Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Smoke in Santa Cruz

For the past month or so the air pollution in Santa Cruz has been getting worse and worse. Lately, there has not been a cloud in the sky, but in middle of day if feels and looks overcast and you can actually look directly at the sun. Visibility is less than a quarter mile at times and the local airports have had to cancel flights because of poor visibility. It is also causing health problems (eyes and lungs). The cause of the smoke is the burning of the forest by small farmers who are slashing-and -burning their way through the jungle (like the farmer from Yapacani pictured here). I don't blame them for wanted to farm and support their families, I just wish it didn't have such an affect on the rest of us during the dry season. The local newspaper reported there has been more than 14,000 fires in the department of Santa Cruz this year, up 25% from last year. There are techniques farmers can use that do not require burning (and in fact the Hooglands, an EFCCM missionary family in Yapacani are teaching such techniques on their farm), but the easiest way to farm the jungle is to cut it down, let it dry out, and then burn everything before planting. In some cases the fires get away from the farmers and unintendedly and uncontrollably burn large tracts of land. The first rains of the season should be here sometime in October or November. These will signal an end to the burning season and the beginning of the planting season. I'm sure the air will clear up again and beautiful skies will return. I just hope that in 10 or 20 years, Bolivia still has some intact rain forest. I love the wildness and natural beauty of Bolivia, but I am afraid it will practically disappear within my lifetime.

Talita Cumi Fire

Here are a couple of pictures for the fire at Talita Cumi that we mentioned in our newsletter. A storage room full of paint and cleaning chemicals caught on fire around 8:00p on a Sunday night. Several of the older girls were trapped by the fire on the second floor and had to jump from the balcony to excape the flames. Thankfully no one was seriously injured. The total damage was about $3000US.