Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Shallow Waters

Soon, I shall be looking at marine conservation and biodiversity with Shallow Waters...

More news and updates here soon!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Sustainable movement

Giles Crosse
The developed world counts transport among its most environmentally damaging creations. Aviation in particular has enormous impacts.

However, at a more basic level transport is a vital element of everyday life and a crucial development tool.

So many basic systems rely on the ability to move goods, energy, fuels and humans efficiently, reliably and safely. And of course there are many places where the infrastructure to enable this basic requirement remain lacking.

It may seem an unlikely element for discussion from a sustainability perspective, but the development of stable and safe road systems allows so much vital commerce and business to take place.

Moving food, pharmaceuticals and materials to build homes remains largely impossible without a passable road system. The comparatively huge amount of time it takes to travel short distances in the developing world remains a barrier to safer and happier lives.

Giles Crosse
Whether in the Amazon or Madagascar, regardless of species biodiversity or higher end development goals, roads rendered impassable by seasonal rains leave little opportunity for ordinary people to access the goods and services they need.

Luxuries such as ambulances, but perhaps more importantly the roads they run on, are less prevalent in these parts of the world. There is simply no way to access a hospital within hours in the event of a challenging childbirth or an accident in the forest or on a fishing trip.

Giles Crosse
When political infighting prevents transport infrastructure from being maintained, some of the most basic elements of a functional society become threatened.

The seats above may look uncomfortable, but the opportunities and possibilities they represent are infinitely valuable.

Roads, planes and cars may have caused enormous environmental damage. But for the moment they remain the key to offering higher standards of life. Many communities simply do not have the tools or the skills to maintain vast sections of road or highway.

Vast motorways, cut into primary rainforest, can offer little more than an opportunity to shift hardwoods illegally, move species illegally, or pass drugs in or out of a country.

But in more simple ways, a safe, reliable road system can transform the life of villagers and communities so keen to access the basic essentials of modern living.
Giles Crosse

Monday, 26 August 2013

Planetary wealth

Fisherman's pirogue - Saint Luce - Madagascar - Giles Crosse
Making a living from the resources provided by nature is something of a normal way of life in Madagascar.

However there is also a crucial role for education in terms of environmental stewardship.

Much of this has to do with ownership.

For example, it is very challenging to create a meaningful dialogue with a local community whose land has been bought up by foreign investors.

All too often, this creates a mindset whereby locals see minimal advantage in stewarding both their marine and land based assets, because as far as they are concerned foreign investors will most likely tear down the forest or pollute the seas.

This creates a short mindedness that damages the environment and the heritage of future generations.

Giles Crosse
But offering a true sense of ownership generally has the opposite effect in terms of long termism and a more meaningful appreciation of how best to protect and utilise natural resources into the future.

When an individual or a community is invested in the local ecosystem, it is so much easier to build bridges, to educate and influence and set up an alternative to short term resource use and exploitation that has unfortunately already damaged many of the planet's ecosystems.

This offers huge benefits to humans and ecosystems alike, of which we are of course a part, and upon which we depend for food, air, water and the materials to clothe and protect our children.

Giles Crosse

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Simple beauty

Giles Crosse
In the midst of poverty and pain, it is easy to forget the breathtaking diversity and scenery of Madagascar.

Vast mountains, desert plains stretching to the horizon and an array of flora and fauna are visible here.

Giles Crosse
Bountiful waterfalls rise to the skies, while spiders cast their webs across the flowing waters.

This is the nature that is at risk should expansion, mining or human greed, and potentially need, impact fully upon this most unique of island habitats.

Giles Crosse
Music, art and creation are so often forms best utilised to express the need for thoughtfulness regarding these matters. Malagasy dance, where dancers join and enter in and out of circles, may perhaps have something to tell us surrounding the oneness and returning nature of man and his environment.

Western writers too have input into these matters.

"It's a beautiful world
And when the city sleeps we go walking
We find a hole in the sky and then we start talking
And then we say "Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ
Buy us some time, buy us some time"" - Richard Ashcroft

There is still time left to look after ourselves and the planet bequeathed in our keeping.

Man's influence casts a long shadow - Giles Crosse

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto operates in Madagascar - Giles Crosse
Rio Tinto has an interesting reputation globally.

