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What Else Could Mick Jagger do for the Amazon?

Posted: 09/06/2012 00:00

It has been an intriguing past week or so for the Jaggers and protest causes. Last week's edition of The Sunday Times Magazine featured the lovely Lizzy Jagger and her mother, Jerry Hall, on its cover holding two scorpion fish and the words, 'DO THE RIGHT FIN: Jerry Hall and Lizzy Jagger bare all to save our fish', while just a few days before that Lizzy's father, Rolling Stones frontman Mick, found himself being publicly urged by human rights organization Survival International to 'stop the expansion of a huge gas project over uncontacted tribes' land in Peru.'

Survival chose to approach Jagger because last year he was made 'Tourist Ambassador and International Protector of the Madre de Dios region' in south-east Peru.

Madre de Dios, a massive rainforest region, certainly needs protecting. The recent completion of the Inter-Oceanica highway running all the way to Brazil's Atlantic Coast has made it significantly easier to exploit the region's natural resources; Texas-based oil company Hunt Oil is operating in the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve; and huge areas elsewhere are being destroyed by gold-miners and a systemically corrupt and abusive logging industry. New, major threats include a highway proposed to run right through the Madre de Dios Reserve for 'isolated', sometimes dubbed 'uncontacted', indigenous people; gas exploration in the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park; and the expansion of the Camisea gas project deeper into the Kugapakori, Nahua and Nanti Reserve for 'isolated' people and the Manu National Park - the latter being the issue Survival hopes Jagger will protest about.

So where, if he is at all serious, does Jagger start? Perhaps, in addition to speaking out about the gas, he could issue an urgent message to the global tourist industry and any tourists travelling to Manu not to approach, leave gifts for, photograph, film or indeed do anything to encourage contact with the 'isolated' people who live there and otherwise have no regular contact with outsiders, including other indigenous people. Unlikely as this sounds, it has been happening increasingly frequently over the last year, with numerous photos being taken and video footage shot of 'isolated' people known as the 'Mashco-Piro' along the banks of one of the rivers in Manu that is used regularly by tourist boats to access 'eco-lodges' deeper in the rainforest. The consequences for the 'isolated' people, who have no immunity to outsiders' diseases and could be decimated by any form of contact, could be devastating.

As an article of mine earlier this year in The Observer demonstrated, some tour operators in Peru are willing to exploit these sightings to drum up business. In India, similar kinds of tours have been called 'human safaris.'

'There's great concern because the Mashco-Piro are very vulnerable,' said regional indigenous organization FENAMAD, based in Madre de Dios's capital, last October. 'In addition to their susceptibility to common diseases and epidemics, the sightings are occurring in an area of open river transit where there is an intense traffic of commercial and tourists' boats.'

Ironically, today's 'Mashco-Piro' are believed to be the descendants of indigenous people slaughtered and driven out of their homes by a rubber mogul named Carlos Fermin Fitzcarrald in the late 19th century. Guess who almost played Fitzcarrald in a 1980s film by Werner Herzog and even shot a few scenes in Peru? Mick Jagger.

 
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