Financed by the Other Amazon Paying for Its Name
It should be possible to pay to fully protect the Amazon rainforest while meeting local people’s needs. The best place to start is for online Amazon Inc. to pay on a sustained basis for its long overdue unpaid expropriation of the Amazon name. Transforming Amazon Inc. into a purpose driven venture will make it stronger and more appealing, while providing a long-term source of finance to keep Amazon Standing.
By Dr. Glen Barry
“There’s nothing about our model that can’t be copied over time… A lot of it comes down to the brand name. Brand names are more important online than they are in the physical world.” – Jeff Bezos
“The bill is due for Amazon company’s unpaid use of the mighty Amazon rainforest’s name.” – Dr. Glen Barry
The First Amazon
The Amazon rainforest is a global ecological treasure of unparalleled importance for Earth and all inhabitants. Over at least 55 million years vast evolutionary radiance has created a brilliant super-organism that powers the planet’s biosphere through the sum of the interactions of its parts.
The Amazon is rich in ecological diversity with a dizzying array of life across scales — from landscapes, downward to ecosystems, to plant communities and animal populations, including indigenous peoples, down to species and individual plants and wildlife, composed of their genetic sequences. From such complex yet decadent disorder emerges the primary bioregional ecosystem that powers the biosphere.
Though the Amazon as an ecosystem is more than the sum of these parts, all parts are required for it to remain fully intact and thus operational. The Amazon basin drains the slopes of the Andes through biodiverse mountain slopes into the vast lowland swamp forests. This vast plethora of micro-habitats contains stores of medicinal plants, cycles water and nutrients, and drives global climate.
Loss of the Amazon as an intact whole will result in a major diminishment in climate buffering, disappearance of an unknown amount of genetic wealth potentially valuable for diseases such as coronavirus, deprive millions of indigenous peoples and settlers of their livelihoods, and may in itself crash the biosphere. Yet a variety of threats continues the European legacy of ecocide upon native nature and peoples, cruelly propagating the myth that destroying millions of year old ecosystems and their inhabitants is “development”.
Recently I wrote On Amazon fires: It’s the ecology stupid. Therein it is noted that Global Ecological Sustainability depends critically upon ending the logging and burning of old forests such as the Amazon and letting them recover, expand and reconnect. Earlier I have published peer reviewed science that is worth reading, identifying a threshold for how many ecosystems can be lost before the biosphere collapses: Barry, G. (2014), “Terrestrial ecosystem loss and biosphere collapse”, Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 542-563.
I have had the privilege to spend the month of February in Brazil, mostly in the Amazonia region. There I trekked into lowland tropical rainforests and was overjoyed to see big ancient trees and wildlife including spider monkeys, pink river dolphins, and anacondas. The river boat ride down a portion of the Amazon was an adventure. By the time I reached The Amazon river’s point of entry into the Atlantic Oceans, I was struck again and again by the generosity and kindness of the region’s peoples.
Mostly I silently rejoiced in my long-felt ecological intuition that these Amazon rainforests are the global habitat that makes my and all life possible. Often I just sat in the jungle listening for long hours, fully feeling a bond with the diverse and dependent life therein. And I also saw firsthand the senseless devastation being wrought by agri-business and rural electrification.
And I became further resolved that it must be possible to meet development needs of Amazonians while keeping Amazon Standing.
This essay represents the beginning of efforts to develop a campaign to find and implement a way to finance sufficient socio-economic activities to ensure the Amazon remains standing. This must be done in a creative, sustained manner that protects native livelihoods and means meeting all basic needs and then some. Yet forgoes all commercial exploitation that destroys or diminishes standing primary forests.
The greatest challenge of our generation is to find a viable way to fully protect the Amazon.
Time for the Other Amazon to Step Up
Imagine if you can that there was a large organization that has benefited from the unreimbursed use of the Amazon name, and could help fund keeping the Amazon rainforest standing. Surely, in such a case, there would be tremendous potential to harness sustainable funding for Amazon rainforest protection, and there would be a huge public outcry that the company pay a significant portion of their revenue for the right to use the Amazon name.
Wait, what of Jeff Bezos’ Amazon online store? He reportedly named it Amazon because it was “exotic and different”, and the Amazon River was the largest in the world, and he planned for Amazon company to be so as well. Given the tremendous corporate and personal success realized by Amazon and Jeff Bezos, it is perfectly reasonable to suggest that the company pay to protect the threatened Amazon rainforest after which it is named.
