You read it right! The cutting edge magazine, Fast Company, which reports on business innovations (and which I used to love when I was in business) has named the Chief of the Surui Paiter tribe to their 2012 list of Most Creative People in Business.
Why? Because Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui has partnered with Google “to save his tribe from the brink of extinction and stop deforestation in Amazon rainforest.” How innovative is that?
A stunning video in the Forbes/Fast company article I mentioned above, shows the Chief using today’s technology. Produced by Google personnel it is well worth the two minutes. You can find it about halfway down the page.
According to an article in the Smithsonian magazine, Chief Almir is the first of his tribe to graduate from university, so it is no wonder that he understands the power of technology, even though he operates in a land deep in the forest of Brazil.
Essentially, through this partnership begun in 2007, using smart phones and GPS and tribal elders stories, the tribe has been able to plot much of their land (600,000 acres) to try to protect the forest from the illegal ranchers and loggers. This makes the reporting of violent aggression to authorities much clearer; still, it is neither clear nor evident that the authorities are paying full attention.
However, like every other creative activist in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, the Chief has received death threats for standing up for the forest and for influencing other tribal chiefs to prevent illegal loggers from taking their trucks through this reserve in the state of Rondonia. In one case he was airlifted to Washington DC and stayed there for a month. I hope he can stay safe.