SOS PANTANAL!- SOS EARTH!
Why it matters to all of us on the planet!
PANTANAL: The name “Pantanal” comes from the Portuguese word pântano, meaning wetland, bog, swamp, quagmire or marsh.
This year 2020 will go down in history not just for Covid 19 and the global chaos it has caused, but also as the worst year for fires not just in the Amazon forest ;but also in the largest wetlands in the world…The Pantanal.
I visited the region in November -just one month after the largest of these fires had been extinguished. I was both shocked by the devastation of the fires and encouraged by the incredible regeneration power of nature. It isnt all doom and gloom, but there is a big work to be done.
And the good news is that we can ALL lend a hand! I came out of the pantanal more with HOPE than with despair. More with the viewpoint that I as an individual could make a difference.
So why bother going ?
I wanted to see first hand what was happening and speak to the people of the pantanal to hear from them. I wanted to see their perspective. My journey took me from Portugal to Igazu falls which is also lauded as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world and the second largest hydro electric plant supplying 17% of Brazils electricity and 75% of Paraguay’s needs. Water is life… but in the pantanal itself… that has taken on a new dimension with this years unparalleled devastation of the wildlife and habitat of this region. Most people will blame climate change and leave it at that. But there is more to this story than what is reported in the New York Times.
Lets look at some of the facts:
What is the Pantanal ?
The Pantanal (Portuguese pronunciation: [pɐ̃taˈnaw]) is a natural region encompassing the world’s largest tropical wetland area, and the world’s largest flooded grasslands. It is located mostly within the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, but it extends into Mato Grosso and portions of Bolivia and Paraguay. It sprawls over an area estimated at between 140,000 and 195,000 square kilometres (54,000 and 75,000 sq mi). Various subregional ecosystems exist, each with distinct hydrological, geological and ecological characteristics; up to 12 of them have been defined.
A common destination for ecotourists, the Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland, home to Indigenous peoples and a high concentration of rare or endangered species, such as jaguars and giant armadillos. Small fires occur every year in the region, which sprawls over parts of western Brazil and extends into Bolivia and Paraguay.
Like in Africa there is a rainy season and a dry season. The majority of the rains begin in January and the driest month is November. From January this year to October an unprecedented level of fires have ravaged this area which is around the size of Greece or New Jersey. Its enormous. I asked the environmental police and others what caused these fires. It turns out that it was 4 farmers who were clearing their land to generate new grass required by their cattle to eat. These farmers have been jailed and their lands confiscated.
Who owns the Pantanal ?
The pantanal is 90 % privately owned. Most owners are cattle ranchers but some are farmers or fishermen and others have eco tourist facilities. I visited a well known service provider called Santa Clara around 5 hours drive from Campo Grande which is the gateway to the Pantanal. I ,and a handful of others were the only foreign tourists in the last 6 months. In fact the majority of visitors are local Brazilians who view this region as an exotic holiday destination ,and are not fully aware of the challenges facing these sensitive wetlands. Nor do they see that they can do anything about this emerging crisis.
What comparisons are there to the Pantanal?
If I compare the Pantanal I would have to think about the Okavango swamps which is our equivalent in Africa of South Americas wetlands albeit much smaller (6000 square km.). The BIG difference is that the entire region is publicly owned and protected by the state. This IS part of the problem in the Pantanal. Economic needs of landowners outweigh the environmental needs of the land at times. Fires are a part of the life of the pantanal but there is little if any oversight by the government on the environmental management of the region. The Okavango was and is a protected area not just locally but internationally and is one of the worlds 7 natural wonders. Because of its remoteness not enough people visit the area or even know about it. The only reason its in the spotlight this year is because of the apocalyptic fires seen from space.
Why have these fires lasted for so long ?
“Unlike in the nearby Amazon Rainforest, vegetation in the Pantanal has evolved to coexist with fire — many plant species there require the heat from fires to germinate. Often caused by lightning strikes, those natural fires tend to spring up at the end of the dry season, in September. They run out of fuel quickly, and the surrounding floodplains prevent them from spreading.
