Familiar Strangers in the Forest

IMG_2054Deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle, an eclectic group spread across rough-hewn benches on a packed-earth floor, sipping fresh-made tea. They were gathered at a new site for conservation and education, the Las Piedras Amazon Center (LPAC). Rain drummed against a large tarp roof as the group of participants, from all over the world, sat elbow-to-elbow:

  • Twelve American college students, from many different disciplines
  • Nine Future Leaders—young Peruvian professionals and college students
  • Six local partners, from scientists to support staff
  • Two volunteers from Europe, accomplished professionals eager to share their expertise

The participants were gathered for a two-day workshop, focused on learning and telling some of the stories of the Madre de Dios rainforest, one of the most biodiverse places on earth. They were gathered to dialogue across political and cultural borders–an important task, requiring both small steps and big leaps of confidence.

The conversation focused on the intersection of ecotourism, sustainable farming, and wildlife conservation and kicked off with a panel discussion led by Dr. Jason Scullion (president of Wild Forest and Fauna), Luis Garcia (president of ARCAmazon), and Romulo (president of Palma Reale). Each panel member shared their nonprofit’s history and its mission.

They explained afresh that the challenges each of their organizations face share many commonalities: their dedication to the region and its diversity, the momentary setbacks their missions have faced, and what they hope to achieve. At each step of the way, they answered many student questions–about sustainability and opportunities, about environmental impact and networking potentials, about the rainforest and its inhabitants.

The incredible work showcased was invigorating; the interest in everyone’s faces was clear. Each new facet of the discussion hinted at the enormous promise the Las Piedras Amazon Center has for bringing far-flung people together.

For the next day of the workshop, everyone moved around and joined one of five different teams. Their objective? Simply to “tell a story, focusing on first impressions of the rainforest with the outside world.”

Introductions began, conversations started. As each group set to work, the writers had to work through different expectations of storytelling, different languages, different experiences and beliefs. Together, they wrote their stories in both English and Spanish, refining them in multiple stages with additional facts and context.

There was back and forth between people who had just met each other for the first time, brought together in an unfamiliar environment by their admiration for the beauty and thrill of the wild. There was a lot of awkward translation and searching for words, sustained by friendly smiles and genuine interest in how the other person saw the world. And as they worked, they discovered how many commonalities they had with each other, how familiar these former “strangers” began to feel.

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The workshop leaders initially thought that everyone would focus on their own stories, their own experiences. While those factors influenced the participants’ storytelling decisions, what was written was more imaginative, more surprising, than they first expected.

Read them here for yourself:

Of course, it’s hard to change the world in just two days of workshops. But stories were written on more than just paper as people shared email addresses and social media contacts. New narratives were written and the groundwork laid for many sequels to come–relationships that would give rise to new plotlines bridging continents, new character arcs in the endeavor to conserve the rainforest and support its inhabitants.

En las colpas – In the claylicks

A collaborative story written during a creative writing workshop between the Forest Online and Wild Forest and Fauna’s Future Leaders program. Written by Jimmy, Jason, Sunshine, Elvis, and Tania.

En las copas

¡Pao!

El sonido del trueno hace temblar la tierra. Su estruendo continúa por toda la selva mientras la lluvia corre entre las hojas y el lodo. La luz del relámpago corta a través del oscuro cielo y revela cada rincón y cada espacio en donde las criaturas salvajes se protegen de la lluvia. La tormenta continúa con toda su furia, señalando el comienzo de la época de lluvia.

A pesar de la fuerza destructiva de la tormenta, la selva se mantiene serena, revelando el balance delicado entre el poder de la Madre Naturaleza y la fragilidad de la jungla. El ecosistema complejo de la selva necesita de este poder para calmar la insaciable sed de vida.

Entre la densidad de la vegetación, gotas de lluvia ruedan cuesta abajo en el caparazón de una tortuga concentrada en sí misma. La anciana tortuga abre sus ojos lenta y curiosamente, observando todo a su alrededor, enfocándose en cada mínimo detalle. Se percató de un detalle inusual, una hoja color turquesa que caía suavemente cerca de ella. El movimiento de la caída no era como el de otras hojas, sino que parecía danzar con la brisa. Después de un momento, la delicada mariposa, disfrazada de hoja, se posó en la espalda de la tortuga, de manera delicada y majestuosa, lo cual cautivó a la tortuga.

