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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Slashed and Burned

Sitting in an empty field
Feeling the ashes beneath my fingertips
Acknowledging the absence of life
Understanding the flourish that is to come

The buzzing around my ears makes me tick. I can feel the hot humid heat entering my lungs, enveloping my unacclimated body.

The path I took here is a tricky one- hard to understand, yet overwhelmingly simple.

Itchy, uncomfortable, sweaty in the beginning.

A jungle of chlorophyll green by the end, vibrating love.

Trees born before my ancestors stand majestically with stability and strength. Insects of magnificent colors adorn every leaf. It smells fresh, wild, alive.

That is until the trail opens up, and the smoky remains of the field before me sting my nose.

The field where I sit was slashed and burned just a few days ago. It was a conscious, calculated decision by the local community of Boca Pariamanu. This sounds confusing, but let me explain: these people stand to protect this rainforest, but in order to continue doing so they have to make a living. The small sacrifice will soon bear fruit, but I can’t help thinking about the mass amounts of deforestation propelled forward by the demands of my own country.

Only a short distance away the Amazon rainforest is being destroyed at rates where recovery is nearly impossible. It has a devastating impact on the environment, the local economy, the people, the global climate, etc. The list goes on and on. Many countries like the United States, China, Brazil, Canada, Saudi Arabia are literally destroying the lungs of the Earth. Whether it is cutting down massive amounts of trees at alarming rates or mining in unethical ways that poison the water and environment, the Amazon is being decimated for profit by the elite. The destructive and greedy actions ignore the rights of the people and the rights of the planet.

In Boca Pariamanu, the members of the community must fight a fierce battle to protect what has always been theirs. They travel along the chocolate river that was once mercury-free only 80 years ago. The scaffolding-like structures mark the illegal mines kept alive by prostitution rings and bribery. It has been and will remain a long and tortuous fight against the demands of the world powers- demands I feel immense guilt for contributing to.

If you travel farther up river, however, you will find one of the last remaining uncontacted communities in the world. Just recently they raided a small village closest to their land. They killed all their pets and speared them to their doors- a warning to stay away, or else meet a gruesome fate.

I hear stories labeling them as savages, as they walk around nearly naked in a barbaric fashion. They do not know of the panic and destruction they created.

But I think that I may be just as uneducated, as uncivilized, as unaware as them.