The following piece was excerpted from The winter edition of the Syracuse University Magazine
Stephen Mahan (right), director of Syracuse University’s Photography and Literacy Project.
Giving voice to city school Children Helping students discover that voice through writing and imagery is Stephen Mahan’s mission. With digital cameras, journals, and a fierce sense of commitment to the students, he helps them learn storytelling techniques and media skills that trigger self-expression, building self-esteem as they explore their outside worlds and inner selves.
Mahan recognizes these students, he says, because he sees himself in them. He was hyperactive, constantly in trouble, and had difficulty paying attention and reading. Eventually, a passion for photography led him to an M.F.A. degree from the University at Buffalo, where he taught photography in a program for inner-city kids. The combination clicked. “I know a lot of these kids have the same difficulties I did,” he says. “If I can make one kid or any number of them feel they’re capable, intelligent, creative and have something substantial to add to the conversation in class, then it’s worth it.”
At Fowler High School in Syracuse, which has a 65% drop our rate, the highest in New York state, that challenge is regularly put to the test. The majority of students come from the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Like many urban schools, the school is underfunded, overcrowded and faces scrutiny for standardized testing performances. 40% of the students are African American and 25% hispanic. There are also children from Bhutan, Nepal, Sudan, Liberia, Vietnam, Iran and elsewhere. At last count, 21 languages were spoken in Fowler’s halls. In this tremendous clash of cultures, Mahan’s program gives students the ability to not only be comfortable sharing their deepest thoughts, but to appreciate others as well.
In the six years Mahan has been doing this, he has encountered his share of stark, honest writing that reflects the all-too-real lives of the students. One wrote about his father’s suicide, others about domestic abuse, street violence, teenage parenting, and homelessness. Most of these kids do not have an outlet for their emotions which causes turmoil. When given the opportunity, they have the ability to dazzle readers and viewers with their rawness and uncommon maturity.
Mahan measures the program’s success in helping the students realize the value of their words and imagery—that they have something to say. It is a way for them to discover they are important. “When the pictures are all laid out on the table, it is impossible to tell which kid has difficulties,” Mahan says, “and that’s what motivates me.”
It was my first climb on Everest. As I left the last camp at 26,000 feet, to climb to the summit, I remembered the words of my climbing colleagues, “you will come across the dead bodies of many climbers on the way to the summit, it`s really frightening.” That part of the Everest experience isn’t talked much about outside the climbing circles.
Even though I was prepared, it was still a shock to come face to face with this frozen graveyard. If their faces had not been covered in snow, I would have thought they were sitting down taking a rest before climbing onwards. There was not much time to think. I had to reach the summit to complete my work, the first official measurement of Mount Everest in over three decades. As I pushed on, I passed more and more bodies, attempting to bury them beneath thoughts of reaching the summit.
At the third step, of the final pitch, I came across something I couldn’t bury. It was the body of a climber who had just died the day before. I knew him. We had spent the last few days together at camp, talking about climbing and our hopes of reaching the summit. The leader of his expedition had asked us to look out for him because he had not returned the day before. Even if he had still been alive, it would have been impossible to get him down from there.
A few hundred feet from the top, the wind became much stronger and I came to the cross roads many of the inhabitants of this “Dead Zone” had come to before me; continue with the dream or give up and return to camp. I stood there, hesitating for ten minutes before making that decision. I reached the summit, completed the measurement work for the government and made my way back to camp. That night, I thought about all the climbers who never made it off the mountain. I often wonder what makes us risk our lives to climb a mountain?
When I returned home to Chengdu and saw my young son, I said to myself, I will never go back to Mount Everest. But then, in 2008, when the government asked me to be the photographer for the Olympic Torch ascent of Everest, I agreed to go. I guess it’s in my blood – adventure for a lifetime.
“Earth River Expeditions, the whitewater-rafting company that pioneered the first raft descent of the Futaleufu in 1991, has and continues to put up a massive fight. They bought a large amount of land that the power company would have to purchase in order to build the dams and fought the construction of unsustainable development. In 2012, with the profits from their raft trips, they also founded a conservation organization, the Futaleufú Riverkeeper, to work on litigation, community outreach, and other conservation efforts full time. All profits from the trip go toward protecting the river.”
National Geographic Adventure Magazine, February 2013
Excepted From the Futa Friends web site, www.futafriends.org:
“Education and conscientious action are key to stopping Didymo. FutaFriends is working with local government, tourism, and non-governmental groups to establish a Didymo Awareness and Education Program to reach the local and tourist communities. FutaFriends has the priviledge to work with scientist Dr. Bill Horvath and outfitter/guide Robert Currie who, motivated by their love for the Futaleufú and for Patagonia, are spearheading advocacy for Didymo action at local, regional, and national levels. Their primary focus is to spotlight the issue and to help grassroots efforts move forward. Dr. Bill Horvath, an analytical scientist from the USA, is advising the technical aspects of informational materials and educational presentations, with a special focus on the role river guides and tourism operators have in educating tourists about Didymo. Robert Currie is putting a spotlight on Didymo within government circles.”
