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What to do about the Amazon?

 
A. Soto
Posts: 34
Location: FL
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Deforestation is, presumably, a major contributor of desertification.

The Amazon Rainforest, as you may know, is one of the largest forests in the world, and is superior in biodiversity to many areas. However, due the unfortunate exploitation and subsequent abuse of this land, it is likely man's careless nature will bring much of this vibrant forest into just another barren wasteland of near-extinction.

It makes me angry when I learn that much of the land that belonged to these trees is now being used haphazardly for Soybean production, where tearing down a rainforest, which naturally keeps itself fertile, causes much of the soil to become incredibly INfertile. Kind of counter-productive and self-destructive on a massive level. These b******s are ripping out the lungs of our planet in order to grow GMO Soybeans to feed cattle so that people at McDonald's can eat styrofoam hamburgers.

But beyond the anger and frustration, I am reminded of Paul's words that I should actually do something about something which makes me angry. And yet... I seem to be unable to think of a way I could directly influence the outcome of this international corporate greed-fueled debacle. I figure, it's highly unlikely I can accomplish a lot on my own, but perhaps with the help of a few million people who feel the same way, it can be done.

I apologize if this has been addressed before. But if there is one thing I can add to the list of "problem places" which invokes the term 'desertification', it's certainly the Amazon.

What are your thoughts? Ideas?

 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Andrew - I hear you - it's frustrating to think about devastation far from us and not being able to do anything about it.

I would suggest a few things - all of them involve action:
--one of the best things you can do is still "think global/act local". Start looking for groups in your area to join with and get real projects in the ground and learn from each other. I know - it's not the Amazon - but landscapes are being degraded all around us. We are more likely to effect change where we are at this point in time, rather than feeling impotent about something far away from us.
--you can also travel to the Amazon and visit/work on one of the many established permaculture sites there.
--you can join local groups that support your views on the Amazon (or start a group if there is nothing local)
--you can be inspired by others doing good work both in the Amazon and around the globe. John D. Liu's site "What if we change" is very inspirational. http://www.whatifwechange.org/magazine/ as are the permie projects around the globe that people post to the Permaculture Research Institute out of Australia http://permaculturenews.org/

The point is - identifying something you can do something about, and then DOING it is going to go a long way in terms of understanding how the healing of any landscape is beneficial. It makes you feel like you are part of the solution - because you ARE. It's too easy to become embittered or angry about power structures. We each have a sphere of influence and we are all creative individuals - combine those two factors and YOU become a tool of change.
 
Brett Andrzejewski
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Location: Buffalo, NY
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"think global/act local", well said Jennifer. I was going to say the same thing. If you don't by soy beans or McDonalds hamburgers you don't give resources to the soy beans and cattle industry that is deforesting the Amazon. Thus, you slow its destruction.

I have asked many many people about how to transition from our degenerative economic model to a regenerative economic model. Over and over again I hear 'live by example'. When you show other people that you have an alternative way of life that saves them money, gives them community and happiness, they say "Oh, I never knew" or "Wow, I didn't think that was possible" lastly "That is a great idea!".

Take the small steps to change the thinking around you and it will go viral.
 
Mike Wong
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Location: Southwest UK, Maritime Temperate climate, Zone 9, AHS Heat Zone 1
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I'd recommend checking these guys out. They are the real deal and they are doing fantastic work to preserve both the Amazon and indigenous culture in Peru: http://alianzaarkana.org
Also check out their sister organisation: http://www.chaikuni-permaculture.org
 
A. Soto
Posts: 34
Location: FL
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Very good; thank you for this information!

And, I definitely do not buy food from McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, and rarely Taco Bell. Most of the food I eat (besides the snacks) is cooked by yours truly

That's true, Jen. It's not just the Amazon. I don't think it would be too hard to find friends who agree about this state of affairs around us. Thankfully, much of the forestry in my area is left alone, save for the major roads running through here.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
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Location: Western Washington
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I hate to disagree with everyone and come off as a downer, but I have been involved in this issue for nearly 20 years and individual action is nowhere near enough. I shall elaborate.

So, going way back into the 90s I was an involved student (thanks too much nat-geo and easy access to good photo atlases - prospective parents beware of these potentially dangerous mind opening influences) who was selected by a non-profit NGO to participate in a program which involved going to the amazon. It involved a year an a half of study, an opportunity to explore the Peruvian Amazon, and a commitment to returning to the US and doing at least a year of advocacy and out reach, In my case I put together a slide show (complete with maps) which I must have presented to 4 or 5 thousand people over the course of 20 months - Mostly elementary and middle school classes around the state, but I had some large community speaking events of 200 or so. Flying over Brazil was one of the most mind blowing experiences I have ever had (flight in general being pretty damn intense) I could look down and see the deforestation in process. The creeping edge and pillars of smoke. Mind you this is 15 years ago. There was probably 15 good years of advocacy proceeding this event too. Companies (such as McDonnalds) are exceptionally good at maintaining and increasing market share both domestically and abroad. When I lived in Austria (several years later) the most popular place to hang out for rich highschoolers? McDonalds. When I was studying in Egypt - the truly hip upper scale joint? KFC (because lets face it even rich Egyptians can't afford to eat beef). And fast food is just one of the issues. There are other export monocrops to consider (coffee anyone?). And illegal timber harvesting (which ends up on western markets) oh and manufacturing. All those cars and car parts made in Brazil are largely made from pig iron melted and cast with good ol' rainforest charcoal.

