The man wearing a hard hat oversees the construction. He is building a house. He is building a strip mall. He is building a road. He is building a development. He is building a dam. He is running for president and favored to win. He has felled trees, burned crops and begun to bulldoze the land. Already they have asphalted roads from the highest mountain peaks to the deepest parts of the jungle. Now he and his many workers lay a huge white cement foundation across the green golden fields.
He has chosen the very field that holds the face of the land. The concrete slab completely covers and blocks the field. The cement seeps into the land’s eyes, her mouth, her nose, and ears.
The girl wants to peel back the cement to let the field breathe. It isn’t possible.
In the dream she turns to curse the man and his workers. She warns them of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. She tells them that the land will break through the concrete. The land will open her mouth and swallow them whole.
You wake with desperation. Across the valley below, the buildings stretch out across the body of the land in a white sea of concrete. As a child, the green skirts of the mountain flowed in an expanse of pastures, cornfields, Eucalyptus forests--dramatically altered landscapes, but still green. Now there is no end to the cement sea. You have watched this psoriasis spread since childhood--the slow creep of urban progress, the slow creep of disease. The earth shudders beneath you.
As a child, in the Amazon, the forest pushed up against the town. You would play at the edges of the clearing and feel the forest breathe. Now the stripped hills roll back beyond the horizon. Most of the forest, clear cut for the cheap wood required to make crates for naranjilla, delicious pesticide-soaked fruit.
In 2000 you take the time to ask and people tell you that loggers pay $300 USD to clear cut 10 hectares of land. In 2000, Ecuador’s deforestation rate is the highest rate in South America. The official logging rate in the Amazon recorded in deforestation journals is $1000 USD per hectare. Not here. 10 hectares cleared for a month worth of wages. $30 per hectare. Since 2000, Ecuador has lost 1,149,000 hectares of forest.
Desperate to communicate the profound impact of this loss, conservationists contextualize it for the obsessive American mind. “Ecuador loses an average of 110 football fields a day,” they write. But a football pitch, roughly half the size of a hectare, has nothing to do with the magnitude of this loss.
A 2010 study published in PloS One, estimates that the Yasuni rainforest harbors over 655 different species of trees per hectare, over 596 species of birds, 4,000 species of plants, and over 200 species of mammals.
We are not losing sports fields. We are losing wild and extraordinary lives.