Written in 1984, In The Rainforest had the effect on me that Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring had on the previous generation. Here, in shocking detail, was an account of the beauty of the tropical rain forests of the world together with a catalogue of their ecological rape.
It is also a book about tribes and settlers on the move, about people trying to better their lot, about greed and corporate murder. It is a journalist’s account of the pinch-points where expanding societies encroach into virgin forest.
In The Rainforest was one of the first reads that took me out of literature and into non-fiction. It therefore needed to be colourful and detailed – and it is. For openers, Caufield described the construction of the Tucurui Dam in Brazil, the biggest engineering project ever undertaken in tropical rain forest and at the time the fourth largest dam in the world.
The book then travels through cattle ranches (carved out of rain forest) in Costa Rica, forest clearance in Colombia and logging in some of the eleven thousand islands of the Philippines.
There will be more up-to-date accounts of this continuing trend, but this was one of the first and it helped wake me up to what was happening.