Saving ‘Earth’s lungs’, the Amazon rainforest

A river like a sea, a jungle twice the size of India
Incorporating a photo of the rainforest in Brazil’s Amazonas state by Jessica Anderson | Unsplash

A hearty welcome on National Book Lovers Day to the latest instalment of This Week, Those Books, your rundown on books new and old that resonate with the week’s news and developments.

The few minutes you take to read this newsletter will make you smarter, faster…guaranteed. Here, you will find a deep dive on fiction and non-fiction books about the week’s big story. That should kinda sort out your next watercooler convo and/or supper small talk. If you aren’t able to read these books, be assured, this newsletter will get you up to speed.

(Links to previous posts are right at the end, as well as on the website.)

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Here’s one of the more globally consequential news items from the American continent, nearly missed in the white noise about Donald Trump’s multiple criminal indictments: the first summit in 14 years to protect the Amazon rainforest, the world’s biggest, and a key buffer against climate change.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, which has the largest chunk of the rainforest (61.8%) within its borders, hosted the two-day summit ending today (Aug 9). The attendees included seven other South American countries and one overseas French territory in the region, all of which have varying shares of the Amazon rainforest.

The importance of the summit in Belém, a busy port city at the mouth of the Amazon river, can hardly be overstated. The Amazon rainforest is often called the earth’s ‘green lungs’. It has roughly 20% of the world’s freshwater reserves and with 10% of all known plant and animal species, is the most biodiverse region on the planet. The Amazon is a vast area – twice the size of India; 28 times as big as the UK and roughly equal to the contiguous United States (ie. minus Alaska and Hawaii). And it’s a crucial carbon sink absorbing roughly half a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

This week’s summit is the first meeting since 2009 of the Amazon rainforest’s custodian countries and it’s meant to address environmental crimes and secure collaboration across borders to protect a critical planetary resource. Its conclusions will be presented at the United Nation’s climate conference, COP28, in Dubai in November.

But the Amazon rainforest’s imprint on the world of English-language books is surprisingly small and scattered. It mostly features in accounts of European exploration of the region, the search for the last of the Amazon’s 200 uncontacted Indigenous tribes and in children’s material. A slew of such books were published from the 1980s to the noughties (see bonus mentions below).

We can do better. Here’s a real-world update on the Amazon rainforest, as well as a sense of its magic.

Dear Reader, this week reminds me of those books:

Click here to read on


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