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.

Good News, Bad News – The price of truth

This morning I received good news and bad news. The good news is that the footage of illegal mining that I have been trying to get from a Peruvian television station will be made available to me. The news segment was an exclusive report which covered the raid and closure of a gold mining

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Madre de Dios River, Peru

operation on the Madre de Dios River. I had tried to get my own footage of that region but there are new (they spring up overnight) illegal mines all over the area and it is extemely dangerous. (It’s especially for a blond haired blue eyed girl like me! I stick out like a sore thumb in the jungle) So after weeks of email exchange in badly translated spanish, I have been given the rights to use the footage. The bad news… it’s $500 per minute and the special is 10:56 long.

So, here I am again, asking for more money. I need this footage! It shows the devastation and corruption that I was not able to capture myself. I could describe the activity but it just wouldn’t have the same impact that the images do.  You know the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words? Well in this case, the video is worth $5,500.

I’m almost finished filming this documentary. I have a few more interviews to capture here in Lima and then I return to Canada where I will start post production. I never budgeted for stock footage when I considered the costs for production, but this expense is still a small price to pay for the value of the video. Also, it contains an interview with the head of the ministry of mining and I have been unable to secure an interview with him. It’s too dangerous to ask questions of some people. Did you see my reports on activists being killed? So please share this update and donate to this film if you can. You can email transfer directly to me which means I get 100% of the funds, (GoFundMe takes a percentage for admin and operating costs)
Thanks to everyone for supporting me on this incredible journey. I can’t wait to show you the results of my investigations. Peruvian Heartache is an important film that demonstrates how crucial it is that we protect our culture, traditions and our planet.
Gracias!
— excerpt from email replyamerica
“Por políticas del canal nosotros tenemos unas tarifas establecidas para este tipo de solicitudes.

Para documentales, nuestros costos son los siguientes :
– $ 100.00 + IGV (el minuto, imágenes no exclusivas)
– $ 500.00 + IGV (el minuto cuando son imágenes exclusivas)

Se tiene que realizar un convenio con nuestra área legal y abonar en nuestras cuentas antes de entregar el material limpio.”

— And subsequent follow-upamerica
“Buenas noches, solo para informarles que el material que están solicitando pertenece al programa “Domingo al día”, la nota lo realizo el reportero Libero Belotti, fue emitido el 15 de noviembre del 2015 como exclusivo y tiene una duración de 10 min. 56 segs.

Saludos. “

Press Release: The Wampis nation of the Peruvian Amazon declares the creation of the first autonomous indigenous government in Peru

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While world leaders were meeting in Paris for climate talks, an ambitious group of indigenous leaders were holding their own meetings in the Amazon Rainforest. Although at this time they are not recognised by the government of Peru, they are fighting to protect their lands by creating a Nation of unity.  more

Source: Press Release: The Wampis nation of the Peruvian Amazon declares the creation of the first autonomous indigenous government in Peru

Where I´ve been the past month…

amazon kids

I just arrived back in Lima after having spent the past 7 weeks on location. The first month was spent in the highlands of the Andes where I filmed interviews with the indigenous people who are struggling to maintain their traditions and culture despite countless global influences. No matter who I spoke to, or where I went, money almost always was the main problem. The Incas were a people who celebrated and honored a system of reciprocity and currency is not part of their heritage. Unfortunately they have been forced into an existance where they must participate in our capitalistic system. They now have electricity in their homes but must pay a fee to the government, their children need uniforms for school and they must pay for transportation. Some members of the community are more successful than others and it has created a divide in what was once a tightly knit family. Others live in utter poverty, succumb to alcholism or spend money on giant TV’s and sattelite dishes while their children go barefoot and hungry.

Education is the key to alleviating many of these problems but influences like climate change (crops no longer grow because of changes in weather conditions), pollution and contamination from mining or industry, and tourism (explotation) contribute to suffering in complicated and devastating ways. Rampant corruption at all levels of government amplify the effects of disparity and poverty. I am hoping not only to point out the problems in my accounts but also to provide suggestions and implement stategies to alleviate these conditons.

I was relieved to move from the highlands, where I suffered from altitude sickness for most of the time, to the lowlands in the Amazon jungle. Peru is home to 1/4 of the worlds natural forests and I thrived in the lush environment. Fresh air and moisture was an almost instant cure. Unfortunately for many, illegal deforestation and mining have proved otherwise. 9 out of 15 fish in Peru have unsafe mercury levels due to contamination from mining activites. Many of the indigenous farms have been destroyed due to poisoned lands or flooding from operations that have been left to ravage the landscape illegally. The indigenous people have held their ground bravely and battled powerful and greedy forces to try and protect the environment but many have lost their lives due to violence, murder or illness from the toxins.

A modern day version of the wild wild west; guns control the area, law enforcement officials are painfully absent, children attending schools when safe to do so, families torn apart, livestock destroyed, crops failing and workers robbed while returning to their homes. I wasn’t able to film in all the areas because I was scared to death and rightfully wise to keep my distance. Many activists have lost their lives attempting to stand their ground. I wept when we found giant trees butchered and left to rot for morsels of choice wood likely bound for Mexico or the US… I swallowed my tears and held a brave face when sharing a river boat with a family that was fleeing their land… my heart is heavy… Peruvian Heartache is a story that begs to be heard.

Have you invested in Gold in recent years? Chances are someone lost their life trying to protect the rainforest it was stripped from. Do you have a new dining room table? Perhaps the wood was stolen from a national reserve in the forest that is responsible for creating more than 20% of the oxygen in the world.

Please help me to finish this important film. I have excellent profiles of the locals, revealing images of the devastation and alarming information about the secrets being concealed in this country struggling to maintain its culture and traditions. I have nearly exhausted my funds and need to find additional resources for a few more weeks of filming and then post production. Luckily I have been blessed with the generosity of many who have contributed both time and resources to help capture this story, but editing is tedious and expensive. I have a burning desire to get this film to the public as quickly as possible so that we can help save both people and protect the health of the lands.

I can also use your help in spreading the word. I need airmiles for travel (for both me and crew) and any other assistance you can offer. I don’t want to beg, but I am! Never have I felt as strongly about shouting a warning to the world as now.

Thanks for your support and well wishes. Can’t wait to share this amazing story with you all.

Alison xox