I have always known that I´m quite nerdy. I just never thought of myself as being a biology-nerd. Until a couple of weeks ago, when I took a guided tour through a cloud-forest and privately-owned natural reserve just outside of Salento. Never in my life have I pàid so much attention during an almost 4-hour excursion as this time. Led by the owner of the property, a sociologically as well as biologically literated researcher, we wondered down the mountain and into the valley. On our way down, we learned all about the different plants, how they behave in a climate without seasons, how the jungle -unlike most European and North American forests- is always dynamic and keeps on rejuvenating itself. And how grass, imported by the Spanish colonists as food for their -equally imported- cattle, impoverishes the origianally hyper rich South American soil and slowly ´eats the jungle´ by rooting out every other species present in the earth´s seedbank. During this tour I also learned that Valle de Cocora, the nearby ´landscape of lost trees´, although very pretty to look at, is actually an environmental catastrophe – these trees used to be surrounded by jungle. (It´s hard to see that Ecuador, where I am now, is suffering even more deforestation than Colombia.)
On top of that, the climate-change does have a very tangible impact on this part of the world. It affects EVERYTHING (no matter what Trump says) – it influences the way the jungle behaves and changes the eco-system in a negative way. If it keeps on changing with the same speed we´re on now, indiginous tribes and cultures who have lived in harmony with nature for thousand of years, depending on the jungle to stay alive, will not be able to survive anymore – and soon it will also affect the ways of life of everyone else in this part of the world. The recent landslide that cost the lives of many people in Mocoa and the current problems in Lima and other places in Peru are a direct effect of the fact that it has been raining way more and longer than usual. Last year South America was hit by the el niño phenomenon (many farmers saw their harvest ruined due to extreme drought), this year it just won´t stop raining.
Long story short: this tour has inspired me to think more about alternative ways of life and food-production. I think we´ve become too used to see and use nature as a resource, without being bothered too much to cultivate it properly. I want to learn more about these things, and about what we (and I personally) can do to change this and still lead a comfortable, maybe even more wonderful and rewarding, life. So at the moment I am looking into volunteer projects that deal with topics like reforestation, organic agriculture, building with recycled materials, and ecological tourism. Fingers crossed that I get submitted to a program somewhere! (Plan B, if none of my efforts have worked out by next week, is that I try to take a cargoship down to Peru next week and try to find something there.)