Don’t forget to sign up to follow our blog–exciting things are happening. Translations into Spanish are coming soon.
Thwack, Thwack, ThwackThwack, Thwack. As we paddled home from a long day’s work conducting forest surveys, a Peruvian mother in her late twenties beat the side of our canoe. Looking across the floodplain lake that her family has fished for at least the past hundred years, she stared at a commercial fishing group. Governmental and economic pressures had combined to erode local laws that prohibited this type of commercial fishing. Agitated, she commented, “I hope they get all the fish this year, and be done with it.” And then she went back to pounding the side of the canoe, attempting to drive the fish into the swamps, into safety from the large commercial nets.
The rural landscapes and communities of the Peruvian Amazon face increasing pressures, remain far removed from effective government services, and are poorly understood. Located within the watershed of one of the world’s largest bodies of freshwater and greatest sources of biodiversity they are both particularly vital to global sustainability and increasingly vulnerable. Extractive industries and the continued violence and incursion of illegal activities (ranging from illegal timbering and mining to coca growing) threaten local sustainability, landscape scale resilience, and the livelihoods of local residents. By virtue of their urban-based positions, scientists, policy makers, and development specialists most often remain far removed from the realities they study and manage. At the same time, the rural residents who hold critical knowledge and lived experience remain marginalized by their urban counter-parts. Not only does this decrease the effectiveness of conservation and development ideas, it leaves the residents disenfranchised and vulnerable, willing to take risks that in the extreme can leave them sick, in prison, in indentured servitude, caught as modern slaves in the sex trade, and/or simply facing lives in which they feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel, no hope for future–as many have commented, just surviving-not living-not thriving, frustrated in their attempts to contribute to the betterment of our world.
Together as nine communities located in the district of Sarayacu, Loreto, Peru, university students, and urban based and international scientists, we have created a multi-pronged approach to carry out research directly relevant to the resilience, sustainable development and conservation of the area, to increase residents voice in policy and management conversations, to increase educational opportunities, and to develop sustainable legal alternatives to current activities. This collaboration will contribute significantly scientific understanding of this important and extensive geographic area, strengthen conservation efforts, help create sustainable alternatives to illegal and/or unsustainable activities, and inform local and regional policy. As such, it will directly contribute to long-term resilience, create a replicable model for use in other regions, and empower local people with new tools, networks, and resources so that they can thrive as individuals and communities and bring their knowledge, creativity, and passion to better our shared world.