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                        Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #141                                                January 28, 2003
                     A Publication of The Nature Institute
               Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                      On the Web: http://www.netfuture.org/
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    Hold a Blossom to the Light (Stephen L. Talbott)
       Amazonian tribes, technology, and the tragedy of progress
    About this newsletter
                           HOLD A BLOSSOM TO THE LIGHT
            Amazonian Tribes, Technology, and the Tragedy of Progress
                                Stephen L. Talbott
       Notes concerning One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the
       Amazon Rain Forest, by Wade Davis (New York: Simon and Schuster,
       1996).  Paperback, 537 pages, $16.
    While traveling through the Ecuadorian Amazon as an ethnobotanist, Wade
    Davis spent some time with the Waorani, known earlier as the Auca Indians.
    Among the last peoples of the Amazon to be contacted by outsiders, the
    Auca had made headlines around the world when, in January, 1956, they
    speared and killed five American missionaries -- this despite the
    missionaries' practice of dropping gifts from an airplane before their
    disastrous attempt at personal contact.  The incident was only one in a
    series of unfortunate exchanges between the Auca and those who intruded
    upon their territory.  According to Davis, "as late as 1957 there had
    never been a peaceful contact between the Auca and the outside world".
    A couple of decades later, during his stay with the Waorani, Davis
    accompanied a young warrior named Tomo on a hunting excursion.  Highly
    skilled with a blowgun, Tomo had already, at the age of five, been able to
    blow a dart through a hanging fruit at thirty paces.  As an adult, he
    could "drive a dart clear through a squirrel at forty feet, knock a
    hummingbird out of the air, and hit a monkey in the canopy 120 feet above
    the forest floor".
    After selecting a short blowgun (just over six feet long), Tomo led Davis
    and a companion into the jungle.  As Davis tells the story, suddenly
       Tomo froze, dropped into an attack crouch, and slipped away from us,
       moving silently and steadily through a thicket of heliconia until
       stopping at the base of an enormous tree sixty feet from the trail.  In
       a single gesture he had withdrawn a dart, notched its tip, deftly spun
       the kapok fiber around the base, and placed it in the mouth of the
       blowgun that now hovered motionless above his head.  His cheeks
       suddenly puffed out with tremendous pressure, which was released in an
       instant.  A moment later h