Here in Madagascar, the company operates a partnership firm with the government, named QMM. This firm is operating in the Saint Luce region of the island, and had been planning to mine minerals from the littoral coastal forest.

Presently, whether or not this mining is going to go ahead remains uncertain. Back in January, the low prices the firm paid for the land rights sparked fury amongst Malagasy locals who blockaded the QMM site.

It seems that QMM now seems uncertain of precisely how much mineral asset remains, and hence how much profit it will make from the portions of  Madagascar it bought to the outrage of communities living here.

This in turn has led to fears that Rio Tinto will simply sell off its land to the highest foreign bidders, to do with as they will, again denying Malagasy people access, rights and a voice in the future of the island's 80 per cent endemic flora and fauna.

Signage describing Rio Tinto's presence outside Saint Luce - Giles Crosse
Rio Tinto has built a local school in the Saint Luce area. Then again, local community leaders say neither staff nor educational assets were provided.

Equally, Rio Tinto built what NGO staff describe as the finest roads on the island. But they serve only as access points to the port, enabling easy transportation and movement, and offer little or no wider infrastructure benefit.

Rio Tinto operates a 'net benefit' policy. This, according to the firm, illustrates, 'An evaluation of the achievements and above all, impacts of the Biodiversity Program shows positive development towards a net benefit for the Fort-Dauphin environment.'

Such benefits are a little tricky to evaluate, when NGO insiders argue the Tinto plans were to mine some 80 per cent of the unique littoral forest it bought, leaving 20 per cent of the resource intact.

Rio Tinto's presence has sparked controversy - Giles Crosse
Plainly, the illegitimacy of Madagascar's government, which begs questions over precisely how much of a voice any Malagasy natives have in the QMM partnership, does not help the situation.

Locals, working with the Azafady NGO, monitor littoral forest gecko numbers - Giles Crosse
Perhaps the only certainty surrounds the diversity and importance of the species existing in Madagascar's forests. The future of these will largely depend upon the outcomes and decisions to be made by QMM.

Only this month, Azafady researchers suspect they have discovered unique new frog species dwelling in these regions. How many such forms of life will lose their habitat before they even been described or documented?

Monday, 19 August 2013

Paths to the future

Libanona - Madagascar - Giles Crosse
Value, society, sustainability and development are all brought into sharp focus in developing countries like Madagascar.

In many ways it might be argued such value of life is cheap here. Arguments spark freely on the streets, poverty is visible in every corner, life is hard, challenging and for some people short.

Perhaps the most arresting images are those of children, hanging outside supermarkets seeking handouts from Westerners. Or combing the beaches, seeking an opportunity to sell trinkets or necklaces.

Yet these are not thieving, offensive nor aggressive youths. These are merely children introduced at too young an age to the concept of working for a living.

Polite, energetic, bouncy and friendly, these youngsters retain a smile and a cheerful demeanour among some of the hardest living conditions imaginable.

An empty plastic bottle, waste to a Westerner, is a resource to a Malagasy child.

Perhaps this might be worth a hundred Ariary to sell, perhaps it could be a handy container for the future. Perhaps it might be a useful tool to build a home made toy or pastime.

Many commentators here tell me that actually one of the main things Malagasy youngsters seek is diversion. Something to do, an occupation, an opportunity to dream and to run like a child.

And indeed this they do in many ways; on homemade stilts, pushing empty bicycle rims or dragging car toys, home made from wood or old cans along the streets.

Libanona - Madagascar - Giles Crosse
Yet minutes from where children work on the beaches, a luxury hotels sits, offering breathtaking views across the bay towards the international port, built by QMM, the Madagascan / Rio Tinto joint partnership to mine minerals from the island.

How many Malagasy youngsters will ever enjoy these views? How many will spend a night in the luxury rooms, pampered in the spa or drinking cocktails in an infinity pool?

How many will find the education they need to climb out of poverty and earn a better future for themselves and for the development of their country and their children? What future form will their lives take.

It may be that the long awaited elections here will take place, offering a sense of power and meaning back to the people and perhaps enabling a return of wider international aid and assistance.

Futures, questions, livelihoods and the balance of life here all hang in the balance.

