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Just as no organ of the human body can function if it is cut off from the other organs, so also does the vital organ of earth we call the Amazon depend on surrounding ecosystems. One of these critical relationships is with the Andes mountains.

Animals (and over a longer timescale, plants) migrate up and down the slopes of the Andes into the rainforest depending on climatic conditions.

The Andes are one reason why the Amazon has been so resilient for over a hundred million years. Today the connection between the two regions has nearly been severed by a 2000-mile-long development corridor. The only undisturbed connection is a narrow corridor of land in Ecuador.

An Indigenous movement there is seeking to preserve that land and reclaim adjacent territories that have been lost to development. A small nonprofit, the Andes-Amazon Conservancy (AAC), works with them as a bridge to funding, mapping technology and other necessary resources from the outside world.

Aerial view of village in Shiwiar nation

I sat down with the AAC’s Executive Director Rebecca Allen to talk about this conservation work, which is coming from a different paradigm than a lot of environmental philanthropy.

The work of the AAC is not about “protecting” land from human beings. Rather, human beings — namely, the four Indigenous nations of the region — are understood to be essential parts of the ecosystems that need protection.

Secondly, the vision and planning for the protected corridors come from the local people themselves, not the foreign non-governmental organizations, or NGOs.

Another thing I like about the AAC is that it firmly operates within a Living Earth perspective, that understands that ecological health cannot be reduced to carbon metrics.

The region is one of the deepest refugia on Earth, with astonishing biodiversity, whose value far exceeds the carbon captured in its trees.

Here is the audio recording of our conversation, followed by the video:

Originally published on Charles Eisenstein’s Substack page.