Amazon Week in DC

Well, I was going to write something introspective about my Labor Day weekend, but I received a last minute tip from my colleague Todd Wiggins, and surprise – I went to opening night of Amazon Week here in DC.

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Amazon Week is a collaboration between the Embassy of Brazil, National Geographic and a number of sponsors.  They have put together a mix of events which can be accessed via EventBrite.

The opening event, which took place at the National Geographic museum, was a thoughtfully organized dip into “the jungle.”  The event opened with thoughtful comments from the CEO of National Geographic Partners, Gary Knell, from the Brazilian Ambassador to the United States, Sergio Silva Do Amaral, and Executive Producer for the film “Wild Amazon”, Ashley Hoppin.

Ambassador Amaral discussed the recent loss of their National Museum, which burned down over this previous weekend. But rather than dwell on the loss, he called out the solidarity of the scientific community as they have come together to help rebuild and recover. He was excited to share, along with several partner nations, the experience of the Amazon, through food, media and dance, this week in DC.

I’m writing about this event today because of the comment made by Ms. Hoppins. She said that her team was the “emotive arm” using animals to tell the stories and inspire people to engage the content in their own way.  Normally, she said, there is more sifting through content and more “sculpting” required to develop an emotional message for the audience.  But in the case of “Wild Amazon,” she said her job was easy.  Apparently, the Amazon is so amazing and so diverse, maybe it was harder to decide what content to squeeze into this wonderful 60 minute documentary.  I would recommend it, but I cannot tell you how to get your hands on it – I bet you would see it on their TV station 🙂

Following the movie was a small panel discussion on the Amazon.  Ambassador Amaral served as the moderator for Conservationist and National Geographic Fellow, Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, and INPA Amazon Biologist, Dr. Rita Mesquita.

There were three key take-aways from this panel discussion:

  • Dr. Lovejoy pointed out, through a complex and long process, over 17 nations have come together to protect the future of the Amazon and the unprecedented diversity it represents. To date, over 50% of the Amazon’s territory has achieved a “protected” status. But 50% is not enough, as research shows the MINIMUM required is likely somewhere between 75 to 80%, otherwise the ecosystem will not be able to sustain itself.
  • Dr. Mesquita brought a “next generation” message regarding the type of scientist it will take to make progress on conservation in the Amazon.  Her focus was the need for cross or interdisciplinary studies which gave scientists additional skills for dealing with all the different cultures, religions, economies and beyond.  She really believes that locals are looking for “External science” to solve their challenges, but she almost seemed to be advocating a form of “urban scientist” – deeply educated in both science AND the local communities they will need to engage.
  • Ambassador Amaral closed with the idea of collaboration.  Many other key representatives of partner nations were present, and he was encouraging further partnership and progress toward protecting the Amazon, using the new wave of Eco Toursim which has been gaining popularity, along with their existing Smithsonian and IDB partnerships.

There was more in the discussion – it was such a well put together event, I just had to write about it. And I hope to revisit the topic.  As Ambassador Amaral pointed out – once you explore even the tiniest piece of the Amazon’s full spectrum (which we have yet to define), it will capture you…and there is a reason for that, at least for me – I will write about it some other day!


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