[Mp4] The largest river on earth is actually in the sky

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The largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon, exists between two rivers – but not in the way you might think. At ground level, the Amazon River and its tributaries weave their path. But above the canopy, bigger waterways are on the move. These flying rivers are almost invisible, but are essential to life on Earth.

 

As rain seeps into the soil, trees draw water back up through their roots and pump it through their trunks for nourishment. The leaves and stems transpire, or release, excess water in the form of vapor.

 

In the Amazon, a fully grown tree transpires between 200 and 1,000 liters of water a day. This collective release creates a startling phenomenon: huge jets of rapid, humid air that constantly flow above the canopy.

 

Dubbed “flying rivers” by a Brazilian climatologist, these aerial waterways carry about 20 billion tons of water through the air per day. This is more than the Amazon River’s daily output into the ocean. Along the equator, the trade winds blow from east to west. Caught in these winds, flying rivers flow in the same direction before encountering the Andes.

 

The mountains act like a giant barrier, causing the winds and rivers to redirect southwards. When flying rivers meet the masses of cold air, they grow heavier and release torrents of water. In this way, they bring rain, cooler temperatures, and humidity to much of South America.

 

But these waterways are under threat. Clearing the Amazon for agriculture and industry is already causing flying rivers to dry up, leading to drought and hotter temperatures across South America. If this pattern continues, swaths of the continent may be reduced to desert in a matter of decades.

 

In response, a radical movement is working intensely to keep the rainforest— and the flying rivers— alive. The northwest of the Peruvian Amazon is the territory of the Wampís Nation, a community of over 15,000 people who manage over 130,000 square kilometers of land. These indigenous people have lived in the rainforest for thousands of years, practicing sustainable hunting, fishing, and agriculture.

 

For the Wampís, protecting the rainforest has long meant fighting invaders. Between the 15th and 17th centuries, Wampís people resisted and expelled the Incas and later the Spanish colonists who exploited the rainforest. Today, the Wampís Nation are still battling extractive industries and the policies that sanction them.

 

For instance, since the 1960s, the Peruvian government has been licensing the Wampís’ territory to corporations for gold mining and oil extraction. These activities poison the rivers, clear thousands of trees, and threaten the Wampís way of life.

 

In 2015, after years of protests and negotiations, the community formed the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampís Nation. While the Wampís people remain Peruvian citizens, they seek recognition as a government responsible for their own lands, forests, and internal affairs.

 

In its policies, the Wampís Nation prioritizes collective land ownership, cultural preservation, and conservation of animals, plants, and natural cycles that protect the rainforest. This is the foundation of their philosophy of Tarimat Pujut, or living in harmony with nature to ensure food, friendships, and quality of life.

 

The high, humid forest of the Wampís Nation is crucial to the flying river cycle, transpiring over 34 million liters of water a day that flow to Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. To track this output, Wampís scientists measure rainfall, monitor the wind, and weigh water levels in leaves and soil. One of their climate goals is to defend this and other natural systems, including native soil that acts as a carbon sink and the forest itself as a fire barrier.

 

The Wampís Nation constantly battles corporations that threaten these systems. Between 2016 and 2018, the community fought illegal gold mining along the Santiago River. They organized protests, uncovered mercury pollution, guarded the area, and attacked illegal machinery for months, eventually expelling the miners. And in 2017, the Wampís Nation successfully petitioned a court to bar a private oil company from their land.

 

While these are significant victories, the Wampís Nation and other Indigenous groups need more recognition and support. Indigenous people and local communities live in and manage more than a quarter of the world’s land, but only have legal ownership to a small percentage of it. And less than 1% of international climate and forest funds go to their crucial conservation efforts. This is despite the fact that forests managed by Indigenous people have better survival rates.

 

The Amazon is often described with language evocative of a giant organism—one that grows, dies, breathes in carbon dioxide, and exhales oxygen. The processes that sustain it weave together in a complex and often invisible web of water, air, soil, and human activity— both destructive and protective. We are far from understanding it in its entirety, but some are closer than others.

 

WORD BANK:

tributary /´tribjutəri/ (n): chi lưu, nhánh

canopy /ˈkænəpi/ (n): tán cây

waterway /ˈwɔː.tə.weɪ/ (n): lạch nước

seep into /siːp ɪntuː/ (v): thấm vào

root /ruːt/ [b2] (n): rễ cây

trunk /trʌŋk/ [b2] (n): thân cây

nourishment /ˈnʌrɪʃ.mənt/ (n): dinh dưỡng

transpire /trænˈspaɪər/ (v): thoát hơi nước

release /rɪˈliːs/ [b2] (v): giải phóng

phenomenon [fəˈnɑː.mə.nɑːn] [c1] (n): hiện tượng

humid /ˈhjuː.mɪd/ [b1] (adj):  độ ẩm

dub /dʌb/ (v): mệnh danh là

climatologist /ˌklaɪ.mætˈɒl.ə.dʒɪst/ (n): nhà khí hậu học

equator /ɪˈkweɪ.tər/ (n) đường xích đạo

barrier /ˈbær.i.ər/ [b2] (n): rào cản

humidity /hjuːˈmɪd.ə.ti/ (n) độ ẩm

agriculture /ˈæɡ.rɪˌkʌl.tʃər/ [b2] (n): nông nghiệp

industry /ˈɪn.dəs.tri/ [b2] (n): công nghiệp

drought /draʊt/ [c2] (n): hạn hán

territory /ˈter.ɪ.tər.i/ [b2] (n): lãnh thổ

sustainable /səˈsteɪ.nə.bl̩/ [c1] (adj): bền vững

invader /ɪnˈveɪ.dərz/ (n): kẻ xâm lược

resist /rɪˈzɪst/ [c1] (v): chống cự

expel /ɪkˈspel/ (v): trục xuất

exploit /ɪkˈsplɔɪt/ [b2] (v): khai thác

sanction /ˈsæŋkʃən/ [c2] (n): chính sách phê chuẩn

corporation /ˌkɔː.pəˈreɪ.ʃən/ [b2] (n):  tập đoàn

threaten /ˈθret.ən/ [c1] (v): đe dọa

protest /prəˈtest/ [b2] (n):  biểu tình

negotiation /nɪˌɡəʊ.ʃiˈeɪ.ʃən/  [c1] (n): đàm phán

mercury /ˈmɜː.kjʊ.ri/ (n): thủy ngân

conservation /ˌkɒn.səˈveɪ.ʃən/ [b2] (n): bảo tồn

indigenous /ɪnˈdɪdʒ.ə.nəs/ (adj): bản xứ

destructive /dɪˈstrʌk.tɪv/ [b2] (n): phá hủy


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