BLOOD RUBBER - HOW THE AMAZON DIED tells the extraordinary story of one of the blackest episodes in Amazonian history, known as the Putumayo Affair. In 1907, Walter Hardenburg, a young American explorer and engineer, was canoeing slowly down a meandering tributary of the great river, in deepest Amazonia, in search of adventure. The realm of Captain Kurtz’s Apocalypse Now seems tame by comparison with what he found through the mist up ahead.
Hardenburg had entered the rubber domain of Julio César Arana, a rubber fiefdom gone mad – where the only law that counted was the ‘Winchester constitution’: the rifle made all the rules. The native people were routinely enslaved to work the rubber plantations, and flogged, raped and tortured to death if they resisted.
Something snapped inside the young, idealistic Hardenburg when he witnessed these scenes: thousands of native people were being slaughtered to satisfy the West’s insatiable demand for rubber. The rubber extraction methods that produced car tyres, rubber hoses and countless other products relied on an entrenched system of utter barbarism. Hardenburg vowed to seek justice for thousands of victims of the Putumayo atrocities, and to publicise the destruction of their lives and culture across the world.
This is the story of how he did it. Blood Rubber is about the power of one versus the power of the machine … of utter evil versus improbable goodness.