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My Forest Friends I would like to introduce you to Franco. He accompanied us on our last forest expedition. His unofficial title was mule rider, however, his real mission was to visit the waterfall he had seen several times in his life but never visited. His energy and enthusiasm was a wonderful light and a great contribution.

Franco lives with his parents on the edge of the Choco forest in Ecuador. In his lifetime of nine years he has witnessed the edge of deforestation arrive on his doorstep. Now with deforestation there are some benefits of access as roads are constructed and the addition of new neighbors, usually short term with chain saws in hand. Roads mean that donkeys can come and go with supplies going in and wood going out, however, taking the river has always been such a faster and more pleasant trip.

Deforestation in this part of Ecuador typically involves removing old growth forest from the sides of mountains and hills. These trees are replaced with grass for low yield tropical breeds of cattle, alternative plantation wood, oil palm, cacao, or simply so that the land is more sellable to someone wishing to enter into a world of poverty associated with subsistence agriculture.

Nearly every location on the planet has engaged in deforestation in a path to development for different reasons. For example, Spain lost its forest to build massive armadas. The US cut down forests to make way for westward expansion. So why should you care about Franco, or deforestation occurring so far away in Ecuador?

Tropical forests in Ecuador have a geographic uniqueness in their location that is also demonstrated in their diversity. With over 16,000 species of plants, this is the most biologically diverse location on the planet. The climate of Ecuador is seasonal due to the impact of ocean currents. However, because of its location on the equator seasonal variation is minimized creating an environment that is equivalent to a bioreactor where we observe evidence of evolution taking place every day. Throughout out all time, tropical forest systems have been self healing, self maintaining systems that work most efficiently without interference from the hand of man.

We can no longer deny that climate change is placing us well into the 6th extinction event observed on our planet. We are currently in a period of global species die off and even best models can not say how far this will extend. What past models have indicated is that in the past regrowth tends to originate from tropical regions and radiate North and South from the equator.

In short Franco’s forest represents all of our genetic heritage. It is a representation of our past and promise of our future. With opportunity and consciousness Franco can help to protect and preserve the forest, or he can dedicate his life to cutting it down. This little boy Franco really has no idea how important life is in all of our future, but is is also up to all of us. Franco and his family along with all the Franco’s living on the edge of deforestation around the world want more, just like the rest of us. Individual greed and a desire for better do not always go hand in hand.

I am offing this photo to all of you to see what we can do. If you like the photo, or want to use it in a positive way please buy it. A copy of this image will be donated to Franco’s school along with any revenue we raise. Even a small amount represents a huge benefit. We need to let Franco and his classmates know that there are possibilities where their lives can benefit from a love of the forest that doesn’t involve cutting it down. If you would like to help sharing this message, please come on board.

Thank you for your support.