La mariposa volaba por la playa, buscando por sales y minerales esenciales para su dieta, tratando de evadir la fuerza pluvial.

Continue reading “En las colpas – In the claylicks”

We’re here!

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The team landed in Lima this evening after a long day of travel. We’re in a hotel next to the airport tonight, then off to Cusco tomorrow. Updates to follow!

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Interested in our itinerary? Here’s a sneak peek:

  • Departure: 10:10 am on Saturday, January 2nd
  • January 3: 8:40 am flight to Cusco and explore city
  • January 4: Visit the Sacred Valley
  • January 5: Machu Picchu
  • January 6: 12 hour bus ride to Puerto Maldonado
  • January 7-8: Stay in local hostel and tour the city/meet with people
  • January 8: truck and boat ride to Las Piedras Amazon Center
  • January 9-13: Forest Online site visits and data collection
  • January 14-17: meet with Future Leaders to talk about storytelling and brainstorm about opportunities and challenges for conservation
  • January 18-21: Wrap up fieldwork
  • January 22: leave Puerto Maldonado 12:55 pm flight to Lima
  • January 23: 3:40 am departure

What’s this all about? Check out the intro post

Fauna are Fun-a

As the title suggests, the animal population of the Amazon is awesome–both in scope and fascinating variety. There is a plethora of species who make the Peruvian Amazon their homeland. Actually, to be a little more specific, there are over 10 million species of plants, insects, and animals–that we know of!–in the Amazon. Such ecological diversity is overwhelming, but also inspiring. Three of us in the the Forest Online decided to focus on learning about some of the animals in the Amazon, and we each wrote a post about the animal we selected, exploring their histories, their quirks, their importance

SAVE THE JAGUAR, SAVE THE FOREST

Ian Yoshiokajaguar4

“I’m keeping my eyes open for the Jaguar because this animal is the symbol of the rainforest. It lives and hunts alone, and is on the struggle in the fight for his life”

The sun rises and sets each day in the Peruvian jungle, and it is the survival of the fittest who see the dawning of each new horizon. Among this lush and vibrant expanse of green rain forestry includes the most abundant sanctuary of biodiversity on the planet. Home to over 1900 species of birds, 500 species of mammals and 300 species of reptiles, it is those that distinguish themselves among the masses that climb their ranks.

Continue reading “Fauna are Fun-a”

People and Planet: Reconciling Conservation Goals with the Needs of Communities

Leaders of two different conservation initiatives in the Las Piedras hanging out with two of the younger members of the Lucerna community
Leaders of two different conservation initiatives in the Las Piedras hanging out with two of the younger members of the Lucerna community (Photo Credit: Casey Kelahan)

“Environmental problems are really social problems anyway. They begin with people as the cause and end with people as the victims.”  – Edmund Hillary

Casey: From the moment that we first sat down to decide on what we would discuss in our blog post, Luke and I knew immediately that we wanted to focus on Lucerna, the community immediately adjacent to ArcAmazon’s Las Piedras Amazon Center. For me, this was driven by a fascination with the dynamic between Lucerna and ArcAmazon, and how their relationship acts as a microcosm of the global challenges of conservation on the frontier. For Luke, well, I’ll let him tell you!

Luke: All of these environmental issues that organizations like ArcAmazon are tackling, at the end of the day, are about people— the people who live there that are affected by all of these things. It’s the community that is impacting the local forest, and on a larger scale, the world. Someone is chopping down these trees and someone is trying to protect them. I want to show both of these stories. 

Map from Wild Forests and Fauna showing the ArcAmazon concession and its proximity to the Lucerna community.
Map from Wild Forests and Fauna showing the ArcAmazon concession and its proximity to the Lucerna community.

Continue reading “People and Planet: Reconciling Conservation Goals with the Needs of Communities”