By Reuben Aaronson
When you fly into the Amazon Rainforest from Peru’s capital, Lima, and begin to descend from the mountains, you pass over vast and seemingly endless oceans of jungle green. And then you see it: long gouges in the earth below, looking as if God had taken his fingernails and dragged them along the surface of the earth in some kind of angry fit, leaving behind wide canyons of nothingness.
During the whole time we were making this film, I kept asking myself is there was any real value in dedicating almost a year of my time to working on a project like this that would attempt to reveal to the world yet one more story of human greed and ignorance causing the environmental destruction that left these ugly, sad defacing marks on our planet.
Ever since I was a child, and now, for more than half my life, the price of gold has hovered at below $50 an ounce. But more recently, economic insecurities on a global level have lured people to buy the elusive shiny yellow metal as a hedge against inflation. Today the price of gold is pushing thirty times what it cost when I was growing up and the sky high prices entice migrants from Peru’s poor highlands into the region where a worker can earn in a single day what a school teacher makes in a month. Not bad work if you can get it. Never mind it might kill you. And us.
While the conditions aren’t the same as working in a classroom, you don’t have to know how to read for this job and you don’t have to pay any taxes either. When all you can think about is providing food for your family, it’s no surprise that you don’t stop to notice that you are destroying primary rainforest and poisoning the air and water in the process.
It takes around 250 tons of earth to get enough gold to make an average sized wedding ring. One ring for her and one for him equals five hundred tons of earth. On an average, 600 people are married every day in the United States. That’s a steady appetite of 300,000 tons of primary rainforest consumed every day.
On the shoot, we witnessed gaping holes the size of football fields being created in just a week. Each hole kills thousand year old trees and hundreds of species of plants and animals who used to call that tree home. It will take at least 500 years for any of this to come back.
Meanwhile, environmentalists are observing helplessly from the sidelines with their eyes popping out of their heads at the horrific amounts of devastation taking place. And local police and federal officials, many of whom are corrupt and on the take, seem overwhelmed by the situation.
It is a complicated issue. But 100% of it is manmade. And if we created it, we can also end it.