Project #6974

Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres

by Camino Verde
Sep 17, 2012

How can we really, truly save the Amazon?


Dear friends of Camino Verde,
For this GlobalGiving project report, I'm reprinting Camino Verde's last Missive.  (Please let me know if you'd like to be added to our regular mailing list.)  It takes us back to basics, to probably the most fundamental question that can be asked about our work...  
Why save the Amazon?  I mean, why should we care?
Well, let´s see... Let´s start with the obvious.  One out of every three species of everything on Earth-- plants, animals, you name it-- call the Amazon their home: one in three.  One fifth of the world´s fresh water is found here.  Different sources give different figures for the percentage of the planet´s oxygen produced here, but needless to say, it´s a lot. 
I don´t mean to sound melodramatic, but without the Amazon, we´re all in trouble. 
But why should we care, enough to do something about it?  Here´s my version of why.  Before I founded Camino Verde, I worked with a few other non-profit organizations here in the Peruvian Amazon.  And while these organizations all had noble aims and good intentions, there was a real disconnect between the ends and the means.  Here we had projects and NGOs working for great causes: conservation, sustainable development, the protection of wildlife habitat.  But the means used to pursue those goals were insanely inefficient, absurdly ineffectual, and tragically indirect.  I mean, local people were left scratching their heads, or else downright outraged at how outsiders had once again blown through budgets with few tangible fruits.
I remember thinking, we can do better.  We the human race, can do better.
In founding Camino Verde it was really vital to me to marry the ends to the means-- in fact, to ensure that the means were an end unto themselves, the sort of clichéd truth that what you do is often only as is important as how you do it.  That´s one of the meanings of our name, which is "green path:"  it´s about how we live and act. 
Plus, when I founded the organization, I was 23, 24.  I wanted to act, now.  To do something that made a difference, that had an impact in and of itself.  And that was when I started to plant trees.
To me, it´s sort of the ultimate version of a zen koan, or a snake eating its own tail, where the means is a noble end in and of itself: planting trees.  And the Amazon is home to some extraordinary trees.  I started hanging out at lumber yards, sawmills, the ports where people brought their products in from the forest.  And in talking to my neighbors I made a list.  It was a list of the top 50 over-exploited tree species.  On it were some powerful medicines, and world class timbers, and exquisite, exotic fruits.  I asked around, and to my amazement nobody-- no government institute, no NGO, no individual-- was bothering to plant most of the trees on that list.  But at those ports, day in and day out, the timber and the direct evidence of the destruction of those trees was staring me in the face.
It didn´t take an expert to foresee that dwindling wild populations lead to impoverished genetic diversity within these species, meaning that so few adult trees are left that in some cases we can no longer trust the genetic diversity-- meaning the genetic resilience-- of these trees´ offspring, if indeed they´re ever allowed to have any offspring.
So I started with those trees.  And in fact, more than five years later, I´m still checking species off that list.  Seeds for many of these trees are harder and harder to come by; experience with planting them, nonexistant.  I´ve gone on some wild "off-list" tangents as well-- by now, we´ve planted a total of over 250 species of trees at Camino Verde´s reforestation center-- but the goal remains: to plant at least 200 trees of each of these key species, that in time will become a true Living Seed Bank.
I was talking about ends and means.  And here it is in the simplest terms.  The goal: to protect the biodiversity of the Amazon.  How to do it: we plant trees.
As always, I extend my deep gratitude for all the support we receive in this work.  A friendly reminder: just ten dollars helps us plant two trees.  Won´t you help us plant a few, or a few dozen, today? 
Also: December 1-10, 2012, we hold our first ever Sustainable Living and Ecological Design Course for all of you interested in visiting, volunteering, and working with us here in beautiful Tambopata, Peru.  Information on a pretty flyer is available on our Facebook page (or let me know if you want a copy in your email inbox). And finally: the new and improved www.caminoverde.org is coming soon! So now is your last chance to see the previous version.
Thanks so much for your interest and support.  Warm regards,

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Organization Information

Camino Verde

Location: Concord, MA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.caminoverde.org
Project Leader:
Robin Van Loon
Concord, MA United States

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