What’s different this season is that the region is facing its worst drought in 47 years, says Luisa Diele-Vegas, a Brazilian ecologist at the University of Maryland in College Park. And 2019’s fires were also intense, contributing even further to the unusually dry conditions and exacerbating the fire risk this year.”
The TRUTH is not so simple. Fires are a natural part of the eco cycle of the Pantanal. I spoke to a local pantenero I nicknamed “ Gandhi and others including the environmental police , tour guides and local indigenous Guato… they had a different story. Yes, in part these fires were started by farmers clearing their land for grass to grow for their cattle… but they are also naturally caused by falling electric lines, lightning strikes and so on… the big PROBLEM is that over the years rainfall has decreased. Why? Its simple.
The cutting and clearing of the neighboring rainforests and the Amazonas that produce the rain and the evapotranspiration necessary for clouds and barometric high and low pressure cells to form.
(Evapotranspiration (ET) is the sum of evaporation and plant transpiration from the Earth’s land and ocean surface to the atmosphere. Evaporation accounts for the movement of water to the air from sources such as the soil, canopy interception, and water bodies.)
DEFORESTRATION has a direct and indirect bearing on how much water comes into the pantanal during the wet season. Although a fire moratorium was declared in July by President Bolsonaro of Brazil, it has been too little too late. We cannot ignore the recurring causes of GLOBAL MEGAFIRES anymore. This is not only an SOS to the PANTANAL… It is an SOS to the world!
The fires have ravaged 22% of the Pantanal during this driest of years. It was a great environmental tragedy that not only destroyed plants and trees but also millions upon millions of animals including endangered species.. but the FACT is it carried on so long because of underground smoldering. This smoldering takes place in the roots of the trees burned and reappears and restarts fresh fires. Because of the lack of water this year… it was possible for them to create new hotspots and reignite new fires. Also the fires from the neighboring Amazon created powerful winds which I actually experienced first hand that further fanned the fires. I watched with my own eyes a blue sky being turned into a grey one… a hot wind blowing from far away fires… it was a combination of the burning of the Amazon creating these what I call FIREWINDS and the worst drought of the last 50 years that maintained the endurance of these fires. Had the normal cycle of the Pantanal wetlands not been disrupted, we would not have seen this happening.
It was the perfect storm. But it was more than that. The fires happening in Australia, California , Southern Africa and Iberia all point to a phenomenon that is growing. Fires becoming more dangerous because of a lack of rainfall. We cannot solely blame farmers for these disasters. Nor can we blame the inaction of the local government. We ALL need to take the blame and the responsibility for these fires going on for so long… it is our ignorance of how the Earths eco systems sustain life on our planet and how they are all interconnected with our own existence.
It is our APATHY and our STUPIDITY that has caused these climate disasters…and continue to perpetuate their injustices around the globe. My friends in the pantanal said to me… “ the amazon is the lungs of the planet and the winds and the rains… we need help from the international community to save the Pantanal. We need massive investment from the international community to put environmental protections in place. Not just financial investment but an AWARENESS investment. We need to teach this to our children in the schools. We need to protect our indigenous people who know the wisdom of the forests… we need to incentivise local people living on the land to protect the environment. All of this can be done…if there is a will to do it.
What about the animals ? What about the biome?
A biome /ˈbaɪoʊm/ is a community of plants and animals that have common characteristics for the environment they exist in. They can be found over a range of continents. Biomes are distinct biological communities that have formed in response to a shared physical climate. Biome is a broader term than habitat; any biome can comprise a variety of habitats.
