Extracting Rubber from a Tree


“Always remember you a BRAVER that you believe, STRONGER  than you seem, SMARTER than you think and twice as BEAUTIFUL as you’d ever imagined.” Anon

The last phrase might well apply to the rubber tree in Brazil. The group of which I was a part certainly thought so when by chance we noticed the typical cutting marks made on rubber trees. Since this was just a few meters from the road we could see the white rubber liquid oozing down the tree trunk. This happened as we travelled in the interior of the state of São Paulo between two places where we had lived. But as you might guess, the trees were much younger than us.

We clapped at the gate—not knocking for in Brazil that is the way we might gain entry. I think it was the caretaker that appeared. In any case we made ourselves feel at home—that was easy for Brazilians are so hospitable. He showed us how the tree bark was successively scored in a vee design to drain the rubber into a container. Then we got pictures of number of containers of the dried rubber–the latex solidifies when exposed to the air. The no doubt it ready for a factory there or another country where the processing would take away the stickiness and keep it from spoiling.

Brazil 11,11,11 159

The rubber tree is economically important because the milky latex is the source of natural rubber. In the wild the tree may grow from 100 feet to 130 feet, though in a plantation the rubber tree is smaller due to the extraction of the latex. After about thirty years each tree has diminished production and is cut down. The wood is now being used for making furniture rather than the old system of simply burning it.

The rubber boom from 1879-1912 was not only important for the peoples of the Amazon Basin but attracted the colonists looking to make a fortune. An unfortunate result of the influx of colonists was the decimation of the Indian population through disease and slavery. I read of one plantation with 50,000 Indian workers but a few years later only some 8,000 survived. It is hard to understand how humans could treat others in this way. The abuse, slavery, murder and the use of stocks for torture has been well documented.

By 1879 up to 10,000 tons of rubber was exported a year with Belem and Manaus becoming urban cities. For a time the rubber tree did not adapt well to other areas in the world but when it did cultivation spread through the British colonies and Southeast Asia. That was the end of the rubber boom in Brazil though cultivation and extraction still continue.

Many issues spring to mind as I write. The first is the question, “How could explorers and settlers with the name of Christian treat so terribly the Brazilian Indian population?” My only answer is that those immigrants were Christian in name only. The Brazilian indigenous population needs to be the subject of another blog at another time.

One thing for me is sure, the rubber tree is a complex organism that I believe just did not happen all by itself over the billions of years. That would be an uninformed credulity. My position is that God is the creator of the complex rubber tree and all of nature with science telling us how it was done.

The rubber trees we saw started as seeds sprouting in the ground. It needs care for a number of years and a good deal watchfulness as it produces the rubber latex. Isn’t that the way it is with the Christian life as well? The seed of the Gospel of Salvation is planted and then life springs up through the personal acceptance of Jesus as Saviour and Lord. But watchfulness and care is needed all along life’s way to preserve both faith and productivity. There the similarity ends for when we leave this old world, through Jesus we have hope of Eternal Life. Wow!


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