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Interview

Paul Rosolie: saving the species of the amazon rainforest

"Every daily act can be an act of conservation. (...) Conservationists protect life; they do not stalk it and kill it in cowardice to feel a sense of domination. True conservationists work to protect wilderness for perpetuity, for future generations. Instead of a collection of trophies of the dead, a legacy of protected wild habitats, and future generations and dynasties of wild species, is the true legacy—a measure of reverence for life.

The sadness and darkness of hunting and trapping cannot compare to either the exhilaration of protecting life, so precious and rewarding to witness in full bloom, or of sharing it with future generations through the sanctity of conserved lands. In order to have a place in an Age of Union, one should actively work against these impending extinctions and become a vocal and active leader in local and international conservations."

(Dax Dasilva)

Who doesn't love seeing photos on National Geographic or watching documentaries about bears and wolves, but also elephants, lions, frogs, parrots or whales...right? Wild animals are fascinating, mysterious and inspiring. They inhabit our childhood dreams and games but are also an irreplaceable part of our heritage as inhabitants of earth. This is why we must protect them!

May 15th was the annual endangered species awareness day, a great occasion to remember the importance of taking care of earth’s wildlife and ecosystems. Many of us ask ourselves: “How can we actually make an impact?”, particularly if we are living in a city or travelling in foreign countries. In order to make some sense of all this, we have asked two changemakers, Justine Philippon and Paul Rosolie, to share their tips and inspiring words with us.

Paul Rosolie is an American conservationist and author. His 2014 memoir, Mother of God, detailed his work in the Amazon rainforest in southeastern Peru, where he has focused all of his conservation work for the past 13 years. He is sharing with us an open letter to inspire us to reflect on how important nature is and to which extend we all depend on her. He invites any one of us to protect the environment.

May 15th,

An open letter, by Paul Rosolie @paulrosolie

"Right now, somewhere out there, there are humpback whales singing in the deep. Elephants marching across the savannah, and zillions of tiny insects and other organisms scurrying through the roots and leafs of the world. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine without David Attenborough’s narration, that our world is bursting with life—much of which is at risk of vanishing forever because of human activity. 

After living in the Amazon and other rainforests for over 14 years, it is clear to me the profound effect that animals have on our lives. I watch leaf cutter ants working in the Amazon, or hummingbirds powdered with pollen in the US, or an elephant tearing down foliage in India—all of these micro actions compile to create the health and wealth of our natural world. Zoom out from those leaf cutter ants in the jungle to see the vast steaming Amazon, and its profound influence on our global weather patterns, precipitation, drought, and floods. The rainforest giant creates the weather that provides rainfall that creates rivers capable of irrigating the tremendous South American agricultural industry (and it’s subsequent global export). It all begins at a minute scale, and has everything to do with sunlight and leaf litter, ants, fungus, and the myriad other species that share our world. Our lives are so intimately braided with our wildlife and ecosystems that it is shocking. 

On endangered species day it’s important to reflect on the fact that we wouldn’t be here without other species. More than ever we realize that we are part of a living environment. From dung beetles to deer, ants to elephants, other species have literally engineered the reality we live in—we would not and could not exist without them. It seems outrageous that we forgot this concept the first place. But maybe it’s not that hard to do when 50% of the world’s population lives in cities where the ground is covered in concrete, and food is shipped into stores already packed. From inside these fishbowl-like worlds (cities), we no longer see how Nature provides for us. Our ocean ecosystems provide us with protein in the form of fish. Forests that give us medicines, food, timber, and so many other resources are the result of pollinators (bats, birds, insects), and other complex natural processes. Without forests, our ancestors would have had no wood for houses or shelter, fires to keep them warm, ships to take them across oceans, or books that carried our hard-earned knowledge. In this way our modern lives would never have been possible. It’s so vast and so simple, that it’s almost absurd to write it down—we know all this without ever really thinking of it. 

This year, more than ever before, we’ve seen how a single organism released from the natural order it was confined to, can bring the global economy, and all of our lives, to a screeching halt. But fear is not the reason that we must protect the iconic, beautiful, important, sentient species that we are at risk of losing. 

As our knowledge and compassion create an ever-expanding empathy within our own species in terms of culture, race, religion, ethnicity, and gender—we are approaching a revolutionary moment in how we view other life forms. We now know that animals have feelings just like we do. They experience love, anger, fear, and other complex emotions. They use tools, and even have culture. It’s become a common paradox that we may not be smart enough to understand how intelligent animals truly are.

When we consider endangered species, the ones that we are at risk of losing due to habitat loss, poaching, climate change—it is important to remember not only their ecological role (how they benefit us), but also that these species were here long before we were, they exist for their own reasons, and have just as much of a right, if not more, to the earth as we do. 

What we do know is that we have the greatest, most self-aware brain in the animal kingdom. The question that remains is whether we can recognize our place amongst the other living things of this world, highlight the ones that are most in danger, and do everything we can to protect them. We’ve seen in the past how quickly endangered species can bounce back—usually all we have to do is not allow people to develop and destroy their habitat, or excessively hunt them, and they’ll be fine. Bald Eagles, Humpback whales, and the grey wolf are just a few examples of species that have come back from the edge of oblivion due to focused conservation efforts. 

Today there are more endangered species than ever. Many are close to the edge—at risk of being completely deleted from reality, and added to the names of those gone forever from our world. There is the Pokemon-like Pangolin (the world’s most trafficked animal), to the few Tigers that still prowl the wild, or the Elephant herds across the world that are falling to habitat loss and poaching almost faster than we can count. Some of our most majestic and important species need our attention. 

As I walk through the forest and watch spider monkeys swinging through the trees, or walk beside the elephant herds, I always wonder what they would tell us if they could speak. It’s not to hard to imagine, given what we’ve done to them and their homes. What I do know for certain is that for humans, our civilizations rise and fall on the bounty of the ecosystems that we are currently destroying. And although it’s never been more dire, we’ve never been closer to the global awakening that we so desperately need, to remember our true place in this world."