I haven’t been very good about writing lately – too little time between adventures to get it down on paper. In case I haven’t already spoken to you, let me start back a couple of months ago. After spending some time here and not really accomplishing anything (read: spending copious amounts of time on facebook), Nicole and I decided to end the frustration by creating our own project.
Thus began the (time-consuming and technologically challenging) quest of making a documentary film. Though I’ve only had a few opportunities to play with film before, it’s an art I feel has true power to convey meaningful stories. The arc of a bird in flight, or a plea for the future in the words of a child, can reach the hearts and minds of even the most apathetic. We felt a film would be the ideal way to communicate the dire situation that the Atlantic Forest faces. We want to explore the way the people of Paraguay see their precious resource, uncover the reasons behind the devastating deforestation threatening this region, and recognize the individuals and organizations dedicating themselves to the restoration and conservation of the area.
Canon was kind enough to provide us with a new HD camera to capture the stories and wildlife we need to convey our message. The New Zealand and German embassies are also providing us with crucial support for our travel around the country, as we interview those who are willing to share their knowledge with us. After a few weeks of filming we’ve had some amazing interviews and some real jokes.
Our interviews with those who are supposed to be the legal defenders of the forest have been particularly interesting. The prosecutors have fed us a few good lies about how often they go out to stop illegal deforestation, and the number of fines they collect. Having spent time visiting deforested locations, and discussing the lack of legal initiative with other WWF employees, it’s clear to us that the government representatives have no problem bending the truth on camera.
In contrast, one of the park guards at the San Rafael reserve told us during his interview that the average fine handed out to people logging illegally is 15,000 guaranies – the equivalent of three dollars. For anyone who values the life of a tree, that’s heartwrenching. And yet the government continues to gloss over the pleas of those who want to save the remaining forests. No acceptable reason has been given yet as to WHY.
While in San Rafael, we took a trip up to Kanguery, a lookout point and biological reserve owned by Guyra Paraguay. Of course, it was dumping buckets as we shimmied our way to the top of the lookout, trying not to lose our footing. But as magic would have it, the rain stopped long enough for us to get a stunning shot of the entire reserve, framed by a brilliant rainbow. It’s the little successes that keep you climbing.
On the way back we stopped in at a little town (whose name I of course cannot currently remember) where the school is participating in ProCosara’s environmental contest. All the children in the school are working to grow seedlings to plant in their community – the contest is judged on their knowledge of their project, their level of collaboration, and their ability to involve the community in their work. We were lucky enough to have the school “leader” Aldo speak with us about the project. Though maybe speak is a bit of an overstatement – he stared shyly at the ground while his teacher tried to prod answers out of him. Nonetheless, Aldo gave us a few winning smiles and showed us the seedlings he is caring for every day. If every one worked as hard as Aldo, Paraguay might have a chance at renewing their forest.
Three days in the field and we have an amazing start to our story. Next week we are heading up to Mbaracayu, the biggest reserve in the country, to meet with the park guards and the Ache and Guarani indigenous groups. I have no doubt we will meet many more incredible people willing to share their stories and contribute to the protection of the Atlantic Forest.