Basic Malagasy

Libanona - Madagascar - Giles Crosse
Sunsets, conversations and moments in developing countries, or anywhere else for that matter, are so much more meaningful and poignant with a few basic words of the native tongue....

Salama - Hello
Ino vaovao - What's happening
Tsi misy - Just the usual
Tsi misy akory hanao - How are you
Soa - Good
Faly mahalala hanao - Nice to meet you
Iza gnagnaranao koa - What's your name
Veloma - Goodbye
Tsi misy fisaora - You're welcome
Faly - I'm happy

Raiky - One
Rua - Two
Fulu - Ten

Fort Dauphin - Madagascar - Giles Crosse
Mila labiera telu zaho - I would like three beers
Hotrina labiera raiky - How much is one beer
Misy credit - Is there credit
Eka misy - Yes there is
1,000 - Arivo
3,000 Telu arivo
3,500 Telu arivo sy dimanjato
4,000 Efajato
Ino itihoky - What's this
Rano - Water

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Taxi Broisse

Taxi Broisse stop - Fort Dauphin - Madagascar - Giles Crosse

A Taxi Broisse is a quintessentially Madagascan experience.

Basically a 7 1/2 tonne truck, this taxi service is the commonest and cheapest way for Malagasy people to navigate their way around the island.

To Western eyes, the entire process is pretty remarkable.

Once the Broisse arrives, in my case some three hours late, something of a frenzy occurs.

Rice, spring onions, spare tyres and anything else that will fit on board are crammed into the space. Including live chickens and ducks.

After about an hour, the humans come next. Including me.

Loading Taxi Broisse - Fort Dauphin - Madagascar - Giles Crosse
The back of the truck is literally crammed to bursting. We sit on rice, floorboards, crushed beans, tyres and whatever will suffice. I had a Malagasy woman's baby balanced in one arm, whilst my foot became trapped between another's leg and a huge bag of rice.

The Broisse then rolls off for some 4/5 hours of travel across dirt tracks. On our particular journey, heavy rains the night before rendered the road impassable, leading to a couple of hour's delay whilst leaves and trees created a pathway across the saturated ground.

The road to Saint Luce - floods - Giles Crosse 

Yet more apparent chaos occurs on entering villages along the route. Shouting, sweating Malagasy shift bags of rice down for the villagers, crowding at the back of the truck presumably seeking their next meal.

It is a touching sight and one that contrasts harshly with the vast volumes of food waste created in developed countries.

Some hours into the drive, the Malagasy break out into frenetic chat, song and laughter. It's a remarkable moment, some 200 voices in the back of a truck, smiling and laughing amid the most uncomfortable journey imaginable.

Within moments, talk turns to the only white face in the Taxi. My age, marital status, job and name are all enquired after, followed by attempts to pronounce it with varying degrees of success.

Once again the fundamental good nature and empathy underlying the Malagasy people is well revealed. Sharing such a journey is a pleasure and offers a real insight into how we might alter approaches to life, and consider quite how more meaningful are companionship and laughter than the solitude of business class.

Road to Saint Luce - Madagascar - Giles Crosse 


Attending a weaving class with Malagasy women is a moving and humbling experience.

Woven crafts - Saint Luce region - Madagascar - Giles Crosse
Over the course of an hour, they create beautiful, intricate patterns with speed, grace and dexterity.

They also show a welcome lack of judgement over this particular reporter's weaving skills. Although after an hour or so I was getting the hang of it.

There is something disarming and natural about sitting with Madagascan villagers whilst they work on these crafts. Perhaps an element of the frenetic lifestyle we have created in Western societies drifts away, enabling a calmer and more pensive way of thinking.

Village - Saint Luce region - Madagascar - Giles Crosse
Then again there are polarities also. Weaving represents one of the few income sources available to villagers in this part of the world. It is hard work, requiring concentration and good eyesight.

Equally, it brings to mind relative questions surrounding the balance between financial realities. An hour's weaving cost me 5,000 Ariary, about £2.

This covers all materials, teaching, some woven crafts, a priceless experience and moments with some of the most charming and charismatic people I have ever met.

In the EU, US or many other parts of the world, few people would even consider getting out of bed for £2 an hour. Yet here the idea is welcomed with a smile, a laugh and the most benign and beautiful attitude imaginable.

