Amazon brought to life at the Seaport
By Talia Page
The recently closed Amazonia Brasil exhibit at the South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 featured a 13,000 square-foot recreation of the Amazon region in Brazil. Opened on Earth Day, the show was flooded with visitors over the past three months, offering both children and adults an opportunity to walk through the enormous tropical plants that ran through the simulated indigenous villages made of wood and straw, and swing in hammocks tied to a life-sized boat.
In reality, this region spans two million square miles (nearly 5% of Earth’s surface) and is home to an estimated 180 indigenous groups (approximately 70 of which have never had contact with the outside world). Colorful crafts and traditions thrive.
Created to raise awareness about the Amazon’s relevance and importance to everyone in the world, the exhibit is on an international tour to make its presence known in the concrete jungles of the world. To date, it has been seen by more than 400,000 people in Sao Paolo and Paris, New York and soon to be in Tokyo. Dr. Eugenio Netto, one of the project’s creators, said, “Most people do not realize that the treatment of the Amazon affects everyone on the planet. It plays an essential role as Earth’s dehumidifier. If we could stop deforestation there today, it would have the same effect on climate as taking every car off the road.”
The project has garnered incredible support as approximately 600 groups worldwide have collaborated to help with the exhibition and spread the word about the importance of saving one of the world’s greatest tropical ecosystems. In New York, a number of major institutions dedicated time and space to the cause, offering up myriad subjects of interest. Displaying fashion designs made of raw but recyclable materials from the Amazon, the World Financial Center Courtyard Gallery catered to fashionistas: visitors were encouraged to stroll through aisles lined with wild, elegant dresses and furniture made with materials from the forest (such as rubber and vegetable leather). Best of all, behind the fashion lays eco function: each designer emphasizes fair commerce and the use of sustainable resources. “No life has been taken from the forest,” explained curator Debora Laruccia, “Only dead material found on the forest floor is taken; nothing is chopped down.”
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian displayed video and photographic exhibitions entitled “Guardians of the Forest” and “Amazonia Indigena: a View from the Village.” In their lobby, open to the public, the United Nation showcased “The Amazon Forest & Climate Change.” The Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the primary consultant for the maintenance of tropical plants at the Seaport exhibit, provided the opportunity to see plants native to the Amazon region. Perhaps most importantly, the Department of Education instituted a 15-hour third grade curriculum and a 20-hour sixth grade curriculum to reach more than one million students.
“For children to learn, though, they must see the Amazon. You cannot know this region only from a bookthe experience is necessary,” said Dr. Netto, watching kids shout and laugh about the strange artifacts in the Pier 17 exhibit. At the main exhibition site, Amazonian experts were present to answer questions, the most common of which was, “Why would people cut down the forest? How long will it take to grow back?”
“What is important is that these children fall in love with the Amazon,” said Dr. Netto, “because it is up to them to save it.”
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