I Bought a Rain Forest, Part 1 | Nat Geo Live

I Bought a Rain Forest, Part 1 | Nat Geo Live


I went on a journey and I
went all over the Amazon
to try and find out the
truth about the Amazon.
This idea of these nasty peopledestroying the Amazon,
they’re not.
They are just people
trying to make a living.
And what I saw was this
endless poverty trap.
( audience applause )Three years ago now,I’d bought an illegal
coca plantation by mistake.
These are raw coca leaves.They have the highest
alkaloid content
of any coca leaves
in the world.
Which means they make
really good cocaine. And they’re mine. – ( audience laughter )
– ( Charlie laughs ) So, I became a coca lord
by mistake. ( audience laughter )Now, I didn’t mean to buy a
cocaine plantation, obviously.
But, I bought it over the phone.A friend of mine phoned
me up and he said
“There’s this piece of land
at the end of a logging road and the head of the National
Park needs someone to buy it. The illegal loggers are
going up this track they’re going through the land and into the National Park
to cut the hardwood trees. And if someone can buy
that piece of land we stand a chance of
protecting that part of Manu National Park.” But, what I actually got you know, when I got there and saw it several months
later was, you know hundred acres of severely
degraded secondary rainforest. And two hectares
of illegal coke. I also got an illegal
logging camp with an illegal
logger living in it.That’s Elias there,
on the right.
I bought the land off Tito,
his dad here on the left.
And Elias was one of
the most infamous notorious, illegal
loggers in the area. The National Parks hated him,
he was a thief he was a liar, he was
this, he was that. And as a result, I was
absolutely terrified of him. He was so muscly. I’ve never
seen a human being… You can’t kind of get it
from that picture, but yeah. Anyway, I was terrified of him. And I would… camped on the
land when I first went there and I’d lie down, I could
hear the chainsaws at night and I’d come out in the morning and there’d be a massive
pile of hardwood in the driveway to my land. And then, two hours later,
it had gone. This kind of went on, it
went on and then one day… So, we were filming this as
a part of a TV documentary and Gavin,
the director said to me “You know, you’ve really
gotta go meet this guy.” And I said,
“I’m scared. I don’t want to.” And I talked to National Parks,
one of them actually said “You’ve bought the most
dangerous piece of land off the most dangerous family in the most dangerous
part of Southern Peru.” And, you know, that scared
the hell out of me. And I’m camping on it. ( audience laughter ) And a few years earlier,
in exactly the same spot where I was camping, a
group of geologists had been basically, held
up with guns and robbed. It was a… scary prospect. So, I didn’t want to meet Elias. Anyway, Gavin said,
“You’re gonna have to.” and he forced me to do it. So, we marched
through the forest. And I tracked Elias, he’s
really hard to find. I tracked him through–
I could find wet footprints. We did this for about an hour and eventually
I heard a chainsaw. And basically, I
doorstepped this man in the middle of cutting a tree
down, with a whole film crew. And it was a really
weird moment because he was like,
“What the hell is going on?” You know, really remote
part of the Amazon this bloke turns up with a
boom pole and a camera. – ( Charlie laughs )
– ( audience laughter ) Anyway, he’s not going
to attack us, is he? Anyway, we sat down and
we hung out and… I basically said
“You gotta leave. You know, it’s not working.
You can’t stay on this land. You are the bad illegal logger. I don’t want you on this land,
you’re gonna have to leave.” And he spun me this line about
how he had a disabled daughter and it’s all he could do,
you know, to survive and… keep her, and you know
keep his family alive. And you know, I
didn’t believe him. So, I’m gonna show you this now. ( instrumental music ) Are you there? Hey!Como estas?( Charlie laughs )Como estas?
Hola!
– ( girl mumbling )
-Como estas?
Yeah! Hello.Como estas?( speaking Spanish ) Charlie:We– I just thought,
I’d come and say hi.
Meet your family.( girl laughing ) ( speaking Spanish ) ( woman continues in Spanish ) ( woman continues in Spanish ) ( girl laughing ) ( woman sobbing ) ( woman continues in Spanish ) ( Charlie speaking Spanish ) Cameraman:Charlie…Do you wanna kick
them off the land?
Nope. You know, this has just
made my decision… infinitely more complicated. I was all agreed in my mind, I was gonna chuck
Elias off the land until I went around to
his house. What sort of a bastard
would I be if I did? There’s no way. ( instrumental music ) Charlie:
Behind every horrific story
lie a bunch of perfectly
decent people
just trying to survive.And I was completely unarmed
as a human being to do it. I had no idea what
I was going to do. So, I went on a journey to find out the truth
about the Amazon trying to find out how can
we tackle these problems. And we can tackle them
by understanding them. So, I went on a kind of
journey of understanding.This is Erasmus.He’s one of 35,000 gold
miners in Southern Peru.
The gold mining is a huge
environmental problem.
You know, this is like a
modern day gold rush.
But, these guys
are chasing dust,
they’re not
chasing nuggets.
And they use a whole load of
chemicals within that process Mercury particularly. If I give you a sense
of scale there. There’s a truck.
That dot there.When you see that, you start
realizing how big it is.
There’s whole towns have cropped
up to supply this trade.
And towns of
thousands of people.
There’s prostitution, there’s human trafficking,
there’s crime. And you know, it’s a horrible
modern day gold rush.So, I went to work with
Erasmus on his gold mine.
This is one day,
they got–
This is six and a half
grams of 24 karat gold.
That’s worth about $190 bucks. So, it takes around 20 tons
of toxic waste to make a gold wedding ring.Here’s a little clip
of me doing that.
( Charlie breathing heavily ) Charlie:Every 16 hours,the mats are rinsed
and shaken out
before the gold bearing sludge
is scraped into a barrel.
( Erasmus speaking Spanish ) ( Erasmus continues in Spanish ) So, he’s mixing the
mercury with the sludge? ( Erasmus speaking Spanish ) One hour? -Yes
-Yes? One hour. ( Erasmus speaking Spanish ) Charlie:Mercury poisoning
can result in brain damage
kidney damage, lung failure
and possibly miscarriage.
Illegal miners dump nearly
30 tons of this heavy metal
into Peruvian rivers every year.And a recent study found that
many people in local communities
had mercury
levels in their bodies
five times the safe limit.And somewhere in there,
there’s a whole lot of gold. But, I can’t see any. So, that’s the image I took of
that guy while he was doing–He stirred that mercury
with his feet for an hour.
When you do that, you realize,
these guys aren’t rich.
Okay. The bad guys aren’t rich.
The gold miners aren’t– No one’s getting rich
off this at all. It’s actually the reverse. This guy wanted to
go to university. He’d gone to become a gold miner
to save up for university. He was never gonna
go to university. He was poisoning
himself to death. He hadn’t been paid
for two weeks. The other two workers
that worked there hadn’t been paid
for three months. And what I saw was this endless
poverty cycle, this trap. People stuck in
this poverty trap that they couldn’t get out of. The longer they worked
and not got paid the more they were
committed to work.So it was all really just
miserable and tragic.
This was where we got our water
from and washed every day.
This is a mercury tailingsa sort of gold mining tailings
pond full of mercury.
So, it makes you realize that these guys aren’t
doing that for fun. This idea of these nasty people destroying the Amazon,
they’re not. They’re just people
trying to make a living.

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