Depressed at the Zoo – This cheered me up!

After several weeks in Lima, I ran out of excuses why I couldn’t go to the zoo. My friend kept inviting me, insisting that I shouldn’t miss it. Joel really wanted to show off what seemed to be his favorite place.

Truth is, I get depressed at zoos. When I see the animals in the cages, staring at me with those pitifully sad faces, I feel their pain. Even the most advanced enclosures with natural settings are not the same as nature. I try to convince myself that the animals have been rescued and are being rehabilitated and cared for by loving keepers. If they were released into the wild they wouldn’t survive… so best keep them in the zoo.

But… I see little things that make me angry; empty water dishes, soiled cages, spectators rapping on the glass or taunting sleeping creatures. Garbage thrown carelessly into the enclosures, overcrowding or worse yet… solitary animals, and that, that just makes me sad. If you enjoy going to the zoo, don’t invite me along, I’ll probably spoil your day.

On my last weekend in Peru Joel finally convinced me to go with him to Parque de las Leyendas. I reluctantly agreed. It wasn’t a bad zoo… I tried desperately not to over scrutinize the details. I breezed past the first section with animals from the mountains. I lingered in the botanical gardens and leisurely explored the ancient ruins (pre-Spaniard). I hurried away from exhibits with weepy eyed animals or crowds pressing against the glass.

After a snack we rented a pedal boat and floated around a big lagoon for a while… I managed to see the entire 3 sections (coastal, mountain and jungle) without having a total breakdown or being reduced to tears. It wasn’t a bad zoo…

But the big treat came at the end. We were walking toward the gates to exit and I spotted a bus. It drew me in with its cheerful paint-job. Joel said, “That’s for children”, and tried to drag me away but I had to see inside.

Agua Bus

I pushed my way past the girl minding the door. She was trying to shut it but I squeezed through and entered a chamber with a dozen kids, 2 parents and a man in a blue jacket.

COOL!  A bus/classroom to educate kids about water.

I was instantly comforted, forgot all about zoo trauma, and was excited to learn more. I watched a unique demonstration of how water evaporates then rises to the top of the mountains, falls as rain, gets filtered by the land then returns to the ocean. At least, that’s what I think he was saying. (My Spanish is pretty limited.) He had a nifty switch panel that turned on lights and accentuated his model and presentation.

Water cycle demonstation

Next he played a short video that reinforced what he had just taught the kids. It had flashy graphics and lots of animations. The children were engaged. I watched them watching. It inspires me to see young people learning about nature and our precious resources, especially water. The video showed statistics for how many liters per day each Peruvian needed. The numbers were way lower than what North Americans use. I shuffled uncomfortably when the comparison table was showing.

Watching a Water Information Video

When the video was over, Marc (the blue jacketed man) quizzed the kids and answered questions. It was encouraging to see genuine interest from the kids and infectious passion from the host. When the discussion ended he slid open a door and we entered the back half of the bus. Marc circled the room and pointed to the information displayed prominently on the walls. There was a final round of Q&A followed by another video and a few more questions to finish the water lesson. Afterward each child was presented with a T-shirt from the water authority (Authoridad Nacional de la Agua) and they were shuffled out the back door to clear way for the next group. IMG_5583It was a perfect finish to a challenging day for me. I was inspired by the program. After spending 3 months focused on exposing the problems in Peru, it was refreshing to see someone sharing solutions.

I keep saying, education is the answer. We need to reach the children.

Teach them to recycle, reuse, rethink, reduce, and refuse. Show them how to grow food. Provide them with opportunities to engage with nature… Nurture a connection and respect for the environment. Encourage a sense of responsibility for our natural resources.

The adults of the past few decades haven’t been doing such a great job. Here’s hoping this next generation does better.

Day 9 – Ditching Plastic , going back to the old ways.

When I started planning this documentary back in April, I had a pretty good idea of the story I wanted to tell. I knew that there was a recurring theme around the world and I decided to film people who were attempting to live sustainable alternative lifestyles. It seems there’s been an awakening of sorts… people are beginning to realize that we can no longer sustain ourselves and keep our planet healthy by continuing to use methods employed in the past half a century.

Dark Days Ahead
Dark Days Ahead

I thought about the indigenous people in Canada, in North America, and partially credited them with preserving what little pristine land we had left. There could likely have been pipelines running all over the continent if not for their actions, (along with activists and concerned citizens) to halt the agressive devastation caused by the so called, industrial powerhouses. I was certain that many of those First Nations were living below the poverty level and I imagined the same was true all over the world.

But does not having money really make you poor?

After spending nearly a month in Peru I have discovered that the indigenous peoples are just as impovershed, just as disadvantaged but just as fierce in their efforts to maintain their traditions and return to the ancient ways. Sure, they have electricity, and many have cell phones, but they have recognized that we need to respect and protect mother earth or we’re all headed down a very dark path.

I have listened to their stories and heard their call for help. Now it’s my duty to share that information with the world. I have been forced to change course and subject matter for the film, just was we need to change the way we live.

One of the things that has been knawing away at me since my arrival in Peru is the amount of plastic being used. Plactic bags, bottles, dishes… it seems in direct contradiction to their goals to achieve a healthier planet. High atop the mountains are piles of garbage displaying a rainbow of plastic… blue, green, yellow and if you look closely you can see the clear bottles which somehow missed the recycling pile.

Kudos to the city of San Francisco for becoming the first city in America to ban the sale and use of single serving plastic bottles! There are bans in some national parks aready and also at some Universities, but this is the first US city to make such a move.

Rowanda banned plastic bags in 2012 and is now one of the cleanest countries in Africa. Banning plastic bags and bottles is a small step, but it’s definately going in the right direction.

Plastic is killing us, and the earth!

United Nations News Centre – image credit

Please consider buying a refillable water bottle and using cloth shopping sacs and alternatives like mason jars for storing foods. We managed for thousands of years without the use of plastic, we can manage again.

A global shift is occuring… be an active part in it!

Day 7 – Sierra del Divisor’s National Park – Protecting 1.3 million hectares

I´m excited to share important news that became official today. The Peruvian Government has declared Sierra del Divisor a National Park which is protecting 1.3 million hectares (3.3 million acres) The deal was almost 10 years in the making but was announced on Friday with the documents officially inked today.

Boundaries of Sierra del Divisor National Park. Background satellite image courtesy of Google Earth, cutout map courtesy of Global Forest Watch.

Since my arrival in Peru I have been made aware of the many hardships of the Indigenous people. Of great concern are a group of uncontacted tribes that live within the parks´ boundaries.

The diversity both of plants and wildlife in this area is HUGE and protecting this region benefits not only Peru but the rest of the world. The area harbors many endangered species.

According to Peru’s Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, this is an ¨historic event.¨

Announcing the declaration in time for the Climate talks in Paris he says…

“The creation of the Sierra del Divisor National Park is a historic event, It is a confirmation of the Peruvian government’s commitment to conservation, sustainable development and the fight against climate change.”