Montreal, June 27th 2005
M. Eric Hertz
Earth River Expeditions
180 Towpath Road
Accord, NY 1 2404
Subject: Sincere thanks
We would like to thank you for your precious collaboration with the Rivers Foundation and want to express our gratitude with a letter.
We want to thank you especially for all your actions regarding the Magpie River. Your participation in preserving waterfalls and rapids is very important and effective. Ecotourism is an industry that allows the preservation of our natural resources while being financially beneficial. Its promotion is essential in helping people to discover the wonders and greatness of Quebec's rivers.
Also, we greatly appreciate your efforts to mobilize the financial resources that allowed the Magpie publicity to be published in the paper Le Devoir. We believe that reaching people and raising awareness is the key to saving our collective natural patrimony.
We hope our collaboration will continue for years to come.
5834, rue Clark, MontnSal, H2T 2V7 T616phone : (514) 272-2666 T616copieur : (514) 274-0126
Although the oldest trees in the Main River watershed are no more than 260 years old, the Main's woodlands are sometimes referred to as an ancient forest. The reason? The Main's boreal ecosystem has remained intact since it was established after the retreat of the glaciers thousands of years ago.
The forests of the Main have remained insulated from insects, disease, fire and wind, the natural enemies of boreal forests elsewhere in Canada. Relatively, undisturbed by the large-scale blowdowns, raging forest fires, and spruce budworm infestations that have ravaged other Newfoundland woodlands, the balsam fir and black spruce of the Main have been left to live out their natural cycles of birth, growth, death and decay.
A Close-Knit Forest Family: The lack of disturbance to the Main watershed has resulted in a highly diverse, multi-generational forest "family" rarely seen in modern environments. Balsam fir lives to 3 times their normal life span. Trees of many different sizes and diameters grow side by side, interspersed with fallen trunks and decomposing logs. Very old trees, still standing, and branches that have fallen to the forest floor are often covered with mosses and lichens. Woodland caribou are drawn to "old man's beard," a lichen that grows on the trees of the Main. Decomposing fallen logs often become "nurse logs," acting as a seed bed for young trees.
"Our small group of people were content for centuries pursuing our traditional way of life based on hunting and fishing. The Ouj-Bougoumou people welcomed the early prospectors to our region and escorted them throughout the territory helping them to survive in the sometimes harsh climate. As mineral deposits were identified in increased quantities more people entered the territory. Mining camps gave way to settlements which eventually gave way to towns. As the mining activities increased the Ouj-Bougoumou people came to be seen as an obstacle to industrial growth.
We were forced to relocate our villages time after time to make way for new mines. Between 1920 and 1970, the Ouj-Bougoumou people were forced to relocate no fewer than seven times. We witnessed our villages repeatedly destroyed. And we were left, scattered, to live in deplorable conditions as "squatters" on the land we had occupied since time immemorial.
But the Ouj-Bougoumou people refused to disappear. We decided to make our stand and take our rightful place in the region as the original inhabitants and the centuries-old stewards of the land. After a lengthy and protracted political struggle and, against all odds, Ouj-Bougoumou won recognition by the Government of Canada and the Province of Quebec of our right to live as a community. We began to re-build our village and restore the community life which had been shattered. Our courage and our commitment throughout the years was sustained by our yearning to live together again as a community. That determination was translated into the building of a new village. In Ouj-Bougoumou an enormous creativity was unleashed which was applied to the construction of a new village.
We are now in the process of transferring that creativity and that enthusiasm to the building of community. Having successfully built an award-winning village-basically a physical shell-we are now re-building our community and focussing on those areas of community life which will be essential to our long-term health and viability.
We hope that Ouj-Bougoumou can be an inspiration for indigenous peoples everywhere to continue their struggles to build healthy and secure communities.”
Chief, Ouj-Bougoumou Cree
NATO's Invasion: Air combat training and its Impact on the Innu first Nation.
“The Innu, otherwise known as Montagnais-Naskapi Indians, constitute an indigenous nation of about 10,000 people who live in a number of communities in eastern Québec and Labrador. Many Innu continue to pursue an a age-old hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering way of life. In the fall and spring each year, Innu families leave their communities and travel far into the interior of the Québec-Labrador peninsula where knowledge of hunting, trapping, fishing, hide preparation, cooking methods and traditional religious beliefs can be most effectively transmitted to younger generations., Unfortunately, the survival of Innu culture is now seriously in doubt due to the expanding military air combat training activities in the peninsula and plans to establish an $800 million NATO Tactical Fighter and Weapons Training Center in Goose Bay, Labrador.
