Published: What lies beneath… India’s nascent dive industry?

Vibrant waters, ripe for conservation or destruction

My latest reporting: a magazine-style, travelogue/environmental essay published by my favorite Indian magazine, Caravan.

The piece focuses on my various experiences diving in India and asks in general whether the Indian government, environmental movement and people are in a position to conserve or consume this great underwater natural resource.

Many thanks to Dave, my editor, who gave me leeway to experiment in form and content. And to think it all started with a giddy, roof-top conversation over small cups of tea.

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Jungle roofing

Evil leaves

One of the heaviest days of work for our volunteers involved hauling and collecting leaves from the jungle. These leaves, which resemble palm fronds, were bundled in masse for roofing for a new traditional hut.

Much of the construction material used by the Shuar community comes from its reserve and this is no different. Local materials, locally harvested sounds more sustainable.

The “rope” used to bind the bundles of leaves is actually the husk of young plant stems. See below.

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Life in even the smallest streams

My little buddy whose name we can't spell

Meat my favorite Shuar boy, a four-year-old named Sing Sang or Thing Thang or Tsing Tsang. Blame the uncertainty on my poor Spanish and inability to understand his accent.

Sing Sang accompanied us on trips occasionally to the jungle alongside his father Jaime. He was energetic little scamp here fishing for river shrimp and crabs in a tiny stream.

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Plantas de la selva: Vol. 12

Silver in the jungle dark

The Shuar in Arutam live in a place between the modern world of cell phones and synthetic fabrics and their traditional world of forest food and medicine.

This one, in particular, was used for tea and salves and apparently is considered both rare and beneficial to memory.

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Plantas de la selva: Vol. 12

High, high above the forest

Palms in the Oriente are some of the most useful trees for the Shuar community.

Palms of varying types are used at different stages of their growth: Seeds are actually collected for planting as well as for jewelry and crafts. Leaves are used for covering and roofs. Palm heart — an incredibly tasty but not so sustainable produce — is collected from some trees for food. The roots harbor all manner of insects for eating. And the hardwood of a full-grown tree is precious and durable.

As volunteers, we spend several afternoons gathering their seeds and then dispersing them on to open fields.

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Plantas de la selva: Vol. 11

Smaller than my smallest fingernail

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Determined little bug

Loud and indefatigable

This little guy refused to not try to climb me. He was loud and buzzy and would not stop climbing every branch and stand of plant to get near me. Or perhaps my shadow.

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The Amazon’s tiny gardeners

Hard at work

Leafcutter ants are fascinating to watch. They form complex societies and build massive underground “nests.”

They also divide and subdivide leaves and carry them great distances in trains. They’re movements are mesmerizing.

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Plantas de la selva: Vol. 10

Orchid

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Plantas de la selva: Vol. 9

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