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reality from a distance... and up close

We climb over the massive Eastern range, leaving the ever-growing urban Monster called Bogotà behind. The view is amazing. You think you’ve seen it all, after living so long here. But you haven’ t even seen the tip. The patchwork quilt of farm land beneath me sugests how far we have come, from the time when all this was a forest, and spectacled bear, not human, was ruler. And for the first time since I heard it in class I see the reality, how little is left of the original Andean forest. It’s a shock, although it’s nothing I didn’t already know.

My neighbour is undisturbed by the great gap in the mountain, where sand and pebbles are being blown out. Or by the fact that thousands of people live in almost inaccessibly steep parts of the mountain. Or that most of what little bits are covered with trees are, in fact, covered with foreign Eucaliptus or pine trees. This is why I went into education, so that when people see this landscape they will understand it like I do, they will see the truth and not just pretty colours and skinny cows. Granted, it is beautiful, but it is not complete. I need to see the dark greens and blacks you only get from mature forests. And the redish-brown of the Encenillo leaves, and the yellow of the Gaque flowers.

20 minutes into our flight I see the fall, the abrubt end where the Andes turn into flat land, as far as the eye can see in the early morning sun. The Niño is here, you can tell. Normally the fields would be green and the cattle fat, but the plains, as we call them in Spanish, Los Llanos, are golden yellow. As we land on the tiny airstrip, the employees begin their work day. Working in an oil field 14 days a month is commonplace here. They know the drill, they collect their luggage and move into the vans which will take them the 40km through thecontrovertial African palm plantations and into the camp. Fossil and biofuels, side by side. Feeding off each other. Both fueling up climate change and global warming. yuck. From the airstrip you can see the chimneys, or what ever they call them, sticking out of the oil wells and burning the gas that's stuck underneath. Oil, petroleum. Where am I, have I sold my soul to the enemy?

The guard at the entrance greets us and gives us quick safety instructions: always wear big boots and long sleeves, in case of gun fire or explotions, consider it a serious situation and a possible take over by the guerrillas. Get down on the floor, on your belly, open your mouth in case of expansive waves, don't run or you might have an accident, even get killed. Any questions???

Latin America and the Caribbean
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