“Everything is an inseparable piece of a greater whole, including our own human community… If we were connected to our Earth, we would not have an environmental crisis.” -Jon Young

Shipibo artist and Song of the Amazon creative partner Reshin Bima shared a few stories with us recently about changes he has seen in the Amazonian environment near his home village of Santa Clara. He recalled a certain aquatic plant that grew in abundance in the waters near his village as a child. This green leafy plant floated on the surface of ponds and lakes and was known to be extremely effective in removing toxins and oils from the water.


This particular quality of the plants attracted the attention of Westerners “scientists”, that came into Shipibo territory and began to harvest these wild, naturally growing plants. The local story goes that the plants were apparently being used by a big company for crude oil clean up. I looked up the technique, which is called phytoremediation, and learned that over the past 20 years, this “technology” has become an increasingly popular way of cleaning up pollutants in contaminated soil, water or air.


On the surface, it sounds like a great solution, but I learned from Reshin, that the plant was over harvested and has since disappeared from the area. This plant’s disappearance had a detrimental impact to the local environment, effecting everything from the animals and insects in the area, to food sources and clean water. To put it simply, one area’s environment was destroyed to clean up the man-made destruction in another.


Reshin shared another story about a beautiful river tributary that was good for fishing and known to be home to a large anaconda. Some men came up the river and captured the anaconda to sell to a European zoo. With the anaconda gone, the surrounding environment shifted drastically, and all of the fish in the area were eaten by other predators or died out.


This brings light to one of the reasons why the Shipibo people consider large anacondas to be the guardians and protectors of the rivers. In ecology terms, the anaconda would be described as a keystone predator species that is vital to a certain ecosystem.

"Simpi Runa" by Elmer Inuma Pezo

“Simpi Runa” by Elmer Inuma Pezo

Stories like these from Reshin Bima, offer a grounded understanding of the Shipibo concept of interconnectedness. Rather than an obscure spiritual idea, the interconnectedness of all things can be seen clearly in the natural world. With this nature connected awareness, the impact of every plant, animal and even human can be seen as both clear and profound.