Mapping the Forests of the Future

It’s almost eery.  The first time you hear it approach, if you’re like my neighbor Ernesto, you may think it’s a bumble bee.  Or, to be more precise, the aggressive solitary bees called ronsapas that inhabit stumps of dead wood and defend their territory by way of nasty stings. 

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Robin Van Loon
Amazonian Regeneration in Action

The seedlings are strong and tall, and I can see satisfied faces and eager hands moving carefully to place these future giants into crates for transport.  Today it’s ten species that are moving out – ten kinds of native trees of the Amazon that are as useful as they are endangered.  

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Robin Van Loon
The Promise of Biochar

My friend Luis says he hardly notices it, clearing his throat sharply.  See, Luis lives right next to a hardworking family that makes its living by producing charcoal, right here in the Peruvian Amazon.  There’s a local market for hardwood charcoal, which city dwellers and rural folk alike use for home cooking.  

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Robin Van Loon
Rainy Season in the Land of Rivers

It’s the rainy season in the Peruvian Amazon, and I mean rainy. All morning the precipitation has blessed us, spritzed us, showered us.  Standing ankle deep in the clay of a slippery riverbank, at this point we don’t know, don’t want to know, what is sweat and what is rain.  Mud caked hands pass along an unlikely cargo – tree seedlings in their black planting bags

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Robin Van Loon
Investing in Knowledge, Investing in Native Trees

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting the amiable representative of an investor group that has a stake in a reforestation scheme in Madre de Dios, the region of the Peruvian Amazon that is arguably the world's greatest remaining treasure in terms of a relatively intact, relatively large area of tropical forest.

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Robin Van Loon
A Space for Every Seed – the Power of Polycultures

In the Western world, when we think of a farm the image that comes to mind is usually a monoculture. Maybe it’s corn or maybe it’s wheat, the word monoculture refers to a single species planted from fence to fence. Though the norm in modern agricultural, monocultures are known to be problematic for several easy-to-understand reasons. 

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Robin Van Loon
Moena Alcanfor - the scent of the rainforest

If you're reading this you probably know that Camino Verde is a grassroots reforestation organization based in the Peruvian Amazon region of Madre de Dios.  This departmento of Peru is roughly the size of South Carolina and is considered by some to be the largest remaining region of intact tropical forest left in the world.

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Robin Van Loon
The Amazon's Most Durable Timber?

“Smell this.”  Farmer and forest savant Javier Huinga hands me a piece of bark he carefully slashed from the dark brown column of a forest giant.  He smiles and nods knowingly as my face lights up from the scent – somewhere in the same aromatic solar system as cinnamon, spicy-sweet and pleasant

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Robin Van Loon
Our First Rosewood Harvest

The canoe glides among lianas like mythic serpents and under gray-trunked giants.  Insects stare back at us from seasonal perches on branches backdropped with multicolored lichens, their homes when the Amazon's waters run its banks. A white hot sun filters through the canopy and I watch the flashing progressions of light and dark on my companions’ faces,

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Robin Van Loon
One Farmer's Story

Like millions of other Peruvians, my friend Juan left his homeland in the Andes to escape the violence that erupted there like wildfires in the 1980’s and 90’s.  The militants of Sendero Luminoso or Shining Path took guidance from Mao Zedong in their pursuit of power by the barrel of a gun.  The wave of killings and skirmishes that lit up the Andes of southern Peru were of unprecedented brutality.

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Robin Van Loon
Rosewood Revisited

For the June solstice of 2014, the Southern Hemisphere's winter solstice, I had the pleasure of finding myself in Iquitos, Peru, the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon and the largest city in the world not connected by road.  In place of a road – the Amazon River, the earth's greatest river system and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World according to a 2012 global vote.

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Robin Van Loon
Regenerating Rosewood

The history of the Amazon could easily be written as a chronological inventory of products discovered—and then over-exploited—in the world´s richest forest. Quinine, rubber, mahogany, animal skins, oil, gold: each chapter would tell of how another useful wonder of nature was found and, almost without exception, driven to the verge of extinction

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Robin Van Loon
People, forests and aguaje: Reflections on a landscape and culture of abundance

Every week in the bustling cities of Iquitos, Pucallpa, and Puerto Maldonado in the Peruvian Amazon, thousands of pounds of an exotic looking fruit arrive to town in buckets and sacks to be hefted off of precariously balanced motorcycles, unloaded from heavily-laden wooden canoes or carefully lowered off of sweaty backs.  The fruit has over a dozen names in different regional dialects and no name in English.

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Robin Van Loon