“One of the biggest losses in this year’s fires is the region’s wildlife, says Douglas Morton, a remote-sensing specialist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who has studied fires and deforestation across Brazil for two decades. Many creatures thrive in the mosaic landscape of the Pantanal, which includes flooded areas, grasslands, lakes and forests. Scientists have so far documented more than 580 species of bird, 271 of fish, 174 mammals, 131 reptiles and 57 amphibians in the region. “My lasting memory from being in the Pantanal is the cacophony of life,” Morton says. “To me, that’s what’s so heart wrenching about seeing the extent of fires.”
Frankly , I was disappointed. Growing up in Africa I have seen our nature reserves and national parks teeming with life. Mostly, that hasn’t changed in 35 years although in some areas we have seen poaching. Its not a big problem in the Pantanal although some of the local first nations eat animals that are considered endangered , it isnt a big issue. I saw Otter, Capybara, caymans, some deer and many birds … but we had to search for them. A jaguar was spotted in the distance but it was the only one we saw in 5 days. I asked my guide Tony ..why? He said when the fires came to his house two months ago he witnessed a whole family of monkeys trying to escape the flames by climbing higher in the trees. It didnt help. With tears in his eyes he told me the story of rescuing a jaguar with burned paws. The animal had to be put down. He estimates the loss of wildlife because of this years fires as uncountable. It will take years he says for them to recover these losses. Whats more the corona epidemic has kept tourists away and sustainable development has suffered. People cant put food on the table to feed their families. Poor people have been forced to fish and hunt again as their crops have been destroyed. And in all this tragedy… the world has largely ignored this crisis which in a normal year would be front page news.
The PANTANAL like the AMAZON is a unique biome which comprises of a symbiotic relationship with the natural climate and rhythm of seasons to create a natural eco system which is distinct by its species that exist within its zones. Its not just the destruction of the animals… its the destruction of its plants… one fifth of the pantanal was damaged this year by fire. That is news. As humanity we need to do something about this. By understanding that the very survival of humanity and all life on Earth depends on us , as stewards or caretakers of this and other biomes we ensure the Equilibrium by which we all continue to exist. Its all interconnected. And the signs of our mismanagement are clear. Not just with the wildlife, fauna and flora…but also with the indigenous or first nations peoples that live as they always have – in harmony with Gods creation.
The Guato – a tribe on the verge of extinction
Today very few Guato indigenous people survive. Less than 1000 in fact. Once they occupied the majority of the Pantanal in Brazil and in Bolivia. They are mostly living around the town of Corumba on the border of Bolivia and on a small island in the Paraguay river called Insua Island. I met the wife of the chief elder a lady by the name of Rosalina who invited me to visit them. The island is around 320 km up the river and can only be reached by boat. The nearest airstrip is about 100km from the small settlement of Uberaba. I am told it is a 16 hour journey but this may be longer depending on conditions or the time of the year.
Brazil is also home to most of the worlds uncontacted, isolated indigenous tribes in the world. The organisation FUNAI protect the indians as bets they can but their lands have been encroached on and their fortunes as a tribe has led them to virtual extinction. They have their own language and cosmology and without our help in the years to come …they will soon become like the rest of the pantanal… extinct.
Perhaps these same people also hold the keys to understanding our climate crisis and also are an indication of how our encroachment on the rainforests and wetlands are having an impact on the health and wellbeing of these eco systems and indirectly the planet itself. I believe there is an important link and wisdom we can learn in our quest for this understanding of our own future.
What does Guato mean?
“It may well be, for example, that guató is a derivation of guatá, a verb that in Guarani signifies walk, wander, travel and traverse, annotated in this form at the start of the Iberian conquest in order to indicate a canoe people with a high degree of spatial mobility. Over the years, guatá ended up being pronounced and written as guató, incorporated as an ethnic name and autonym in a sociolinguistic context marked by intense interethnic contacts.” The Guato are the Hebrews or “wanderers” of Brazil like so many others who live close to nature and hunt or gather on its rivers and in its forests.
