Recently I came across a newspaper story about myself written when I was 15
years old.  In it, I say I would like to work to preserve the Amazon
rainforest and protect its animals (and help poor people who don't have
houses or food, but that's for another story).  Well, thanks to Andrew
Beath, I've been given the opportunity to protect MILLIONS of acres of
virgin rainforest in the Amazon!  Other Donuts are involved - and there is
room for more!

Several of us Donuts, along with an international  coalition  of
rainforest-protection professionals, bought an eco-lodge in the Amazon
jungle of eastern Ecuador, 3 years ago.  Andrew put this together, in
partnership with John Seed, "Grandfather of the Rainforest Protection
Movement".  We purchased a strategic corridor between the Cuyabeno and
Yasuni preserves, on the Rio Napo (downstream from Sandy Ross' BUTTERFLY
LODGE, itself a wonderful place to visit and a great contribution to
rainforest protection).  Our place is called ³Pañacocha² which means
³Pirañha Lakes², and it is a very special place (you can visit the website    There are 2
species of dolphins and 9 species of monkeys; the variety and abundance of
wildlife is awe-inspiring!  "Uncontacted" tribes of people live nearby,
beyond the reach of the roads.

    We gathered the first week of June in the Amazon to ³vision² the next
steps. Some of the donor/investors had never been; this was my third visit
to Pañacocha.  The coalition is  composed of John Seed¹s Australian
Rainforest Information Center, Andrew Beath¹s Earthways (which is involved
in amazing projects all over), the British Rainforest Concern, and Ancient
Forests International (Humboldt).  We have an Ecuadorean partner, the Center
for Investigation of Tropical Forests.  It¹s a pretty impressive group of
professionals, and I am proud (yet humble, as always!) to part of this
consortium.  Harriet C., Marion and Alan H-B, Sam & Mary M., Ron C. and Toby
J., as well as other Threshold donors from informal funding, are among the
others involved.  MG almost joined our expedition this time.

     Accompanying us on this adventure was Atossa Soltani, head of Amazon
Watch (who just got a grant from Threshold in Santa Barbara) - she is one of
the most amazing people I've ever met. Of Persian extraction, she speaks 14
languages and is "the oil companies' worst nightmare".   (At the Rainforest
Bash in May in San Francisco, it was announced that pressure by RAN and
others - notably Amazon Watch -  has caused Occidental Petroleum to close
down their operation in the territory of the UWA people of Colombia.  It was
there that 3 activists were murdered, known to Threshold members, a couple
of years ago, for their involvement in the issues of justice for the
environment and the indigenous people.    ³Oxy¹ Petroleum is one of the main
culprits in the threats to Pañacocha.  Exploration for oil in the Amazon
takes a huge toll on the environment, putting roads into previously
trackless wild places and causing the destruction and pollution of the
fragile eco-systems.) "Oxy" is putting a pipeline across Ecuador through
sensitive and pristine areas.  Julia Butterfly Hill, famous for
"tree-sitting" in an old-growth redwood tree for 2 years, was just arrested
and thrown out of Ecuador for witnessing and protesting this pipeline.  Oil
companies have extracted several billion dollars in oil from the forest, yet
put almost nothing back for development and the communities of the forest
are among the world's poorest people.

     Judith Kimerling was also present for our trip and meetings:  she is an
attorney who is the world authority on defending the rights of indigenous
people in the Amazon from the rapacious oil companies who wreak such havoc
on the virgin rainforest.  Her book "AMAZON CRUDE" is the definitive text on
the topic.  Atossa said that she spends so much time in degraded areas that
is was a real treat to be experiencing the "WHY" of her work:  what we're
trying to protect, WHY we're doing this.  It seemed like the forest really
responded to our visit - all the animals were out to see us!  On one morning
river trip alone, several pairs of blue-and-gold macaws flew over, 5 species
of monkeys showed themselves, and a huge golden anaconda swam right in front
of our canoe.  And the dolphins!  They were very present for our whole
visit.  We even got to swim near them early in our stay.

    We  met in Quito, Ecuador, in time to leave together on 31 May by air
from the town of COCA, the nearest place you can come by road or air.  The
rest of the way is by boat for a full  8-12 hours down the Rio Napo and up a
tributary,  the Pañayacu (³Pirañha Water) River.  There is a primitive lodge
there presently, which might eventually be augmented with state-of-the-Art
bungalows in bamboo designed by Emerald Starr (you can check out his
artistry on-line at the Sacred Mountain Sanctuary in Bali, Some of our most important work on this trip
was participation in community meetings with the small village of Pañacocha
nearest the protected area.  The main points of discussion were how to
minimize the impact of the oil companies in the area, while finding ways to
make conservation of the forest sustainable, such as eco-tourism.  It was
agreed during our meetings that community leaders would be taken to degraded
areas to witness first hand the destruction caused by oil exploration, and
also to successful eco-tourism projects.  Harriett Crosby agreed to fund

        It was a joy for me to get to spend more time with Harriett.  I am
convinced that she is truly responsible for preventing World War Three.  She
founded ISAR, the Institute of Soviet American Relations, hosting Gorbochev
in his first visits to the USA, and planed crystals around the Kremlin and
the White House.  While in the Amazon, she gave a great boost to a new
program aimed at stooping the illegal trafficking of wildlife from the
jungle.  The police are getting involved in confiscating wild animals from
poachers who sell them, and prosecuting these people, and setting up a
system for rehabilitating the confiscated wildlife and returning creatures
to safe places in the wild (like Pañacocha).   At one point she had 3 baby
monkeys in her hotel room - and her roommate Rosa had an ocelot! (Rosa runs
a program for Andrew in another part of Ecuador to protect spotted cats of
all sizes up to Jaguars.)  A 10-foot-long boa constrictor was released at
Pañacocha during our stay which had been confiscated by the local police in

    A bigger vision which emerged during our time together in the Amazon is
an "International Peace Park" stretching from Pañacocha all the way to the
border with Peru, and encompassing forest in Peru and Colombia as well.

        After watching Atossa and Thomas of AMAZON WATCH in action, I am
thrilled that they got some Threshold money. They are THE BEST!  Also,  I am
proud of our own Jonathan Frieman and Andrew for being on the board of such
an excellent endeavor.

     We are especially interested in finding people who might want to get
involved financially to help take this place to the next stage.  A research
station and operating eco-lodge is part of the plan, empowering the native
communities to withstand pressure from logging and oil interests and
colonists to encroach upon this pristine ground.  If anyone finds themselves
moved, please contact me or Andrew and let¹s explore getting you along on
this adventure. 

"'Donuts' are members of the Threshold foundation, a group of people
committed to social-change philanthropy and personal growth"