Culture Box

For those of you who are subscribed to a cable network, the History Channel’s Bamazon has been on your schedule for the past three months hasn’t it?

20130202boxAn ‘epic’ adventure of eight unemployed men from the US state of Alabama who are on the poverty line, the reality show highlights their struggle to find gold in the Guyana Amazon Jungle and what it is like to survive each other during a mad rush for riches.

Their mining site is on the Cuyuni River in Region Seven; close to the Venezuelan border and hundreds of miles away from their comfort zone. These eight ‘Redneck’ Alabama boys go to hell and back on their journey. It started off with a struggle to get an abandoned excavator; the fright of loading it onto a barge that might possibly break up over the rapids of the Cuyuni and not forgetting the parasites and bacteria that plague a couple of men; their efforts to ‘wash down’ the overburden; then the drought that put a deadline on their dream.

During the entire show, I thought how funny it was to see grown men literally running away, screaming at the sight of a spider or a weird looking fish – hilarious!

That apart, the show was a beautiful exposition of Guyana’s mineral wealth, skills of our people (there were a few Guyanese porknockers and guides), respect to our indigenous people and our vast forest resources.

There were many references to the importance of the jungle to the country and the world – the Amazon being the lungs of the planet, contributing 20% of the atmosphere’s oxygen. With that being said, a lot of US viewers argued on that acres of trees were cut down for an entire trail and camp site, just for the pleasure of entertainment.

With the constant cessation of the machinery and the threat of being abandoned because of the rapidly dropping Cuyuni River, the ‘Bama’ boys only went home with US$17,000 to be divided among eight men. They were pleased that they tackled the jungle, but disappointed that their dreams were crushed – they came here for six weeks expecting to go home millionaires; they left with practically nothing.

For us Guyanese that might be great! Don’t come here, cut down our trees and take our stuff then leave! The commentator kept boasting that there are literally millions of US dollars in gold waiting beneath the Guyanese jungle. Waiting for what exactly?

Some will say it is good to open the resources of the country to the foreign market and others will say it is a bad idea. But Bamazon did open that question to the world… We might have millions of US dollars in gold alone sitting beneath 15 feet of dirt but is it really worth cutting down towering trees? Is it worth selling plots of forested land to foreigners, destroying Amerindian livelihoods, and inviting the other degradations that were exposed on the show?

The first season concluded last week and it did put Guyana on the map, although how excellent the ad was…

I hope the show does not send the wrong message. It should be letting people know that Guyana is to be developed; it is not for sale. If they plan on filming a second season I for one would like to see them advertise the Low Carbon Development Strategy and at least plant a few trees.


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