For more than 8,000 years, people lived in the Amazon and farmed it to make it more productive. They favored certain trees over others, effectively creating crops that we now call the cocoa bean and the brazil nut, and they eventually domesticated them. And while many of the communities who managed these plants died in the Amerindian genocide 500 years ago, the effects of their work can still be observed in today’s Amazon rainforest.
Why does this matter? Though conservationists still speak of the Amazon as a “pristine” region, Levis says that its environmental allies should talk about it differently. We can look to it, she says, as an example of how human influence can enrich the Amazon.