THIS IS A profoundly depressing book. It is not so much a clarion call to save the Amazon as a lament for the wholesale destruction of the jungle and its indigenous population, which the author accepts as inevitable. Languages and species die out before his eyes. Within two generations, he predicts, the Amazon rainforest will be destroyed, both as a wilderness and as a functioning ecosystem. 'It is an old story, stale news by now,' he writes. 'Yet the loss of this place, I'm convinced, will be the most egregious event of a generation of atrocities.' The consequences will be felt not just for the next 500 years, he believes, but for the next five million.
These are not the words of some bleeding-heart liberal, but of an ecologist with a deep knowledge and understanding of the local environment. David Campbell, an American scientist, has conducted ecological studies in Brazil for some thirty years. When he was working in the Amazon during the 1970s he used