Mercy on these people, and give us a road

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Science  05 Jun 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6239, pp. 1078
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6239.1078

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The only way to get to the frontier town of Puerta Esperanza, Peru, is by infrequent airplane flights or a monthlong river trip through Brazil. Miguel Piovesan, the town priest, says the isolation has left townspeople without access to medical care or modern conveniences. Piovesan wants a road, as do other priests, local small businessmen, and politicians keen to develop the Amazon. But advocates for the environment and for indigenous people decry the plan for the road. If built, it would cut through a long swath of the protected land, and bring a flood of outsiders, pathogens, alcohol, and material goods, they say. In this view, a road will simply destroy the forest on which indigenous people, both isolated and not, depend.

  • * in Puerto Esperanza, Peru. Reporting for this story was supported in part by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.