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It’s Jorge Appreciation Day!

The morning air of Valdivia struck a bit cooler than days past, and a slight nostalgia washed over the group as we realized our South American trip was coming to a close. The past week has been an amazing, albeit quick, tour of Chilean culture and biodiversity, and to think that we’ll be home in snowy New York in just a few days weighed heavily on our minds.

But, then we got on the bus.

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The bus has become a staple in our journey across Chilean latitudes; the bonds established on the bus, even if they emerge from the insanity of a five hour drive to Valdivia, have established a group camaraderie and trust that has been invaluable as we discover new foods, new words, and new worlds. That trust, however, would not have been established without the freedom of the road and our trust in one man: Jorge Francisco Araya (aka: our bus driver).

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We’ve collectively declared today “Jorge Appreciation Day,” in hopes that we might pay homage to the person responsible for our safe travels. Jorge is a native of Santiago, Chile and has been driving since he was 18 years old. In a brief written interview (thanks to Google translate and knowledgable Spanish speakers in the group), we learned that he values his family above all else, loves a good cazuela, and hopes to one day visit the US or Mexico. When asked his thoughts on Chilean agriculture, he responded that there should be more agricultural education so that people “learn to love the land and not destroy the fields.”

Despite our crazy bus antics and occasional outburst into song, Jorge seems to like the group: “In the short time we have known each other, I think you are all good people who display humility.” Knowing we have an experienced, trustworthy individual at the wheel (literally) makes us feel safe. Further, knowing that he appreciates our goal of understanding and promoting biodiversity just adds to the ambiance of camaraderie. He also happens to be super good at ping pong, so that’s a plus.

Here’s to you Jorge – Happy Jorge Appreciation Day! Thanks for keeping us safe and I the path to learning more about Chilean biodiversity!

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The Spectrum of Human-Nature Interactions: Exploitation to Preservation

If we’ve learned anything from our class this past semester, it is that humans are inextricably linked to the natural world.  What we are just beginning to holistically understand, however, is that we as humans have the ability to regulate and manage how we interact with our surroundings. The ways in which we interact with nature can be visualized as a spectrum, with exploitation and preservation as the two extremes:

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Though commonly used interchangeably, preservation is an overarching term that encompasses conservation efforts.  Preservation, at its most extreme, seeks to eliminate human impact on nature by protecting biodiversity and ecosystem integrity through isolation.  Examples of preservation include nature reserves and wilderness areas, where biodiversity in ecosystems remain intact. Conservation, on the other hand, refers to the proper use and regulation of how humans use and interact with nature.  Conservation is best demonstrated through rainforest protection initiatives and ‘Big Game’ wildlife refuges, where regulations on how humans interact with their surroundings may either be relaxed or regulated.  Finally, the notion of human exploitation refers to the use of nature for economic or social gain.  These actions may include anything as harmless as a photograph for aesthetic purposes to the over-logging of forested land.

This spectrum is not intended to necessarily declare one category of the spectrum as better than another, and it certainly does not highlight the blurred activities within each category.  It’s intent, rather, is to raise awareness about the need to understand and consciously decide how we interact with the natural world.  We have the ability to decide how we want to related to our surroundings, and engagement in this conscious activity will be of utmost importance in the development of future enterprise, policy agendas, and biodiversity efforts.

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