Oil & Health in the Amazon Course
January 12 was the last day of the 10 day tour of Ecuador I did with three college students.For a long time, it was doubtful the course would happen, but many factors came together to make it a success. Here’s the story:
Freeda (head of Cloud Forest Institute) and I had discussed at the end of the last course what future courses might look like. She wanted to delegate responsibilities to more people, and I felt like I would want a bigger role with translating and guiding. We wanted to run the same course again in summer 2012, but it took me a while to figure out how to advertise well enough and get enough people informed and interested in attending. In my impatience I decided to set the new dates for January 2013 instead of waiting until summer 2013.
No one else could attend as a teacher in January, so I was on my own from the beginning. I decided to design the itinerary around the subjects in my thesis, since that was what I knew best, and I already knew how to get around to the places I would want to take people. After months of conference calls with AMP & CFI leaders and members, phone calls with nonprofit friends for advice, and emails with my Ecuadorian contacts, the course was taking shape. We decided on 10 days and set the price at $1000. This is a relatively low price because of low overhead costs in our small nonprofits.
Over the months, there were dozens of people interested in attending the course. In the end, three students decided to pay the course fee, buy flights, and meet me in Quito. Three turned out to be a good number of people for me in terms of transportation, logistics, handling money, and booking hotels. Their ages ranged from 21 to 25.
The trip took us from Quito, the capital city in the mountains, out to the Amazon rain forest in the eastern part of the country. The goal was to present issues and debates surrounding the oil industry to the students through firsthand experience with people and places. I tried to let the students draw their own conclusions.
To me, most areas surrounding these issues are quite gray, but they appear black and white to many people. For example, an oil company is right now in Secoya territory mapping out seismic testing. BAD right? The Secoya should kick them out! Actually, many if not most of the community are hired by the company right now, earning more money per day than they would from farming. Some of them have no source of income at all. The community is by no means unified for or against the industry. More information on these issues to come. Check out the documentary CRUDE for an overview of these issues and the lawsuit.
I am flabberghasted and delighted that we were able to follow the itinerary without any mishaps, missed buses, bad weather, or getting lost, robbed, sick, or bitten by anything poisonous. Hooray!