I spent 2 weeks in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador with the founders of the Pachamama Alliance. For more than 20 years, Pachamama has been supporting the Schuar and Achuar indigenous people in keeping oil drilling and mining out of the pristine jungle. The jungle is widely recognized as the “lungs of the earth” for the vegetation’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen.
Pachamama’s mission is to create “an environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually fulfilling presence of humanity on the planet.” The Alliance has empowered the Achuar to develop the Kipawi Lodge, an eco-lodge deep in the heart of the jungle along a tributary of the Amazon.
Life for these people has changed dramatically in the past decades. Missionaries convinced them to stop inter-tribal wars. Medicine dramatically reduced infant deaths. Formerly, the wars and infant mortality kept population growth in check. In addition, guns have now replaced blow guns and poisoned darts. The result is the population of the Schuar has ballooned from 10,000 to 70,000 and the Achuar has ballooned from 1,000 to 10,000. The people can no longer get all the food they need from agriculture and hunting and must find ways to make money to buy what they need.
The women often spend their entire child-bearing years pregnant. Lynne Twist, one of the founders of Pachamama, has created a program called “Jungle Mamas.” Women are given beaded necklaces with beads that represent the entire month and specially colored ones for when ovulation happens. They can then manage themselves to only have children when they choose.
As I look at the projected trajectory of population growth worldwide it is critical, as part of addressing human contributions to global warming, that ways like this must be found for people to manage the size of their families.