Why My Journey To Ecuador’s Rainforest Left An Imprint On Me .. and a BIG Holiday Giveaway..

– Posted in: Garden Travels, Sustainable Gardening

In my last post, I showed photos of the time I spent in the Andes Mountains with an indigenous community. When we got on the bus and waved goodbye, after being recipients of their hospitality and warmth for 2 days, I didn’t want to leave. I felt that spending another week on the land and with this community would be nourishment for my body and soul.

The next leg of the journey – and the reason why all of us had trekked so far – was to spend time in the rainforest and with the indigenous tribe, the Achuar.

Kapawi Lodge – Achuar Operated – In The Rainforest

In order to get to where they live, we needed to take a 9 seat plane and then a motorized canoe trip. There is no other access.

I jumped at the chance to sit next to the pilot. I had a full frontal view as we entered the rainforest. Gazing at the massive canopy of green  abutting the river, I felt like I had touched a piece of heaven.

Ecuador Rainforest

Why was it so important that we spend time with the Achuar? This indigenous tribe of 6000, live on their ancestral land – nearly 2 million acres. They’ve been able to preserve their way of life without a lot of influence or colonization from the outside world where they reside- straddling the borders of Ecuador and Peru.

They’ve lived in and with the Amazon rainforest for thousands of years. Their wisdom represents an invaluable resource for organizations and people concerned with the loss of this irreplaceable treasure.

David Tucker – trip leader – of Pachamama Alliance, and Roman – Achuar leader and our rainforest guide.

 

Achuar children

As custodians of the rainforest, the Achuar maintain a rich culture, including systems of economic and social organization based on the intricate natural rhythms of their environment.

Achuar women and children listen as their community leader and elder speak.

`All aspects of their culture reflect a spirituality oriented around dreams and visions. They have many ancient, refined rituals to access dreams and integrate them into daily life. Shamans, as the keepers of this ritual knowledge, play a central role in Achuar ceremonial life and community health. The Shaman who we visited, Raoul, had been in his community for 40 years. By most, he is considered a legend.

Raoul, a shaman for 40 years, in his home.

Throughout their history, the Achuar have been self-sufficient and autonomous, sustaining their family groups through hunting and gardening. Once semi-nomadic people, most of them now live in small villages, a result of contact with Christian missionaries in the 1960s.

Much of Western culture perceives indigenous self sustaining tribes as backward, primitive, and living in poverty. I bet if you spent time with them, as I have, you would walk away feeling that these people live an extraordinarily rich life – with a profound connection to nature. Their intuition, breadth of knowledge of the natural world, and reverence for the plants that protect and keep them alive is awesome. To be in their presence filled me with grace.

AMAZON RAINFOREST

The Amazon rain forest is considered to be one of the richest and most complex communities of plant and animal life in the world. The region is characterized by huge and diverse amounts of flora and fauna with extraordinary variations in their habitats and micro­ habitats.

Ecuador’s Rainforest

FACTS ABOUT THE AMAZON RAINFOREST

The Amazon Rainforest represents 54% of the total rainforest left on the planet

More than half of the world’s estimated ten million species of plants, animals, and insects live in the tropical forest.

70% of plants with anti-cancer properties are only found in the rainforest.

An estimated 90% of Amazon rainforest plants used by natives have not been studied by modern science.

The number of edible fruits found in the rainforest is estimated to be 3,000. Amazon natives consumer more than 1,500 but only 200 are cultivated for use today.

More than half of the world’s estimated 10 million species of plants, animals, and insects live in the rainforest.

An estimated 2,700 MILLION ACRES of the rainforest are burned each year.

The total number of Amazon natives living in the rainforest today is estimated to be 250,000. They comprise 215 ethnic groups and speak 170 different languages.

View of lagoon at Achuar operated Kapawi Lodge in the rainforest

OIL RIGHTS THREATEN THE EXISTENCE OF THE RAINFOREST ~ AND THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT.