What I'm saying is that this is a HUGE problem (and not just limited to the Amazon) which will not be fixed by 'personal life chooses' Trust me. I have been making conscientious life choices for Longer than I've been legally countable for my actions. Things just keep getting WORSE. This and other issue necessitate real organization and action via official channels. There needs to be a change in law which gives priority to biodiversity and functioning ecosystems instead of big business and perpetual economic 'growth' (anyone else significantly poorer now than they where in the 90s?)

This is not to discourage taking responsibility for ones own actions or deny that 'thinking globally and action locally' is a positive step. But it is not going to every achieve the critical mass to change policy unless it includes DEMANDING A CHANGE IN POLICY.

Alright I hope that readable, I apologize for the rant - but my experience in the Amazon is one of the things that cemented my life path and turned me into such a right uncompromising bastard when it comes to issues of global and ecological justice. It also has completely frustrated and jaded me to the point where real change seems impossible because despite the efforts of many to further understanding the machine is seemingly unstoppable. The machine doesn't care. It is up to We/US to change to laws to make these things illegal because they will continue to be profitable well into the future at the expense of us all.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Landon - it sounds like your time in the Amazon had a similar effect on you as my time in drylands. You see how truly bad it is. And I have been active in dryland rehydration for many, many years and continue to do so.

I also get what you're saying about the need to go beyond thinking locally, making personal decisions, etc. HOWEVER - the vast majority of people out there like to bemoan our fate and do little (even with their personal choices) to make change. I've seen/heard so many people whine away about the continued water issues that the SW USA is facing - yet these same people go home and water their lawns, take 20 minute showers and swim in their private swimming pools - WTH?? I've also seen people wake up to the fact that their personal choices matter and come to advocacy through that enlightened state simply because they have seen that they are making a difference and seen the power of that change, rather than sitting idly by and adding to the ceaseless blather of "OMG what are we going to do!?!?!" That, to me is a monumental waste of time. Give me one person who shortens their shower by 5 mins, empties their dishwater on a tree or uses non-toxic soaps and I am delighted.

Finally - advocacy is HUGE - I am in complete agreement with that. However, I would request that if you are going to advocate for advocacy - be as clear and helpful about it as possible and list some organizations that folks can get behind and why you think these are good organizations - especially as you seem to have a lot of experience in this arena. That would go a long ways towards engaging and directing efforts.

So I will do my own part here. If you are interested in the INCREDIBLE difference water harvesting can make in drylands - no matter where you live - please be sure to check out Watershed Management Group out of Tucson, AZ. They are a top ranked non-profit and do exceptional work both in the SW USA and in various parts of Asia and Africa. And they've done a lot to change water policy as well. If nothing else, make a donation. Arizona is on the cutting edge of water harvesting technology and it is being spread worldwide to halt the spread of desertification and regenerate arid lands. It's incredible work and I'm glad I live where I live so I can be part of it all. They also offer well recognized training in water harvesting with their Water Harvesting Certification (some scholarships available), and advanced training like urban stream restoration and green infrastructure.
 
wayne stephen
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Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
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When Daniel Boone crossed the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky he wrote that one could have walked across the region in the trees and never touch the ground . Within a few decades the entire state was clear cut , mostly to fuel the iron furnaces . The original tree biome was birch , poplar , oak . There is not one stand of original old growth left . A 200 year old 50 acre stand still exists near Mammoth Cave. Now the tree mixture is mostly maple , sycamore , ash , oak. The clear cutting still continues nationwide . As Jennifer points out we can not stop the desertification of our own deserts . We are six percent of the earths population and consume sixty percent of its resources . Until we get our own household in order we have no right to dictate to other nations how to manage their resources . What to do about the Amazon ? That is up to those nations inhabitants . Americans and other Westerners can set a better example that is for sure .
 
Shane McKee
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Location: Northern Ireland
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I kinda agree with what everyone is saying here. There are multiple issues; individual action is not going to fix things, and as someone said in a recent "Infinite Monkey Cage" podcast (BBC Radio 4), humans are like the Japanese knotweed of the mammalian world. We actually don't have time to fix these by the piecemeal means of reducing demand for product, and to be honest we can't do it by small scale application of permaculture principles (brown of course). Instead (or, rather, as well as) we need to be putting in place the sort of large scale ecosystem rehabilitation that John D Liu has described in several regions. I've blogged about this briefly, and in the video at the end geoff lawton makes an appearance too. The stuff the Chinese Government and World Bank have done (very cheaply) on the Loess Plateau and the very small scale stuff that is being done in Jordan are prime examples of how this problem can be turned around, while improving livelihoods, food production, business opportunites etc. And if it can be done in these places (especially Jordan), it can be pretty much done anywhere on the planet.

But you know all that What I think we lack is a mechanism for taking this up to the next level - beyond farm or even community to large-scale. And that's why we need more people to be thinking along the lines of Liu and Lawton and taking this up the ladder to the big boys and girls in government.
 
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