Center Stage Podcast

Rethinking conservation: the Amazon through the lens of a NatGeo photographer

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Conservation of the planet’s beautiful and scarce natural resources is a big part of sustainability. But the concept of conservation, as a wildlife photographer at National Geographic found out, is one unaffordable by the people who live closest to the resources. 

Charles Hamilton James spoke at Greenbiz 19 in Phoenix, Arizona about his eye-opening experience living in the Amazon rainforest to see the local way of life. "I go in with this Western, science-based, ecological-based opinion of what the Amazon is and what I think the Amazon should be. But what about the people who actually live in it and experience it? How do they see it?" James said. 

After living with gold miners, cattle ranchers and illegal loggers, James came to understand the backbreaking toil of poverty that drives the deforestation and resource extraction on the beautiful natural habitat. The miners, ranchers and loggers are considered the "bad guys," but poverty left them no other choices — using the resources available is crucial to survival, James said. And even then, they still barely get by — and then, are vilified. "We ignore the poor people of the world at our own peril," James said. 

James encourages people with the time, security and stability to consider things beyond basic survival to care more about their fellow human beings and be more inclusive in considering sustainability and conservation.  

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Technical direction for GreenBiz Center Stage by Isaac Silk.