As I write this post, Ecuador’s government is moving forward with the next phase of the 11th Oil Round, opening up 10 million acres of pristine rainforest to petroleum companies.

“For Ecuador—an OPEC-member whose oil output has hovered around 500,000 barrels per day in the past few years—the oil industry represents an important source of revenue. The country hopes to attract investments worth around $1 billion in oil exploration projects from state-run and private companies. Additionally, state-run oil company Petro-ecuador plans to negotiate with foreign state companies to develop three other blocks in the area.

David Martin, CEO of Gente Energy—formally of Ivanhoe Energy who has run into major trouble in Ecuador—proclaimed the small Andean country would be “the next Kuwait.”

“This is simply a bad investment,” said Kevin Koenig, Ecuador Program Coordinator at Amazon Watch. “Ecuador is selling off its last remaining rainforests and indigenous lands to the highest bidder. These are some of the most controversial blocks in the Amazon, companies must realize they are purchasing a problem that will only get worse. If there is this much resistance at the outset of the round here today, imagine what will happen if a company shows up in a community with an oil rig.”

The contested oil blocks have a long legacy of controversy. Under former President Lucio Guitierrez, Ecuador attempted to offer up many of these same blocks only to find no bidders. Two blocks were previously held by ARCO, Burlington Resources, CGC and ConocoPhillips, but indigenous resistance kept company works out, forcing the government to declare force majeure and paralyzing the projects for nearly a decade. Ultimately, Ecuador had to compensate the companies for lost revenue and the companies endured major damage to their brands.

Hundreds of indigenous people gathered outside the Marriott Hotel in Quito on November 29th at the VII Annual Meeting of Oil and Energy where the Ecuadorian government announced the opening of the XI Round, an oil auction in which 13 oil blocks went on sale covering nearly eight million acres of rainforest in the Amazonian provinces of Pastaza and Morona Santiago near the border with Peru.”  ( photo above and article on oil rights are courtesy of Pachamama Alliance)

You can help prevent the President of Ecuador from selling the rights for drilling by signing a petition on Pachamana Alliance’s website.

If you want to learn more about a New York Times reporter’s journey to Ecuador’s Rainforest with Pachamama’s David Tucker, click here.

A FANTASTIC HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY

This is a giveaway you don’t want to miss. The folks at Water Fountain Place are offering  a Three Tier Decorative Fountain.

Three Tier Decorative Fountain Birdbath

Not only does the fountain bring a beautiful focal point and soothing element of water into your garden but it is a source of water for birds .

Its durable resin construction allows this fountain to withstand intense temperature conditions for your prolonged fountain enjoyment. The fountain weights 8 pounds and is 35″ high. It comes with a recirculating electric pump. Only U.S. residents are eligible to enter the contest.

In order to participate, all you need to do is sign up for GGW’s updates, leave a comment at the end of this post, tweet and FB the link from this post.

The contest will end Wednesday, December 5th at 11:59 pm. One person will be randomly picked. The lucky winner will have the fountain shipped directly to then from Water Fountain Place.

Fran Sorin
The 10th Anniversary Edition of Fran's classic book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, has recently been published. Updated with a new foreword by the renowned author, Larry Dossey, M.D., it has dozens of endorsements from renowned spiritual, gardening, and personal development authors and experts in their fields. A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology and One Spirit Interfaith Seminary, Fran is a renowned gardening expert, passionate gardener, deep ecologist, inspirational speaker, ordained interfaith minister, soul tending coach, and CBS Radio news contributor. See less Google+ | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

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Comments on this entry are closed.

Jeanie December 2, 2012, 6:41 am

Important info on the rainforest destruction and the native people, thanks

Jenny C December 2, 2012, 7:53 am

Your trip looks amazing. I don’t think I would be brave enough to explore the world like you are doing. Keep doing the good work that you do so well. Best wishes!

