A Letter from [South] America – with permission from Deepa
Amaru, Manari, Francisco, and …… Deepa
I thought readers would enjoy this……
Hi everyone :). Here follows a story on my recent ventures to the Amazon Rainforest! Above is a photograph of myself with Manari, leader of the Sapara people and also a map of the area where he lives, Block 79+83.
Amazon: As a child, this word conjured up images of endless miles of pristine rainforest, that called to me in a way that I could not explain….and it has been calling me ever since! As a sensitive teenager in the 1980s, at the height of destruction awareness, much time was spent dreaming of my part in rebuilding people’s connection with nature and in halting this madness. 30 years on and this call became so strong, that I finally realised the vision of connecting with this great forest and flew to Ecuador with the Pachamama Alliance in February 2016.
The Pachamama Alliance is an extraordinary group of individuals, who have created a bridge between the forest’s indigenous people and the Western World. The story of how it came into existence might be challenging for some, although the truth remains as it is. An intact warrior tribe, the Achuar, deeply connected to the earth and to the forest and to their own spirituality, saw the horror that oil exploration had brought to neighbouring tribes and they began to have visions and dreams of the trouble that western civilisation would bring to their own lands. A prophesy vision was seen whereby the Eagle (representing science and the Western world) and the Condor (representing spirit and the people of the rainforest) would meet and fly together, in order to change the capitalist dream that was destroying our planet. The Achuar decided to turn to face and to greet that which they feared. So they reached out….and the universe put them in touch with an incredible group of activists whose courage and commitment birthed the formation of a partnership. A partnership so strong, that it has prevented oil exploration in Achuar territory for the last 20 years!
This courage and commitment has been tested time and again and never more than the present day. When I arrived in Quito at the beginning of February, it was in the knowledge that a 20 year contract had just been signed in the previous week by Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa, with China Andes Oil, for Block 79+83 of the Amazon Rainforest. This part of the South Central Amazon is legally owned by the Sapara Nation, direct neighbours to the Achuar people. This contract is VOID, given the 2008 Constitution of Ecuador, which was first in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature.
Article 71-74 prohibits the extraction of non-renewable resources in protected areas. And Block 79+83, Sapara territory, is a 2001 UNESCO recognised, world heritage site for the planet.
Last week, I had the privilege of meeting with Manari, the president of the Sapara Nation, along with our Pachamama group. Manari’s land is only accessible by light aircraft…..there are no roads into this untouched part of the world. Our Pachamama group was hosted at Naku, a Sapara project committed to preserving and sharing Sapara culture. The Sapara people are keen to share their knowledge of healing and also of the medicinal plants of the forest, many of which remain uncatalogued. Clinical trials are currently being conducted on their treatment of cancer at San Francisco University, with promising results! There is so much healing potential within Block 79+83 and this belongs to ALL of us.
As a tiny lady of Indian heritage, I was somewhat in awe of Manari, a giant of a man with hands like dinner plates that were bigger than my head! His strength and power were directly sensed, although his manner was always very soft and gentle. The Sapara are heart-led folk, very open and welcoming and my time at Naku, just over 10 days ago is still strongly with me. The energetic connections between everything that is there – the trees, the birds, the insects, the water, the people, the sounds, the mists, and the heat – is still all with me. Some of you will have seen the photos I have posted on Facebook and hopefully will get a sense of what words can only clumsily convey. The Amazon was everything I had hoped it would be and more!
And yet China Andes Oil is due to conduct seismic oil exploration here, this Tuesday 8th March. If oil is found, then will come mass felling of the jungle and destruction of the astonishing biodiversity that I have seen first-hand, in order to build roads and the infrastructure for oil extraction. This CANNOT happen.
Belen, Manari’s partner, and a respected political activist in South America in her own right, has been working tirelessly with the Pachamama Alliance, to raise funds for a three pronged rebuttal to any planned oil developments. These are:
Women-led peace camps at the front line. Grass roots communications via transistor radios in the jungle, in order to get the latest news out to the wider world. Remember that small planes are the only transport into and out of this region!
An excellent legal team is working on the inadequate and inappropriate consultation with Sapara people, who legally own and live from the land. Also exercising Nature’s right to legal protection, as stated in the 2008 Ecuadorian Constitution.
Core support for indigenous leaders. To work through the government instigated divisions in communities (attempting to divide and conquer), by providing education and information.
Belen and Manari and the Sapara people, need all of our support, to continue to protect that which belongs to ALL of us. If you have a Twitter account, please follow me (https://twitter.com/DeepsShetty) and like and retweet posts for #Block79+83 in the coming days. If you don’t have a Twitter account, please get one here (https://twitter.com/signup. Literally takes 30 seconds to start tweeting!). Twitter is the fastest and most efficient way to get a collective voice on chosen campaigns and your help would be greatly appreciated to spread this word! Funds are also always urgently needed, for equipment and access in this remote location (donations can be made to the Pachamama Alliance here: https://www.pachamama.org/donate). Anything you are able to give in these difficult of times, would be very gratefully received and put to immediate use in protecting this precious part of our world.
There is no other story like this one on the planet. Where an intact, indigenous culture has initiated contact with Westerners, in order to create allies and ambassadors for the jungle, helping the Achuar and Sapara and their neighbours to defend the forest for ALL of us. The lungs of the world.
All of us can make a difference to help the planet.
Please turn your attention to #Block79+83 for the next week and beyond – here’s a short clip from Manari himself:
Yours in friendship
Deepa aka “Matsakau”, Sapara for Trumpet Bird!
Please comment and also share…. Thanks. Ian
And there is more:
Here’s the link to Facebook album Ecuador 2016: