Two liquids of different densities don’t mix, like oil and water. But when two slightly different variants of the same liquid touch each other, you would expect them to blend together and produce a new homogeneous liquid. Right? Not in the Amazon! El Río Negro meets the Amazon River near Manaus, Brazil, they share a 40 km (~25 miles) “border” without mixing. You can see and feel the difference. El Río Negro is darker, has high acidity (4.6 pH), warmer (26°C, 78°F) and slower. The Amazon River, or Rio Solimões as it’s known in that area, has low acidity (6.8 pH), cooler at 23°C/73°F and runs faster. Because of its speed (7 km/hr, 4.35mph), it washes off the clay shores which gives the water its light brown color. The high acidity and relative shallowness of El Río Negro (16 meters/52 ft max depth) make it home to only 300 types of fish as opposed to 2000 varieties in the Amazon (60 meters/197 feet max depth). The best part is that mosquitoes cannot breed in El Río Negro! It contains 60% minerals, including iron and uranium and 40% organic matter. The Amazon River is a gold mine, literally and figuratively. The region is very rich in resources: oil, minerals, gold, wood, rare flora and fauna, raw materials..etc, and is being exploited to the detriment of the environment, the wild life and the indigenous peoples. The government is giving incentives for companies to invest in the region by charging no taxes. So you come to the Amazon, only to find manufacturing plants for cars, digital devices, oil companies and other “modern” sores. Now Manaus, the capital of Amazonia state, is a busy polluted, grid locked metropolitan city with traffic jams, high rises and high blood pressure. Can’t blame them for “paving paradise to put up a parking lot”*. They want “progress” too and they have the resources to get it. The only silver lining is that arts flourish; free music and dance shows daily in the Opera House in addition to live music in the square, complete with drinking, smoking and trash everywhere.
Humans are, indeed, the cancer of the Earth and cities are the tumors. Like cancer, we grow at a faster rate than our host, Earth can support. Can we stop before we sink our mother ship and die?
* From the song “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell.
Meeting of the waters near Manaus, Brazil.
Meeting of the waters near Manaus, Brazil. From Rio Negro.
Opera House, Manaus, Brazil.