This past month Slate wrote about the “most isolated man on the planet,” the sole remaining member of an Amazonian tribe, living a solitary existence in the jungle. Obviously, dozens of people may be choosing to live in remote locations by themselves — the difference is that this man’s isolation is not a conscious decision. Rather than seeking contact, Brazilian authorities are managing the surrounding area so as to prevent outside influence from disrupting his way of life — the whole scenario is slightly Truman Show-esque.
The most isolated man on the planet will spend tonight inside a leafy palm-thatch hut in the Brazilian Amazon. As always, insects will darn the air. Spider monkeys will patrol the treetops. Wild pigs will root in the undergrowth. And the man will remain a quietly anonymous fixture of the landscape, camouflaged to the point of near invisibility.
That description relies on a few unknowable assumptions, obviously, but they’re relatively safe. The man’s isolation has been so well-established—and is so mind-bendingly extreme—that portraying him silently enduring another moment of utter solitude is a practical guarantee of reportorial accuracy.
He’s an Indian, and Brazilian officials have concluded that he’s the last survivor of an uncontacted tribe. They first became aware of his existence nearly 15 years ago and for a decade launched numerous expeditions to track him, to ensure his safety, and to try to establish peaceful contact with him. In 2007, with ranching and logging closing in quickly on all sides, government officials declared a 31-square-mile area around him off-limits to trespassing and development.