The Pachamama Alliance

March 10, 2010 – 10:12 pm

The Pachamama Alliance -

In recent years concern over the destruction of the world’s tropical rainforests has reached global proportions. Alarm about the extinction of species, the permanent loss of potentially life-saving medicinal plants, the irreversible damage to the delicate balance of the Earth’s climate control system and the tragic disappearance of indigenous cultures has captured the attention of millions of people around the world.

Hundreds of organizations have formed and are doing important work addressing virtually every level of the problem. And yet, rainforests continue to fall, by some estimates at the rate of 10 million trees per day. Despite our best efforts, the disappearance of our tropical rainforests, like many other global economic, social and environmental crises, seems beyond our ability to control. Obviously something more is needed.
The destruction of the world’s rainforests is driven by a complex web of social and economic forces, many of these a logical result of modern society’s worldview — a view that, although rich in technological insight, is often ignorant of the value of nature’s apparently free and limitless services. It is a view guided by maximum short-term financial gain while disregarding the long-term costs of ecological degradation. It is a worldview in which tropical forests can show up as a cash crop to be harvested rather than as an irreplaceable ecosystem to be protected. This is not, however, the only worldview. After centuries of living in harmony with their environment, indigenous cultures see things very differently. They are informed and guided by the knowledge and spirit imbedded in nature. Rather than viewing the natural world as a collection of separate elements from which humans are apart, they recognize all of creation as an interconnected web, and each of us as an integral element in this miraculous and fragile weave of life. The Pachamama Alliance believes that our ability to meet the challenges that face humanity as we make the transition to the next millennium, depends on our ability to successfully combine the best elements of these two worldviews into a single global vision, an alloy that blends the intellectual and scientific prowess of the modern world, with the deep and ancient wisdom of traditional cultures. This is the commitment which underlies the work of The Pachamama Alliance.

The Origins of The Pachamama Alliance

The Pachamama Alliance is a U.S. based not-for-profit organization that was born out of a relationship developed between a group of people from the modern world and the leaders of remote indigenous groups in the Amazon region of Ecuador. This relationship was actually initiated by the indigenous elders and shamans themselves who, out of their deep concern for the growing threat to their ancient way of life, and their recognition that the roots of this threat lay far beyond their rainforest home, actively sought the partnership of committed individuals living in the modern world.

Pachamama’s Work

The Pachamama Alliance is based on the recognition that those of us in the modern world share a deep connection with the people who call the rainforest their home-each of us having a critical stake in the health and well being of this vital element in our global life support system. We also recognize that indigenous people are the rainforests’ natural custodians, and therefore, key strategies of our alliance focus on strengthening their culture and empowering their ability to stand for and represent their own interests.

Another underlying principal of our alliance is based on the recognition of the pervasive role economics plays in the fate of our rainforests. It is generally agreed that the Earth’s tropical rainforests are its most valuable ecosystem. Yet, in the economic equations which shape decisions regarding the use of the Earth’s resources, rainforests seldom show up as adding any value simply remaining in their natural state. Also, the direct costs to society of having to use technology to replace the environmental services nature provides are seldom considered.

Pachamama has a commitment both to develop tangible, real-life projects through which rainforests provide more direct economic benefit standing than cut as well as to broaden the general economic view so that the value of standing rainforests and the costs associated with their destruction are measured and counted. Our work takes place in two distinct program areas: social and economic development projects in the South and education and awareness building in the North.

Our Work with the Achuar

The initial work of Pachamama is being carried out in partnership with the Achuar, an indigenous group living in the Amazon basin in southeastern Ecuador. They are a nation of approximately 3,500 people occupying nearly 2 million acres of pristine tropical rainforest in one of the most biologically diverse regions of the world. Their territory is accessible only by small airplane landing on dirt runways cleared from the forest. This remoteness has been a blessing in that, thus far, no mining, lumber or petroleum interests have operated in the Achuar territory. As a result, the rich diversity of the rainforest has remained intact and virtually untouched, one of the last such treasures left on Earth. The Achuar realize they are not immune from the economic appetite and materialistic allure of the modern world. Petroleum interests are eyeing their vast unexplored lands and, even though there has been only a limited exposure to a western money-based economy, a small and growing need for currency has taken hold. The Achuar now find themselves facing internal pressure to clear parts of their rainforest lands to introduce cash crops and to raise cattle.

The Achuar Master Plan

One of the first initiatives to evolve from the Achuar’s request for support is the development and implementation of an integrated resource management plan for their territory. The goal of this master plan is to insure the long-term well being of the Achuar lands and culture. We in The Pachamama Alliance are their key partners in this effort.

The Pachamama Alliance’s primary role with the Achuar is to provide access to technical expertise and funding to support them with the design and implementation of a variety of projects integrated within their master plan. These projects include:

  • Developing sustainable economic enterprises based on the renewable resources of the land
  • Capturing and recording traditional Achuar knowledge and supporting the empowerment and revitalization of traditional indigenous education and healing practices
  • Strengthening the Achuar’s ability to defend their lands against outside encroachment, including demarcation, mapping, and legal work to secure clear title to land
  • Supporting initiatives that strengthen their governing federation and its leadership
Education and Awareness

A consistent message that has been delivered by the leaders of indigenous groups is that one of the most powerful actions that can be taken in support of the rainforest is to “change the dream of the North.” Projects that halt deforestation are timely and critical but only deal with the symptom of a more fundamental imbalance. Ultimately, to assure the survival of our rainforests-indeed of nature’s ecosystems and even ourselves-causes which are deeply rooted in our modern worldview need to be addressed. Historically, our record of dealing with issues of environmental degradation provides little basis for optimism in the face of this challenge. Yet, the historical record is the product of a different time. Technology now supplies instantaneous feedback on the consequences of our actions and forces us to come to grips with the reality of living in the closed, interconnected system we call life on Earth. The growing sense of wonder and appreciation we feel for the very same natural systems that we now see our actions destroy provides the basis for hope. There is a new possibility that the future will not be an extension of our past. We have an unprecedented opportunity to live from a new vision-one formed from the intersection of our technological prowess and a new respect for the Earth.

Pachamama is committed to strengthen and clarify this vision and to being a clearinghouse of new ideas and information that will alter our perspectives and, ultimately, our behavior. The Pachamama Alliance is a place for individuals to take a stand of personal responsibility for the well being of the Earth’s global commons. We invite you to join us.

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