The lessons take place in the midst of the village, surrounded by the realities and hardships of village life.

Here there is little or no external power. No sewerage system. No police, no healthcare. Women in childbirth will deal on their own, without a midwife, hospital ward or painkilling drugs, with however their individual case develops.

Open air stoves pollute the local atmosphere and the lungs of women cooking for families. Children run and skip in the dust, mostly without shoes and clad in second hand football T shirts from the West, often torn and filthy.

In the midst of this is found the most welcoming and empathetic human nature imaginable. The contrasts between money, development, society, happiness and friendship have rarely been better demonstrated.

Village - Saint Luce region - Madagascar - Giles Crosse


Shipwreck beach, Fort Dauphin, Madagascar - Giles Crosse
The beaches in this part of the world are some of the most beautiful around, with breathtaking views to the horizon of the Indian Ocean.

But there is also a stark human lesson to be learned amidst this natural spectacle.

Open air defecation is among one of the many development issues facing Madagascar. A lack of sewerage systems and latrines, plus issues surrounding cultural change and education, mean that many people throughout the island still view open air defecation as the norm.

Of course this societal concept has wide ranging implications in terms of healthcare and disease control, in addition to potentially less obvious impacts on the tourist trade.

Many NGOs have installed latrine systems on the island, all too often used and then left. What is required is a newer type of development mindset, that offers people living here the tools to implement and create their own change.

It is blindingly obvious that with the ingenuity and intelligence they possess, Malagasy people are more than capable of building and maintaining basic latrine systems.

What is needed is an approach that suggests the cultural and mental tools to enable a shift from outdated mindsets, which are so often at the core of development work.

In many ways the reasons beaches become defecation sites are simple, the tide comes in and washes away the problem, neatly, freely and regularly.

But this reality makes beaches unpleasant places to be, spreads disease, and creates a number of additional negative impacts on both the tourist trade and foreigner's perceptions of Madagascar itself.

This might seem like a simple problem to fix, but as is often the case it illustrates the complexities facing development workers and the developing world as a whole.

Giles Crosse

Giles Crosse

It may not seem that attractive, but a long drop latrine is actually a pretty amazing tool viewed in a wider context.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Fort Dauphin thunderstorm

Fort Dauphin, thunderstorm - Giles Crosse

Today we are in the middle of a Madagascan rainstorm, strong winds, cold rain and very, very dark by 6PM.

Thus far Madagascar seems an intriguing mix of polarities and divisions. People here are among the friendliest I have ever met, faces beam in greeting, children dance and play whilst laughter and smiles permeate the cobbled, dusty streets.

Yet falling tourist numbers since 2002 and 2009's coup have led to deserted roads after nightfall and murmurings of security risks and muggings. I've yet to see any violence or disturbances of any kind, so the reality as ever likely remains somewhere between warnings and truth.

Poverty remains highly visible here, yet nowhere is an offensive or caustic attitude apparent. Indeed, a sense of welcoming, enjoyment and celebration of life seem far more prevalent amid these streets.

Shops open at 6AM, with many Malagasy beginning their working day at 4AM, to cook for their families before heading off to their respective workplaces. Shops then close for lunch between 12/2, reopening until 6PM in the evening.

Street vendors offer vegetables, bread and eggs, taxis bump and shudder emitting noise and smoke, indeed the street lighting system has only recently been established.

Giles Crosse
Politically, people I have spoken with express dissatisfaction at the long delayed election here, questioning whether it will ever take place. This perhaps contributes to falling numbers of tourists, following the withdrawal of foreign aid, and begs the question of how establishing any meaningful sense of democracy is going to take place.

Giles Crosse
Withdrawal of aid from damaging regimes seems a logical path. But the degree to which this encourages regime change, or merely undermines standards of living for an already impoverished nation remains hard to judge.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Tana - Madagascar


View of Tana from Manoir Rouge - Giles Crosse
After another mammoth travel session I am here in Tana awaiting a 5:45AM start to fly down to Fort Dauphin in South Madagascar....

Thus far the people seem very friendly and kind, including one offer from a petroleum tanker officer to drive me around Tana when I get back from Fort Dauphin... Watch this space!

