Having received an enormous show of support for the global paddling community in the campaign to find volunteer raft guides and kayakers; I started to think that maybe we should run more trips… If the volunteers are there, and they are each able to complete some kind of fundraising which will cover costs, why not? I am now putting together 3 expeditions, starting late May and finishing in August; which will mean all this computer based fundraising & organising will be well worth it with a solid 3 or 4 months straight on the river later in the year. The guides for the original Paddling with Purpose journey have been selected, I am pretty stoked by the crew! It’s really solid group in terms of whitewater skills, and everyone have their own off river skills, knowledge & quirks which will all add a huge amount to the trip. A simple goal for this trip was to have even numbers of guys and girls for the best group dynamic & representation; it was difficult to do in a massively male dominated sport, but I think we have almost balanced the trip. You can see intros to each of the team members here!
The idea behind the additional expeditions is still evolving. They will most likely be centred around introducing local people to the river, to rafting and kayaking and offering training to those that are interested in pursuing this as a career. This will help develop closer links with the local communities, and help them to derive a sustainable income from the river. If this is happens, it is one more reason not to dam the river; everything sadly comes down to money in this world so I see this angle of attacking the issue as just as important as the original campaign. Side benefits will include increased lines of communication and understanding about the impacts of these projects. With locals working on the river as guides, it will also open up niche business opportunities for locals to sell food, provide accommodation, restock raft and other tourist services. In Peru, there is good money to be made as a guide (and in ecotourism), and it is one career that can really allow people to travel the world. If the river does get dammed, then hopefully this initiative will allow some of the local people to retain their connection with the river elsewhere.
For an economic perspective. Tourism in Peru accounts for over 300 000³ direct jobs, whereas mining only creates 210 000². Mining (one of the main drivers behind these dams) creates 14.7% of GDP², while tourism only creates 3.4% of GDP ¹. Forgive me if I am incorrect, or my analysis of the situation is too simple; i invite any discussion on the point. But these numbers clearly show that tourism is benefiting more people than mining; people working day to day to earn their living. While the mining industry loves to push the fact they create the lions share of GDP, I would argue that this is not such a big deal seeing as almost all the mines are foreign owned therefore a huge chunk of this money ends up going offshore anyway (especially these giants have enough power and sway within governments to avoid / minimise any taxes that should be paid). Tourism seems to be a clear winner when it comes to actually benefiting people and the economies that are actually meaningful to the people (Lets not even delve into issues of health and treatment of workers in the mines). “The analysis shows that tourism is one of the most efficient industries for driving Inclusive Green Growth in Peru, creating jobs and income for many people at the expense of a small ecofootprint:”¹. Maybe its a small argument, but with other social, economic and environmental considerations, it all adds up to a lot of reasons why these huge dams on the Marañon are not such a great idea when you look at the big picture. People ca have good, clean, (& Superfun) jobs without destroying the places they live, and the ecosystems that support all of us.
More on the Campaign:
Getting back to Lima, I had already realised that the Remando Juntos team minds seemed to have been blown a little bit by all the decisions to be made & huge task we were aiming to do. My mind is often in a similar state. With a task so huge, and so many enormous factors involved (Billions of dollars, multinational corporations, governments) it is easy to end in a state kind of like paralysis, unable to think or do anything; getting caught up on every single decision that needs to be made. In our first meeting of the year we brought everything right back down to a really small, really basic level. This is what we are going to do: Research some facts & share them with as many people as possible. Use video & photos to create interest in this issue. As soon as you start thinking about actually stopping a dam project, and the map to doing this, your mind implode’s and then you can’t do anything. We are just a group of young volunteers without much experience in this, we will do the little bits that we can; if we are lucky, with the help of others it will grow into something bigger.
What I’m up to:
Selecting and interviewing volunteer raft guides and kayakers; then helping them set up their fundraising campaigns takes up a lot of time, especially if we want to aim for the sky and really try and get some solid funding behind us. Lots of updating webpages, planning dates and trying to make everything appear coherent enough that people actually understand what it is we will be doing.
Managing Remando Juntos team and getting things moving is challenging. First there is a language/cultural barrier (they speak english, and my spanish is improving, but its still difficult). Then even without this, i think managing a team of volunteers is difficult. You can’t ask too much of people, or be too demanding, but at the same time you want to get things done. They all have university, work and the rest of their lives to do. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that, because this is what I am doing allll the time. Thirdly, I don’t know how to run a huge campaign, or stop huge multinational corporations from building giant environmentally irresponsible dams! I am just making this stuff up as I go along! This is where working with the guys from Conservamos por Naturaleza is priceless, they help with their experience and direction. I am fairly sure though that I have never met a group of people so busy all the time (which is not particularly surprising with all the environmental stuff that is going on in Peru).
After some solid days working this week, i’m looking forward to house sitting at Tierra Langla for 2 weeks, growing/eating veges from the garden and hanging out by the river (everyone from Tierra Langla are going to help with a bioconstruction project near Lima). I will need to find some sort of internet connection so I can keep progressing selection of volunteers and fundraising campaigns, but it will be good to be away from the city. All i do here is sit on a computer alll day….