Celeste December 2, 2012, 8:34 am

Thanks! I’ve signed and sent their letter and “liked” them on Facebook. This is important for a sustainable world.

Fran Sorin December 2, 2012, 8:39 am

Jenny-
It was beyond amazing! Sure you could go on this type of trip if you wanted. Just listen to your instincts and you’ll start getting some information. I talk about why I made the decision to go on my blog, Awake Create. Here’s the link- http://www.awakecreate.com/how-your-intuition-guides-you-in-making-life-decisions/

Thanks for taking the time to read the post (and pass on the word to friends). :) Fran

Fran Sorin December 2, 2012, 8:40 am

Jeanie-
You’re welcome. I’m glad you found it worthwhile. Fran

Fran Sorin December 2, 2012, 8:42 am

Celeste –
YEH!! I’m so glad that you took this action. Your signature does make a difference. Thank you. Fran

Linda Jones December 2, 2012, 9:19 am

I’m glad to hear that native people gave the oil companies so much resistance. It’s a cinch that none of us live in countries that care about people or sustainability.

Fran Sorin December 2, 2012, 10:04 am

Hi Linda –
Yes, it says a lot about their spirit that they are willing to fight for their land and people. We have A LOT to learn from them. I always thought that I was eco-sensitive. Guess what? Since returning from my journey, I am much more aware and trying to clean up my act. I feel better about myself, more of a responsible citizen, and know that i’m making a difference. Thanks for commenting. Fran

carolyn December 2, 2012, 10:29 am

Fran, a trip of a lifetime! Thank you for sharing.

Patty D December 2, 2012, 12:40 pm

Brava!

Karlyn December 2, 2012, 1:03 pm

Thank you for the interesting post. It’s vital that we educate and invest in alternative energies.

Elle December 2, 2012, 2:09 pm

Fran, what an amazing experience you had. And you, kiddo, are one amazing woman. I’m honoured to know you. Just love what you’re doing.

Love Elle
xoxo

Cathy December 2, 2012, 2:16 pm

Fran, I have long lamented the destruction of the rainforests and can not fathom that the Ecuadorean government doesn’t see this incredible resource as their most valuable and important treasure. The people, animals, insects, aquatic life and plants who live there are blessed to have you as their advocate. I hope I am able to support your very important work at some point with something more meaningful than quiet though heartfelt praise and words of encouragement.

Fondly, Cathy

Jason December 2, 2012, 2:26 pm

An amazing journey and an alarming story about the planned oil development in the rain forest. It is inspiring that the indigenous folks are fighting the loss of their lands. I hope they can be successful. My older son spent six months living in Quito working with homeless street kids. He was shaken by the degree of poverty – much worse than Mexico where he has also spent a lot of time.

Amy Jarratt December 2, 2012, 3:06 pm

Very beautiful place & must be saved. You’re doing good work

Paige | Simple Mindfulness December 2, 2012, 3:14 pm

Fran,

Your journey to the Amazonian rainforest reminded me so much of the month and a half that I spent in the Costa Rican rainforest. Your descriptions of the people and how they live are very similar. I would say that these are some of the richest people in the world! When I returned to the US, the excess that we live with was so obvious.

I’m so blessed to have had the chance to live with them and experience their culture. And, YES!, anyone can do this. It’s really not difficult.

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with the Achuar! I completely understand how it’s almost impossible to turn your experiences into mere words and pictures.

Paige | Simple Mindfulness December 2, 2012, 3:18 pm

I also signed the Pachamama Alliance’s letter to the President of Ecuador on their site! This is so important!!

Fran – Thanks for your leadership!!