Very much looking forward to investigating the ecology and flora and fauna of the island and getting stuck into development work.

More meaningful updates for you ASAP!

Cloudy Tana sunset - Giles Crosse

Monday, 15 July 2013

Two days to go

Getting into final preparations now for departure...

Heathrow - Nairobi / Nairobi - Antananarivo

Night in Tana...then

Antananarivo - Fort Dauphin...

Details below courtesy of http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13861843

Madagascar is the world's fourth biggest island after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo. Because of its isolation most of its mammals, half its birds, and most of its plants exist nowhere else on earth.
The island is heavily exposed to tropical cyclones which bring torrential rains and destructive floods, such as the ones in 2000 and 2004, which left thousands homeless.

The Malagasy are thought to be descendants of Africans and Indonesians who settled on the island more than 2,000 years ago. Malagasy pay a lot of attention to their dead and spend much effort on ancestral tombs, which are opened from time to time so the remains can be carried in procession, before being rewrapped in fresh shrouds.

At a glance

Baobabs in Madagascar
  • Politics: In January 2009 political unrest erupted into violence. President Ravalomanana resigned in March following a fierce power struggle with opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, who then assumed power with military backing.
  • Economy: Madagascar is the world's leading producer of vanilla. Many areas suffer food shortages.
  • International: African Union suspended Madagascar and EU froze aid after the 2009 coup
Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring
After sometimes harsh French colonial rule, which included the bloody suppression of an uprising in 1947, Madagascar gained independence in 1960. The military seized power in the early 1970s with the aim of achieving a socialist paradise.
This did not materialise. The economy went into decline and by 1982 the authorities were forced to adopt a structural adjustment programme imposed by the International Monetary Fund.
The World Bank has estimated that 70% of Malagasy live on less than $1 per day. Poverty and the competition for agricultural land have put pressure on the island's dwindling forests, home to much of Madagascar's unique wildlife and key to its emerging tourist industry.
The island has strong ties with France as well as economic and cultural links with French-speaking West Africa.
However, Andry Rajoelina's seizure of power in 2009 left the country isolated by the international community and deprived of foreign aid.
An agreement to move back to constitutional rule in 2013 hung in the balance after Mr Rajoelina announced he would stand for the presidency after all. Both he and ex-president Ravalomanana had earlier agreed not to contest the election.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


From 17th July, I will be in Madagascar, working with Azafady on sustainability, conservation, education and development.

I'll be blogging from there on the people, the experience, littoral forest, unique species and humanitarian development - watch these pages!

With about 5% of Earth's plant and animal species found within this 0.4% of the planet's land surface, Madagascar is among the world's most significant biodiversity hotspots.

8 out of every 10 species found in Madagascar are found nowhere else…Though today it remains among Earth's top biodiversity hotspots, Madagascar has so far lost an estimated 90% of its original forest vegetation

Adding to the pressures on Madagascar's natural environment are resource extraction operations where foreign interests play a significant and typically dominant hand. Madagascar is rich with minerals, and increasingly busy with mining activities. 

The people of Madagascar make up an ethnically diverse population of some 21 million, with the number of inhabitants increasing at a rate of about 3% per year. It is one of the world's most impoverished and least developed countries, ranking 151/187 in the 2011 UN Human Development Index, with 77% of its population living below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day (that's about 80p). Only 27% of the population are classified as urban – the majority work in subsistence agriculture, and some 50% of children under three years of age suffer retarded growth due to a chronically inadequate diet. Island-wide, about 1 in every 10 children die before the age of five from easily preventable diseases, typically diarrhoea – rising to as many as 4 in 10 in rural areas.

Thursday, 23 May 2013


Deforestation - outside Maldonado - Giles Crosse
Some hours outside Puerto Maldonado the extent of deforestation in this part of the Amazon basin becomes truly apparent.

Road to the future - Giles Crosse
In this part of Peru, one side of the forest lining this road is protected by law. The forest on the other side of the road is being decimated by goldmining, human incursion and destruction. Nothing more than a strip of tarman separates these opposing visions of how Peru's future forest might one day exist.

A sustainable alternative? Giles Crosse
On the protected side of the road, more sustainable options are apparent. Viveros, spaces set aside for sustainable soils and plant growth are visible.

