There’s a documentary on Channel 4 this evening which I’m looking forward to watching. It is of a hitherto unknown tribe of hunter-gatherers who emerged from isolation in deepest Amazonia in 2014. The did so voluntarily apparently, presumably because they thought they’d be better off. There was a photo of them in my newspaper a year or so ago and I’ve been intrigued to learn more ever since. With luck, tonight’s programme should satisfy a number of questions..
Even so, there’s been a huge amount of nonsense spoken about Amazonian and New Guinea hunter-gatherers by the more naive members of the environmental movements. Hunter-gatherers are supposed to be much more in tune with nature than we are and are fully conscious of the need to be good stewards of the rich ecology around them.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Rain forests are not hunter-gatherers’ natural habitat. Groups were pushed there by farming man in relatively recent times — anything up to about 5,000 years ago. Once there they proceed to hunt whatever’s available until usually all animal sources of food have gone. The only exception for some groups, taking a little farming knowledge with them as they were exiled, is domesticated pigs and fowl. Some tribes don’t even have those. One shown recently on television showed a clan which, for protein, lived entirely on small fruit bats at night time. All other animal food for miles around had been totally extinguished.
Ironically, an accurate perception of the natural environment and of the need for renewable systems has only come along with industrial — that is, scientific — man.