Ten years ago, my husband and I joined Dr. Jeff Salz, a cultural anthropologist, to explore the northwest quadrant of the Indian Himalayas.Our venerable guide and instructor was Ankit Sood.Ankit, founder of Sunshine Himalaya Expeditions, is a man whose business is to bring environmental and cultural awareness of the people and the ecology of that region.It was eye-opening, invigorating, and full of serendipity—including finding the Dalai Lama in a remote monastery.
In October of this year, we joined Jeff again to explore the cultures and the environment of Ecuador.The journey was crafted not only by Jeff but also through the expert hand of Pedro Armendariz, managing director of Galapagos Center. (Check out what Pedro and his team can do!)
From living with the Machaku Yaku community at the headwaters of the Amazon to watching condors soar over the high planes of the Andes, to marveling over the plants and insects found in a jungle environment, to eating two-inch long ants and roasted worms, we walked away more convinced than ever that this planet and its people demand our attention.
As if to underscore that conviction, this week, the world Wildlife Fund reported that 60 percent of all wild animals with a backbone that existed between 1970 and 2014 are now extinct!!
USA TODAY quoted Marco Lambertini, WWF director general who is using the data as a call to action. Lambertini says this is the first generation that has a clear picture of human's impact on nature and has the ability to reverse the trends. Pollution and climate change are among the primary factors.
"We can be the founders of a global movement that changed our relationship with the planet, that saw us secure a future for all life on Earth, including our own," Lambertini said in the report's forward. "Or we can be the generation that had its chance and failed to act; that let Earth slip away."
We can’t be that generation!
Ecotourism allows one to learn about ecosystems, cultures and traditions in a way that protects the natural environment and allows communities to thrive through tourist-related employment and other means. We walked away more aware of how to practice sustainability at home and increased our sensitivity toward other cultures.
Grateful for these experiences, my prayer for all of us is that we do what we can to protect this fragile planet and it’s amazing diversity of humanity.