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”

01/08/2016. Dear Diary…

A collaborative story written during a creative writing workshop between the Forest Online and Wild Forest and Fauna’s Future Leaders program. Written by Cris, Elizabeth, Lucy, and Antenor.

Dear Diary,

Today I felt so privileged to be here in the Amazon Rainforest. Not everyone has this amazing opportunity to be here in the jungle. To be here, see the sights, smell the scents, and experience the Las Piedras River.

Today we arrived in the Amazon at 9 am after traveling by peki-peki 40 miles up the river from Puerto Maldonado with my friends

I felt so blessed to travel with my friends and feed my adventurous spirit that has been confined for too long. I cannot wait to open my mind to the beauty of this jungle. I’ve lived in Perú all my life but have never explored this river. I have heard people speak of this place and now I get to actually see it for myself. I cannot wait to take a walk through the dense jungle and see the biodiversity of the animals, but I also am also excited to be in such a remote place that has a booming population of trees instead of people.

We woke up very early in the morning, took a lengthy trip across the vast river and journeyed for a long, muddy, hilly walk in the Biodiversity capital of the world. Our destination…the acclaimed Macaw claylick.

Continue reading “01/08/2016. Dear Diary…”

Forest Protection Team–Field Update

Cris:

Few words can describe the emotional impact of coming across a clear cut field in the middle of a dense, lush, green jungle. Astonishment, bewilderment, and intense sadness were just some of the things we felt as we crossed the stream at the edge of Hoja Nueva’s property and the formerly forested hills came into view. Row upon row of neatly planted, yellow-green corn stalks jutted from the landscape, reflecting the brutal rays of the Amazon sun back into our eyes. It was so different from the soft green and blue light that filters through the thick forest canopy that we’d become so accustomed to. Beneath our feet, the grey dust of the soil and the charred skeletons of 400-year-old trees crunched and snapped.

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Photo taken by Dr. Jason Scullion

It was difficult to see these once noble giants of the forest felled and dry – and for what purpose? To plant the same species of the same crop over and over again. These crops will then produce for only a few years, depleting the soil of essential nutrients in the process and leaving it barren and open to the harsh sun so that no new life can sprout up.

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Community Team Field Update–Lessons from the Quechuan Caiman

The Community Team spent three days learning about how environmental and sociopolitical issues within Peru affect ARCAmazon and Lucerna. Both during that time and outside of it, they had the pleasure of expanding their knowledge and vocabulary, sometimes while interacting with dangerous critters. They each chose something that stuck out to them to share with all their lovely readers.

Photo by Luke Fisher
Photo by Luke Fisher

Swim Calmly
Luke

“I’m going to place it on the bank and it’s going to calmly swim into the water,” said Harry Turner, our intrepid badass wildlife expert as he clutched onto a hissing caiman. The caiman, a small crocodilian creature with razor sharp teeth and a snapping bite that could easily take off a human finger or hand, had scales so hard the only thing my imagination could compare it to was dragons I had seen in video games or movies.

Continue reading “Community Team Field Update–Lessons from the Quechuan Caiman”

The Tourist Gaze: Unrealistic Expectations

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http://www.nathab.com/central-america/costa-rica-adventure/

Lucy and Elizabeth write about their thoughts on the benefits and concerns associated with Ecotourism, a rapidly expanding industry, which ARCAmazon will utilize in order to conserve the Peruvian Rainforest.

As government officials construct the Estrada de Pacifico, an extensive highway plan which extends from Brazil through the rainforest to the coast of Peru, many environmentalists are concerned about the effects the road will have on the Amazon. Constructing such a road will lead to higher rates of deforestation, which already destroys more than 150 acres lost every minute of every day. The highway could also increase the threat of gold mining illegal logging extraction of the forest resources there is also the threat of farmers entering the forest and using slash and burn agriculture, to destroy mass amounts of trees and natural habitats, to create nutrient rich soil for farming.

Without a plan for conservation and protection the future of the Amazon rainforest remains in jeopardy. By utilizing the resources of scientific experts, and collaborating with community members organizations like ARC Amazon can play an effective and significant role in the protection of the rainforest. It is crucial that ARC Amazon is aligning themselves in the best way possible both ethically and environmentally as they introduce tourists to the Peruvian jungle. Ecotourism provides ARC Amazon the credentials to be an environmentally friendly tourist destination, which will appeal to both environmentally concerned enthusiasts and explorers alike. To advertise as an ecotourist destination, It is essential that ARC Amazon creates sustainable profit while educating and promoting the values of conservation and research.  Fortunately the Amazon rainforest provides numerous opportunities for  ARC Amazon to fulfill the criteria of being an ecotourist friendly centre.

Continue reading “The Tourist Gaze: Unrealistic Expectations”

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”