“The Guató territory, limited exclusively to the Pantanal region, remained relatively unaltered until the mid 19th century when the process of occupying the region of the upper Paraguai river, especially after the Paraguayan War (1864-1870), with the presence of former soldiers, military personnel and farmers. The historiography on the Guató leaves no doubt concerning the extensive area that they once occupied, where the Indians were dispersed into small nuclear families. “
The fires in the Pantanal this year have been the worst in living memory. But they are simply an indication of what has been happening in the last 100 years with the expansion of the cattle farmer and the rancher… and the ever marching hammer of progress and order and economic expediency.
A land of over 70 000 square kilometres they once occupied is down to one small island…
What can we do about saving the Pantanal?
The Pantanal like the Amazon are both under threat. Not just by what is happening to the climate but what is happening on the ground. Despite being the greatest environmental tragedy of 2020, it is all but forgotten under the flag of the pandemic and global economic crisis. People have more important things to worry about. Tourist lodges have been closed since January and only recently opened up in October. And despite a 120 day moratorium on fires; the fires will return next year… and the year after that. Fortunately , there is some good news… Brazil has many fire resistant trees that have withstood the raging infernos. They call they locally “ paratodo” – they have survived.
But to really make a difference in the long term the Pantanal should be bought out completely and turned into a nature reserve. Just like many large tracts of land were bought by the state or appropriated in Africa. This is unlikely to happen unless there is the political and economic will to do so. And for those who farm these lands, they will still need a livelihood. But this would be a big step in the right direction. Brazil could not do it alone and should not do it alone.
Saving the rainforest and the pantanal is EVERYONES business.
The Amazon is the lungs of the planet and the birth of many of its trade winds which bring rain to Africa and Europe and in fact the whole world. They produce the “ rivers in the sky” that enable it to rain on the land. This rain provides the nourishment to grow food for the people. Its all linked together. So important it is to preserve our rainforests and trees we need only look at where petroleum originates from. Oil produces energy this we use to power our economies. One day all of this may be gone and we may not have even the air we breath and take for granted.
So what can we do? : SOS PANTANAL !
The first step is AWARENESS or consciousness accelaration.
By visiting these regions and learning more about them we establish a greater connection with them. Its like eating meat. We buy it from the local supermarket in a nicely packaged plasticated cleansed parcel. But we have no idea how and where that meat came form or how it was slaughtered. We have no idea what growth hormones are used or what these animals actually eat. In fact most of us know very little about our food chain.
For those of us who would like to make a stand and get involved…you can. You can volunteer. Dont come just as a tourist, but come as a volunteer . Find any project that promotes the sustainable development and survival of the pantanal or the amazon. Help the first nations people to preserve their language and culture and traditions so we can learn more from the spirit of the forest and the habitat of the wetlands. Lobby your leaders to ensure that these lands are protected. Make movies,Make music , make concerts…raise money… write books – educate those who dont know about the necessity to plant trees and preserve the biomes of the jaguar and the many endangered species of the wetlands.
As a focaliser or convener of rainbow gatherings for over 35 years all around the world I see how much good we can do when we actually connect with the land and live on it for one month. This needs to happen and we need to ignite the imagination of our youth to take the torch of this great cause forward into the next generation… we are all rainbow warriors ( see welcomehome.org & earthoceans.org)
The second step is ECONOMIC. ENVIRONOMICS…I firmly believe that unless we incentivise protecting the environment , we will not change negative behavior patterns. In other words we need to redefine the value of money…which up to now has been profit based on commodities that have little merit or value.
Gold for example is a worthless item. Without food, without water, without air… gold is nothing. SO is the FIAT currency system. Its just numbers created by a computer in a bank. It has no value except what we place on it. If we are to save the Earth we will have to digitalise our currency and incentivise them to motivate people to keep this Earth clean and green. Our economic system must reflect the true picture of economics. And what is that? It is the tree standard. Without trees we do not have oxygen nor do we have an effective carbon sink to clean the atmosphere of the fumes we pollute it with. Without trees we don’t have wind and water and food. Its all interconnencted and interrelated. The Earth is a biological computer operating with set dynamic algorithms. If we disrupt these significantly it upsets the balance of Nature to sustain life on Earth. Its that simple.
