in Moscow, Serpent¹s Tail in London, Seven Stories Press in New York and Ikusager in Vitoria, in the Spanish Basque country. Issue n°2 http://www.autodafe.org/autodafe/autodafe_02/autodafe_02.htm is being published these days.

Communicate privately with Alex Shoumatoff by emailing him at AlexShoumatoff@Shoumatopia.Com or have a discussion in the bulletins section of the discussion board and click on "create new topic."


Back to the Home Page
Visit the Dispatches Discussion Room
Send Comments and Questions to AlexShoumatoff@Shoumatopia.Com