Lee Nora Regus December 2, 2012, 4:50 pm

Thank you for the very informative article. I’m really sorry my ancestors weren’t left alone here in North America 400 years ago; they were doing pretty well and living in harmony with their land and resources as well. I wish someone would promote leave your car in the garage days so we could all use less oil, kinda like my children’s pre-school used to have “No TV Days”. Most of us are guilty of wasting oil, your article makes me ashamed of my frivolous car outings! Need to plan better!!! Thank You

Donna December 2, 2012, 6:48 pm

I did not realize the country was up for bid! It is a shame they want to sell off blocks to oil conglomerates, but a glimmer of hope that the people are putting up resistance. Having been in the rainforest myself for a full summer (our summer) and seeing first hand the animals and plants to be found, so much that we don’t even know about is yet to be found. What a shame to the future of medicine if there is a loss due to our excessive greed of oil. Nice giveaway too. I already am a subscriber though.

Fran Sorin December 2, 2012, 11:17 pm

Thanks Amy! Fran

Fran Sorin December 2, 2012, 11:22 pm

Paige-
I thought I was a minimalist before the trip- since Ive returned home, I am paring down on stuff that I have and am focused on paying attention to each moment. I know how much your trip to Ecuador meant to you- you’ve mentioned it a few times on your blog. Thanks for your input. Fran

Fran Sorin December 2, 2012, 11:25 pm

Donna-
I think that once you’ve been in the rainforest, your appreciation of the necessity of it becomes visceral.

It’s no problem that you’re already a subscriber – You can still participate in the giveaway. You just need to tweet and FB the link to this story. :) Fran

Fran Sorin December 2, 2012, 11:28 pm

Lee Nora-
I love your idea about ‘Leave Your Car In The Garage Day’. Since moving to the city a few years ago, and being without a car, I feel much freer and more responsible. I bike, walk, or take buses to where I need to go. BUT if I was back in the suburbs, it would be a challenge. You’re right- all of us are way over the top when it comes to our natural resources. Thanks for chiming in. Warmly, Fran

Fran Sorin December 2, 2012, 11:30 pm

Thanks for your kind words Elle. xxoo-Fran

Fran Sorin December 2, 2012, 11:31 pm

Patty- Thank you!

Fran Sorin December 2, 2012, 11:31 pm

Carolyn-
It’s my pleasure. Fran

Fran Sorin December 2, 2012, 11:34 pm

Karlyn-
I agree. Part of the problem is – me included – that we talk the talk but don’t walk the walk enough. Since returning from the trip, I am focusing on my daily behavior. I long ago became a person who only bought clothes when necessary. BUT there are plenty other areas of my life that I need to work on. Fran

Fran Sorin December 2, 2012, 11:39 pm

Jason-
I give your son credit for committing to 6 months working with homeless street kids in Quito. I spent a few nights there and only got a glimpse of the people and city. The degree of poverty, I think 5 million citizens, is one of the reasons the president says he is bidding off the oil rights. It’s still a lousy economic strategy.

Your son sounds like an incredible young man. Warmly, Fran

Fran Sorin December 2, 2012, 11:42 pm

Cathy-

I know how strongly you feel about the environment. I appreciate your support more than you know.

If you can get the word out to your friends, readers of your blog, on FB, Twitter, etc. about the situation and urge them to sign the petition at http://www.pachamama.org, you’ll be making a significant contribution. Fondly, Fran

Sheila Schultz December 3, 2012, 12:57 am

Oh Fran… I finally am having some quiet time to go thru my mail. I had noticed your post about Ecuador and it was the first I wanted to read. You visited with the Achuar, too?!? What an amazing people, and what a gift it was for me to have the opportunity to meet with the elder’s and the community. Life is pretty curious… and the flight in and out was a delightful adventure! Be well.

Fran Sorin December 3, 2012, 4:05 am

Sheila,
Why am I not surprised that you were in Ecuador’s rainforest and met with the Achuar? When things settle down a bit for me, I want to hear more about your journey. Fondly, Fran

bev December 3, 2012, 5:23 am

Amazing statistics about the rainforest. Thanks for this important post.

Fran Sorin December 3, 2012, 11:33 pm

My pleasure Bev.