This crisis in the Pantanal was created and caused by the massive clearing and cutting of the Amazon rainforest over the last 30 years. How do I know? I was in Brazil during the 3rd Earth Summit in 1992 when the Agenda 21 declared its intention to create such a sustainability plan by the year 2021. Unfortunately,… we are nowhere near this goal today than it was in 1992. In fact 2020 has been the worst destruction in history of the Amazon and the Pantanal regions… we have gone BACKWARDS! The political will has to be there to make the changes necessary before its too late. We dont just need a great reset , we need a great awakening.
How can we change that ?
Brazil ranks as the most biodiverse country in the world. Biodiversity is the shortened form of two words “biological” and “diversity”. It refers to all the variety of life that can be found on Earth (plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms) as well as to the communities that they form and the habitats in which they live. This is why it is important to preserve the eco systems that contain it.
But how ? It is political, intellectual, international, economical and radical. But to give wings to our ideas we must approach this challenge practically. What then shall we do?
We must create a new economy and a crypto currency that will reward responsible behavior towards our common Earth. And the international community needs to create a common fund to invest in the preservation of this vital resource of both the Pantanal..the Amazon.. and other rainforests around the world such as the Congo. It is high time. Irresponsible capitalism must end. We are all in this together…we sink or swim together… as a species. Its up to us because there is no justice.. JUST US!.. and our vote is what we consume and what we do with our money.
The final step is ACTIVISM . Where our leaders have failed us , we must protest and resist. Where necessary we must create a non violent,ahimsa non cooperation NEW EARTH ( NOVA TERRA )army.
Where we see the land being burned to the ground for profit we must occupy it and live on it. Or we must educate and empower those who live on it already…whether they be cattle ranchers or first nations peoples.
Where we see apathy and indifference we must OPEN our hearts and cry for the land and the Earth. Dance for it. Embrace and love it. It wont get better by us doing nothing. We must create a NEW EARTH ORDER… if necessary… and oppose the globalist agenda of consumerism and pollution and oppression. We can create islands of LIGHT and communities of consciousness or eco villages that will be ripples in the ponds of stagnation… yes… if nothing is worth believing in or living for then we are a lost civilization swimming in the morass of our own mediocrity.
I have myself travelled the Earth and spoken to many wise men and women over the years. As a rainbow warrior I have made my cause the cause of humanity as well as the Earth that provides our existence. It is our philosophy that must change if we are to survive and we have something to leave our children and grandchildren. We are going through a great purification and this pandemic has given us time to think what we are doing to each other and to the environment. We still have a chance to make it right. But time is running out. WHEN???…
“ May all the beings in all the worlds be happy!”
Peace begins with you , with me ,with WE and we are the ones we have waited for. Change must be collective and integrative. We live on ONE EARTH in ONE world so lets co create a NEW EARTH ORDER for a NEW ERA , a rainbow nation of all colors and creeds bringing healing to the planet by our words and our deeds.
1. AWARENESS ACCELERATION
WELCOME TO THE MYCELLIUM , WELCOME HOME!
RAINBOWLANDS BRAZIL ( FACEBOOK GROUP ) / SOS PROJECT EARTH/ NOVA TERRA
WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
UPCOMING CONCERT IN THE AMAZON : SOS EARTH : SPIRIT OF THE FOREST
MANAUS OPERA HOUSE MARCH 2021 ?
Whatever you do and wherever you are you can join this rainbow alliance and we can shine together. AWOOSHA!
Useful References : If you want to know more and get involved. We are creating a land protection project that intends to focus on protecting 10 pieces of environmentally sensitive lands . Its called Terras Liberdade ( Freedom Lands)
( MAP OF THE FIRE DAMAGE IN THE PANTANAL)