Mr. Bezos himself has expressed how critical branding is to online success, and he has certainly benefited richly from the sentiments evoked by his use of the Amazon name.
Indeed, given Mr. Bezo’s hundreds of millions of dollars spent on new homes in recent months, isn’t financing by Amazon company to protect the Amazon rainforest long overdue? It’s a justice, equity, and ecological sustainability thing Mr. Bezos. How can you have so much, benefiting from the globally recognized name of an impoverished region, for which you have never paid?
Some would say that Amazon having made so much money without paying anything to Brazil and neighboring countries is the very exemplar of white and billionaire privilege.
Don’t get me wrong, Jeff Bezos has built Amazon (the company referred to as Amazon Inc.) into an amazing company. I spend considerable amounts of money with Amazon Inc., making purchases almost daily given the convenience, selection, and speed of delivery. And EcoInterent’s services are hosted on the Amazon cloud, which is truly amazing in its own right.
But come on, at some point growth becomes greed. Already there is a backlash against the richest man in the world, and how it has come at the expense of local merchants and the climate. And then there is the fact that Amazon Inc. simply pilfered their name from the greatest ecosystem in the world that is mortally threatened.
Bezos’ recent commitment of funding to address climate change is welcome and appropriate given Amazon’s huge carbon footprint. Yet an additional massive, sustained investment in Amazonia rainforest protection is still appropriate given the past and ongoing benefits accrued from the expropriation of the Amazon name in particular and all it connotes.
With all due respect Mr. Bezos, how much is enough? How many more lavish homes do you intend to buy this year, as our global home and your company’s namesake, the Amazon, is destroyed because of lack of conservation finance. At what point does the existential threats to global ecological sustainability become more or at least as important to you, the richest person in the world, than delivering ever more consumer goods faster?
We get it Mr. Bezos, your Amazon may not be legally required to pay for use of the Amazon name for your branding. But it is the classy, ethical, and just thing to do. And it protects your future as well.
There will be consequences of Amazon failing to act to protect its namesake. Already popular sentiment is shifting against the company given its size and extravagance of its owners. How much better to make the company a purpose driven organization rather than only a consumption growth machine.
Pressure campaigns are possible, but hopefully are not needed, assuming the goodwill of a man and company that has benefited so much from expropriating of the Amazon name. Some would say theft, like so much else that has been forcefully taken from the Brazilian people.
Amazon Standing Trust Fund
It should be possible to pay to keep the Amazon rainforest fully standing. And in a manner that provides decent livelihoods for all inhabitants. Surely there is more worth to be found in a live than a dead forest. Particularly ancient naturally evolved old-growth forests. All that is required is sustained investments in Amazonian alternative development models and governance depending on protecting and not destroying old, natural forests.
What I am proposing is that Amazon Inc. and/or Jeff Bezos establish an endowed trust fund committed to full protection of the Amazon Rainforest. “Amazon Standing” would use the interest on the endowment to fund non-extractive efforts for local peoples and governments to benefit economically and culturally from permanently standing and intact primary rainforests.
Sufficiently endowed, such an approach has great potential to shift the economics against large-scale extractive industries which are only marginally profitable.
Without massive investments the Amazon rainforest will continue to fall at an unconscionable rate. Slowly yet inexorably the last remnant large natural ecosystems will be dismantled; liquidated for all the wrong reasons, sending shock waves throughout the global ecological system.
And moving us a step closer towards the collapse of the biosphere and the end of being.
It is not OK for one of the largest companies to name itself after Earth’s largest and most important ecosystem without having some stake in its protection. Imbuing Amazon Inc. with social merit beyond consuming ever more, faster, will make it a force for social good.
Transforming Amazon Inc. into a purpose driven venture will make it stronger and more appealing, while providing a long-term source of finance to keep Amazon Standing. There is tremendous reputational risk to Amazon Inc. and Jeff Bezos of not immediately beginning to pay for the use of Amazon as their brand name.
The bill is due for Amazon company’s unpaid use of the mighty Amazon rainforest’s name. Significant funding can be provided willingly to keep the Amazon rainforest standing while meeting local needs, or all sorts of campaign measures are likely.
Amazon will have earned its name based on merit and not merely size.
Expect to hear more about what it takes to keep Amazon Standing and the rainforest movements efforts to get Amazon Inc. to embrace and finance protection of its namesake.