Will goldmining and contaminated waters cover the forest? Giles Crosse 

Yet elsewhere, blue plastic shacks, mercury contaminated pools and skeletons of trees define the landscape

Non deforestation - Giles Crosse
Some hours further down the road, undamaged forests line the horizons. Though even these may be threatened by future hydroelectric projects.

Sunset at Mazuko - Giles Crosse
As ever, the Amazon offers up a bewildering array of images and possibilities. Those that will ultimately represent its future remain difficult to predict.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Alex and me

I read this lovely, meaningful excerpt from 'Alex and me' by Irene M. Pappenberg, which I felt keen to share on these pages...Alex was her Gray Parrot with which Pappenberg carried out research into animal sentience, communication and thought.

'Exactly how scientists came to espouse ideas about animal minds that were so at odds with what non scientists would call common sense is fascinating and instructive.

It bears exploring because it tells us a lot about ourselves as a species. Humans have always tried to make sense of the world and their place in it. Foraging people, living in close harmony with nature and her rythmns, see themselves as closely connected to other living things in their worlds.

They see themselves as an integral part of the whole of nature. We see this expressed in the mythologies and folk tales of Australian Aborigines and Native Americans, for instance....

Aristotle, in the fourth century B.C.E, constructed a view of the natural world that is, in its essence, still with us. He ordered all living and non living things on a ladder of perceived importance based on mind.

Humans were at the top, below the gods, a place earned by our great intellect. On lower and lower rungs were the lesser creatures, and finally the plants; lowest of all was the mineral world.

The Judeo-Christian tradition enthusiastically adopted Aristotle's blueprint, in which humans were given dominion over all living things and the earth. This description of nature became known as the Great Chain of Being. Humans were not only different from all of God's other creatures, but also distinctly superior.

The most important lesson that Alex taught us concerns the place of Homo Sapiens in nature. The revolution in animal cognition of which Alex was an important part teaches us that humans are not unique, as we long believed.

We are not superior to all other beings in nature. The idea of humans' separateness from the rest of nature is no longer tenable. Alex taught us that we are a part of nature, not apart from nature.

That 'separateness' notion was a dangerous illusion that gave us permission to exploit every aspect of the natural world - animal, plant, mineral - without consequences. We are now facing those consequences: poverty, starvation, and climate change for example.

My philosophy of life is based in an appreciation of the holistic nature of the world. Who knows what other amazing things we might have seen through our window into Alex's mind had he stayed?

In any case, he did leave me this great gift of what was once known and embraced but was lost: the oneness of nature and our part in it.'

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Slash and Burn

There is here in Peru, and in many developing countries, a strong tendency to burn things. When that comes to rubbish in the streets or toxic chemicals that is a bad thing.

Giles Crosse

Then again, in the EU incineration of rubbish is one of the largest forms of waste disposal. This of course does not make it right or necessarily good, but it does illustrate that these approaches are not confined to shanty towns or barrios. They are also used, invested in and supported by some of the richest governments in the West.

Of course, burning in agriculture to clear land is also a widely used and debated approach.
There is perhaps insufficient space in these pages to enter into the scientific and environmental arguments behind these points. They are complex and even experts in the subject fail to reach consensus.

More interesting is the ethos behind burning things.

Without using scientific arguments, it seems plain that allowing a field to lie fallow ought to enable a greater
quantity of goodness to return to the soil than rushing to send the vast majority of this into the heavens in smoke and fumes.

Equally, if we create something so virulent that we need to burn it to find a way to get rid of it, then perhaps it might have been wiser, certainly in terms of waste disposal, to have opted for a less harmful product in the first place.

But burning can also cleanse and destroy viruses. Viewed without emotion, it is little more than a process which converts one form of energy and material into another.

I do not condone incineration of rubbish nor the destruction of vast swathes of rainforest through burning.

Yet perhaps even more worrying is the mindset that burning belies. It speaks of a short termism, a lack of vision and a desire to sweep our mistakes under the carpet. It is often a violent, destructive process.
Maybe burning things isn’t the problem, it’s why we allow ourselves to do it in the first place.

Giles Crosse 

A blade of grass

Giles Crosse

Often it seems that humans and the environment are at odds, constantly battling for supremacy.

