Industrial activity takes place on land that was once pristine rainforest.
From the air, the Amazon appears overwhelming. An apparently continuous canopy of green, dark and rich, it seems to stretch to the horizon. That's deceiving, of course.
The Amazon basin is about 2.7 million square miles, a little smaller than the area of the lower 48 states. Up close, you see that it is not continuous at all.
Flying low in a chopper, as we did a few days ago, you see just how much of the forest is already gone. White smoke billows into the sky from fires set to clear the land. Bulldozers clear tracks of forest for planting. Large mines operate day and night. (Watch how the Amazon appears from a helicopter
I've never been much of an environmentalist. I tend to pay more attention to politics and international conflicts. But seeing what is happening here, it's hard not to feel the planet is under a lot of pressure: An area of forest about the size of New Jersey is cut down every year; twenty percent of the forest has been cut and burned in the last 40 years; and while the deforestation rate has slowed somewhat the past two years, the threat to this valuable ecosystem is very real.
Wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin and I just got back from two days with an indigenous group called the Kraho. They are farmers and hunters who are fighting hard to keep their land intact.
When we met them yesterday, the whole village poured out of their thatched homes to see us. Their chief said our helicopter was the first one to ever touch down in their midst. They painted us with a blue dye made from a local fruit. (Now that Jeff and I are back in a big city, we've realized the dye doesn't come off. Jeff has these big blue bands of ink around each arm; mine are a bit more subtle, but kind of hard to hide.)
We went hunting with the Kraho this morning. Last night, Jeff and I went out into the forest to look for wildlife.
If you watched the program on Tuesday night, you might have picked-up the fact that I don't really like bugs and frogs and things that jump. Wandering around in the pitch black with Jeff last night, I had to get over that fear pretty quick. (Watch Anderson jump when confronted with a frog
Tonight, we'll show you a portion of what we saw with the Kraho. This is the first step in an ongoing series of reports from all over the world we are producing this year called, "Planet in Peril."
What we've found, no surprise, is that it's hard to shoot these reports as well as do a nightly broadcast from the Amazon. So that's why I haven't been on the show as much as I'd like this week. I hope you understand. I'll see you tonight, and we'll see if the dye has rubbed off my arms by then.