“We want to protect our lands, but we also need to awaken the people in The North. You are living in a dream, what you are doing is destroying the Earth.”

Zoe Tryon

Talk about an Amazon woman! Anthropologist Zoe Tryon is working with the Achuar people of the Ecuadorian rainforest to help both protect their culture from undue outside influence while still giving them the skills they need to deal with those same outsiders who see their land as a place to drill for oil and not much else. According to local maps, the Achuar live in Oil Blocks #23 and #24 (something tells me the people who live there call it something else).

Tryon sat down with Treehugger Leonora Oppenheimer (who’s also a friend) to describe the kind of work she is doing with these indigenous people. Here’s a quick, insprirational excerpt from the interview, but it’s really worth reading the whole thing over at TH. I think that this it is not only interesting to hear about important things like this that are happening, but this is good fodder for anyone who thinks that they shouldn’t try to pull together all the different aspects of their passion and interests to make the change they want to see in the world.

Anthropology is my background and I wanted to find something that connected that to personal growth, transformation and turning people towards more ecologically sustainable lifestyles. I was thinking how on earth can I fit all that together? But I really believe that if you follow your heart and your passions in life you will find the way.

Thomas Berry the great cosmologist and environmentalist he said “What can we do? Well, what CAN you do?” Basically each one of us has the potential to do something and you just have to look and see what that is. It doesn’t have to be running off to live in the jungle, it can be, “What can I do in my day to day life?” “What’s a tiny shift that I can contribute?” Carpooling or whatever. Each one of us can do something.

Paul Hawken during the research for his book ‘Blessed Unrest’ found 2 million organisations that are working to make the world a better place. When you hear about that from all over the world then you realise wow it’s not just little old me, it’s everyone working together and that gives you the impetus to get out there and do it.

So I’ve been volunteering for seven months now: 2 months in the states and 5 months down here living in Achuar territory and working on the transference process of the Kapawi Eco-Lodge. It’s going back into their hands in December.

And this was probably my favorite part of the interview:

I have always been interested how other people think and different ways of doing things and ecology is part of that as well. That’s the message indigenous people give to us. I am fascinated by indigenous women’s wisdom. These women have worked so closely with the soil and the earth all their lives, it’s part of their being. Whereas we are so distanced from that. During the time of the Spanish Inquisition between 3 and 5 million women were killed in Europe that were good with plants, who loved animals, who loved walking alone in the countryside. They were labeled as witches and burnt at the stake. So we’ve had to distance ourselves from our connection with the earth, plants and nature, and become more masculine in our energy in order to survive. It’s very interesting to see women who haven’t had that break and to see their strength and power and how it impacts the whole community. When a woman is strong and she is happy she nurtures and that affects so many people.

Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick.com and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life. She's also a freelance science and environment writer who has published in National Geographic, CNN, Scientific American, Mental Floss, Pacific Standard, the NRDC, and many more. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her partner and black cat. She was a geologist in her first career, and still picks up rocks wherever she goes.