However, in actual fact there is a great deal of shared experience that bonds and illustrates the links all elements on this planet share.

The tiniest blade of grass, the hugest tree, a microscopic organism, a human being. All of these share a common functionality. All have a tipping point, the point at which, for whatever reason, balance is broken and spins out of control with potentially disastrous consequences.

Such equilibrium might be shattered by the tiniest ant, bringing to ground the most ancient hardwood in the Amazon rainforest. It might be the tiniest drop of rain, that crushes a blade of grass to the ground.

In the human world, it might be the final cigarette that leads to cancer. The final meal that leads to obesity, the final emotion that leads to a breakdown or triggers the onset of love, or conversely hatred.

If our world does rest on these subtle, tiny nuances that govern life and death, time and fate, balance and imbalance, then it may be that the word sustainability becomes even more meaningful.

What does it mean to live sustainably? Do we mean a sustainable life in terms of consumption? In terms of what we drink, eat, buy, in terms of how sustainable our emotions are? In terms of how much we give or take, in the measure of our kindness or selfishness?

Who or what governs these choices, and how do we know which are the right ones?

The natural world seems capable, left unhindered, of creating its own balance. Along this path there are winners and losers, extinctions and events, chaos, disorder and tragedy underlying the surface. But these are the elements that combine to create a holistic way forwards.

Perhaps mirroring this in our own lives could lead to a more sustainable way of living in many senses; personal, ethical, a learned ability to neither cling too tight to fleeting dreams of happiness nor cast away futures for lack of patience or resolve. To neither try too hard nor to give up.

Balance maintains the planet around us. Perhaps correctly used, it can maintain us too.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Escape from the jungle 2...

Apologies for the poor vid quality... It was necessary to use a low res format with Peruvian uploading times...

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Las Piedras river journey

River to your soul

Huesca river tributary, Las Piedras reserve - Giles Crosse
An hour or two upriver from the Lucerna port, the protected reserve in the Las Piedras region of this part of the Amazon comes into force.

It's a remote, isolated, largely untouched and largely unspoiled wilderness, where man's influence has been limited and nature still reigns in the jungle light.

Unsurpassing beauty and calm are at work here. But human encroachments have occurred, as a road enables illegal logging to take place. Empty shotgun shells have been found here by the Fauna Forever team, evidencing the brutality and the cheapness of life that belies this form of existence.

As yet, government officials have taken little or no action to protect the reserve in the form of guard posts or in the form of watch towers or communications. Laws at this stage have no concrete affirmation beyond cabinet rooms or red tape.

Thus it is left to the NGOs and the private businesses in the area with a vested interest in conservation to protect what may be Peru's most vital legacy, both economically in the form of future ecotourism and in the form of the biodiversity that exists here.

Giles Crosse 

Jungle canopy from below - Giles Crosse 
Ancient trees line the riverbank - Giles Crosse 
Las Piedras riverbank - Giles Crosse 
Alternating mud, clay and stone make up the shores lining these waters - Giles Crosse 
 Journeying upriver, people fall silent, preferring the nature around them to conversation. Sounds of a thousand birds, spider monkeys and the myriad species which inhabit this jungle wilderness reverberate and echo amid the canopy enclosing these waters.

It's amazing that such a truly wonderful place as yet affords little concrete protection from its government. Locals rub their fingers together knowingly, commenting, 'el dinero habla.' As in most parts of the world, money talks.

This area is among the least surveyed or studied in the Amazon basin. No one has mapped the river tributary and its species density in the pictures above. Few have even visited; far fewer have studied.

The mysteries here might one day serve up a million new medicines, species, plants and surprises yet unimaginable to those of us standing on these river beaches. There is a real sense of the majesty of nature when you become aware you're treading on unspoilt beaches, unstudied or sullied by human intervention.

Research  vessels must respect this ecosystem - Giles Crosse 
The very isolation of this place shines a light on how carefully we must avoid impacting on these areas whilst trying to protect them. Ecotourism, conservation and study all inevitably alter and change the environment within which they operate.

Perhaps the question is how we may successfully deliver the resources that can help save this part of the world, while respecting and enabling this precious ecosystem to manage and maintain itself, as it has already for so many millenia.