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From Amazon Clearcut to the Vermont Forest

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As I reflect on our week in Brazil, I have struggled to find a context to hold the experience we had. I am still struggling so this is a work in process. First, the world is a big, big place, and the challenges it faces take on a new dimension when you see them with your own eyes. How many times have I said that I am committed to making the world a better place without having seen most of the world I'm referring to? Without understanding what a better place means for most of the people living in that world?

I am humbled by the experience of joy and community I had within what I assumed would be dreadful poverty. In the shanty towns outside Rio, there is garbage in the streets and men with machine guns making life far less certain that I could have ever imagined, but there are also smiles on the faces of the children.

In the Amazonian rainforest, where at least 20% of the land has been clearcut, a huge Cargill facility was recently constructed that will attract ever more clearcutting to supply the company with soy. This is a place where homes are burned, priests have their lives threatened, and everyone has their own story of corruption. Yet communities are successfully reinventing themselves, hope is not lost, and a beauty that is more than your eye’s can hold remains to nourish your soul.

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Return From the Amazon

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Author: Gregor

Jeffrey and I are back from our journey through Brazil, our heads still buzzing. Re-entry is a strange process. The world we've come from and the world we inhabit are so different that they don't even seem to occupy the same plane of existence. Transitioning between them is interesting. Here are some initial reflections and a photo from the river.


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Floating Through the Jungle Primeval

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Author: Gregor

Sorry we couldn't post until now. We were hoping to get an audio log entry out last night, but as you can imagine, 20th century communications are a spotty proposition in a place as far removed from the beaten path as the Amazon basin.

We had perhaps the most incredible day yesterday that it's possible to have in this life. Like Marlow in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, we have gone far upriver into a world you can't imagine unless your own eyes take it in. Extraordinary sights and sounds met us around every bend in the river. This is a place primeval, a realm of deep and unfathomable beauty nature has taken millions of years to create. We have never seen or experienced anything even remotely like it.

That this riotous crucible of life is profoundly precious is a dramatic understatement. So it is that we were heartened by the other half of our experiences these past 24 hours: our encounters with Greenpeace projects and the people who are working with unwavering dedication to preserve the Amazon rainforest and make sure that it forever remains a place of wonder.


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Hero of the Forest

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We are in Manahus, the heart of the Amazon Rainforest. Today we flew over hundreds of miles of virgin forest, punctuated by huge tracts of land that have been deforested for logging, cattle or soy production. (Much of the land ends up growing soy beans to be sold to Cargill.) 20% of the forest has been lost. What's left is breathtaking. What's gone a disaster. In the town of Santarem, in Para, we met Father Edilberto Sena, who works in partnership with Greenpeace Brazil.

Here is a man whose life has been threatened for his efforts to save the forest and honor the rights of the native population that is being forced out. A man who has dedicated his life to saving the local community. A leader as inspiring as Gandhi. A man who has inspired the whole local community to stand up, stop the sale of land to those who will destroy it, and protect the forest that has provided for it for generations untold.

But he is also a man with a price tag on his head. Edilberto has summoned the authority of the bishop and the Pope to his cause. He is a testiment to the potential and possibility of leadership and local organizing. It was an honor to meet him and to be able to experience the possibility of the power of local communities to fight multinational corporations.

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Into the Amazon

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Author: Gregor

After two days in Rio, Jeffrey and I have made our way at last and with no small effort to the Amazon rainforest where we spent today flying over some of the devastated areas at its edge. We've managed to find a phone line and I'm able to get this audio log entry out. Tomorrow we head up river into the incredible curtain of green and the heart of the jungle. More then...

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Audio Postcard From the Edge of Rio

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I'm traveling in Brazil this week with friend and co-conspirator Gregor. We'll be visiting Greenpeace projects in the Amazon Rainforest, but we've begun our adventure in Rio de Janeiro, where today we ventured outside the tourist zone to explore the city's infamous "slums." What we found defied our expectations on every level.


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