Some less obvious reasons for why I find myself here, in the Amazon, of all places, and what possible role I may be able to play.
By: Matthew Pike (United Kingdom), YIP
I would like to welcome you into my thoughts and walk you through some less obvious reasons for why I find myself here, in the Amazon of all places and what possible role I may be able to play in places in such need.
This Brazil trip has taken me to many places. We have encountered fascinating individuals doing some of the most important work the Amazon can offer, we have experienced wonderful and heart warming scenery, as well as the stark and complex reminders of destruction, deforestation and political bias.
We have visited indigenous NGO’s, rubber tapping organizations, WWF branches, Agroforestry initiatives and family farms. We have met local environmentalists, lecturers, young people, teachers, communities, indigenous tribe members and local Acreano’s, but for me it kept begging the question: So What?
I am truly gaining a valuable experience: a more comprehensive understanding, but where is the benefit or the long term positive impact that I always dreamed my internship could possess. As I read and hear of my YIP friends building sustainable schools, or going through the first steps in envisioning a much needed community centre, these questions come to the surface, so I would like to share with you my exploration of some possible answers that are beginning to touch on satisfaction.
What I see in this region is a State of much polarity. There is the one side that is striving for progress and economic development as fast as possible and another one living with the values of prevention, conservation and protection.
But where can I and my positive impact align with such a place?
Many things brought me here, on a personal level, it was a book, a Blog and a jog.
While in my hometown of Totnes over Christmas break, I stumbled into The Exchange, a cosy little store near the top of the high street, full of old records, books, instruments and collectables and various other trinkets. I have always liked its scattered and inviting layout and on passing, as always, found my feet dragging me in.
On browsing the shelves of books my eye traced back to Murder in the Rain Forest by Alex Shoumatoff, a book describing the life and times of Chico Mendes- a local environmental hero of Acre. I read the first chapter- its always how I choose whether a book would be of interest, moments later I was at the counter with money in hand.
Whether it was destiny, serendipity, karma, coincidence or just pure chance that four months later I ended up in the very region described in the book, I am unsure of, as well as visiting the very place that Chico grew up in and meeting his relatives- but one thing is for certain; it happened and it helped bring me here.
The other force that played such an influential role in my arrival in such bio-diverse climes, is a Blog. After deciding on Acre for our internship, I came across a Blog of an American named Lou Gold. Now 74 years old, he has been living here for the last five years. Originally from Oregon, he spent most of his life as an environmental activist, a storyteller protecting forests and moved here to protect ‘the most important one of all and tell the stories the world needed to hear’. Such insight resonated in me and to now I have met him, spoken with him and dreamed with him.
The third and final magnet that drew me over the Atlantic was a thirty-minute run in Sweden.
I used to run a lot. I liked it, it gave me space to think, reconnect and feel my body, so as all the stress of organizing this trip mounted, I closed my computer, put down my pen and ran.
I realised then, whilst breathing again, that my personal place in this internship would be to experience and listen and then to share and tell.
Something far greater than personal choice brought me here, so maybe something greater than personal pleasure can emerge and I think for now I need to help spread the stories that exist here, in a region in global need. I feel that can be my place, but is that enough impact?
If through that Oasis finds a place in whatever form, or if through that just maybe someone is inspired to consider his or her future actions, then who knows all I can do is place my piece of the puzzle. The Amazon still has time, but it is now on our watch. How would you like to treat it?
A phrase I have coined (I think) since being here and one I would like to leave you with is this: “The Choices We Make Today, Will Echo In The Amazon Tomorrow”