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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

Fires that burn my soul

I like how one feels small and somewhat insignificant when one is surrounded by abundant nature. Sometimes, I also feel undeserving of so many natural wonders around me. That is a nice and important feeling. In those moments, it is hard for me not to stop thinking about how little value we sometimes give to nature. Unfortunately, in Bolivia, as in many other countries, extractivism is our daily bread. We believe that natural resources are infinite, and we do not value them.

I was able to talk with a couple of park rangers during the first night of our hike when we slept in their camp. I had forgotten to bring a book, saw that one of them had a newspaper and asked him if he could lend it to me. After reading through it, I came across a news item that made me think it was a bad idea to read the newspaper while living such a beautiful moment.

In Bolivia, the practice of creating “controlled fires” to clear a piece of land is called “chaqueo.” And the chaqueos are the main cause of the fire. Many of these fires are intentional, that’s when I can not understand how someone for easy money can cause a fire?!

It is very upsetting because Bolivia’s territory is one of the world’s richest areas in fauna and flora! Also, it is the first time that I have had the opportunity to visit these areas in my country. On previous occasions, I have traveled on the Peruvian Amazon, where I also got to see beautiful places. Still, I never got the chance to explore my own country’s portion of the Amazon rainforest.

For me, the fires are nothing new. The difference is that now I feel very committed to returning to the Bolivian Amazon to support the local communities in whatever possible way. Dragons always focus on supporting local communities, and even more so in these critical pandemic times.

My intention is not to alarm anyone with the publication of this yak. In any case, I desire to raise awareness and keep in mind that these magical places are at risk, and if we have the opportunity to help either by visiting them, as is the case now, we must continue to do so. It is also super important to keep reading the news because, even if they do not make us feel good, it is vital to be informed.

With love and anger <3