The main problem for the Innu at this time is low-level flight training based in Goose Bay by the West German Luftwaffe using primarily Phantom II and Tornado aircraft and the British Royal Air Force using Tornados. According to both Innu and Settler (Inuit/White descent) reports, the aircraft fly so low that their exhaust makes waves on the surface of lakes and river, ripples the canvas on tents and sways trees. West German Phantom IIs, either singly, in tandem, or as many as four in low-level formation, fly as low as 100 feet, passing through canyons, valleys and over lakes where Innu camps are located. Pilots have even engaged in "hot dogging", standing the aircraft on end over a camp or hunting party, kicking in the afterburners, and shooting straight up into the air above the heads of the Innu.
The Innu say that the extremely loud and unexpected noise generated by low-flying aircraft is extremely traumatic, especially for the young and the elderly. They report that on occasion their children have jumped out of canoes and into the water and have run into the forest to seek refuge from the jets. Other children have left their camps and run into the forest, and their parents have experienced difficulty finding them. Many Innu men feel that they cannot leave their hunting camps to check more distant traplines because they are worried about the adverse reaction of their children to the overflights. Innu report that after an overflight they experience a ringing in their ears which may last hours.
The country where the Innu live and hunt is extremely quiet mainly limited to camp noise of children playing and adults conversing, and chopping wood. Away from the camps it is so quiet you can hear yourself breathe, and even the sound of the canoe paddles flicking the water seems like a lot of noise. The sudden arrival of a noisy jet is obviously a horrendous contrast to the tranquility and solitude normally present. Apparently, during the fall of 1983, a number of Innu children from La Romaine on the Québec North Shore had to return to the community because of their fear of the aircraft. Some Innu have said that they will never again go out in the country for the fall as long as the low-level flights continue, because the loud, unexpected noise is just too traumatic for them and their children.
Innu claims that the extremely loud and unexpected noise generated by low-flying jets severely traumatizes their children and discourages the from going into the country are not exaggerations. Rural peoples in Scotland and Wales, have been complaining for years about the serious public health problems posed by noisy low-flying military jets.
Civilians in rural Europe exposed to the above-pain threshold noise from the military aircraft have been told that the jet noise is the "sound of freedom" or the "price of peace." Nevertheless, growing public opposition is motivating the German government to export its unwanted domestic problem to the skies above Innu bush camps and hunting parties.
Many medical professionals and researchers who are familiar with the literature on the effects of jet noise and sonic booms have concluded that military training operations such as those experienced by the Innu constitute a serious public health problem. According to Dr. Richard Bargen, an MD living in Nevada who has studied the health effects of low-level and supersonic jet noise, "people cannot overcome the 'startle effect' induced by extremely loud and unexpected noise - they never habituate to this kind of adverse stimulus." For example, the noise produced by the Phantom II F-4, one of the aircraft used by the West German Air Force iover the Inu territory is 134.8 dBA at 200 ft 140.8 dBA a 100 ft, and 146.5 dBA at 50 ft. The pair threshold for most people is somewhere between 110 and 130 dBA and permanent damage to the inner ear can occur as a result of exposure to noise in excess of 140 dBA for more than five milliseconds.”
“For over 2 decades, Earth River has bought and helped conservation minded clients buy dozens of significant properties along Patagonia Chile’s Futaleufu River to keep them out of the hands of developers, land speculators and the hydro-electric company, insuring that the Futaleufu would not meet the same sad fate as the once world reknowned Bio Bio River to the north where a land speculator acquired all the land and flipped it to the power company for profit.'
"This land conservation effort on the Futaleufu, consisting of a tremendous amount of company resources and countless volunteer hours, is nothing short of Herculean and represents the single largest river land trust endeavor ever initiated by a commercial outfitter. By joining an Earth River tour, you are providing direct financial support for Futaleufu land conservation and helping to prevent the dams planned for the river.”
Ronald G. Dodson, President Audubon International
August 12, 1991
Mr. Eric Herltz
R.D. 2, Box 182-A
Accord, NY 12404
I am ever grateful to you for arranging the trip to Great Whale and inviting me. It could not have been a more interesting and meaningful experience. I learned a great deal.
We discussed as immediate steps the following three items :
Let's keep in touch.
Franz S. Leichter
Nov. 18, 1991
Dear Mr. Hertz,
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for becoming involved and taking the initiative to invite key personalities to partake in a rafting trip down part of the proposed flooded section of the Great Whale River. This river, as well as, the other surrounding rivers are critical habitat for the survival of, not only animal species, but to sustain the Cree way of life. The Cree have long maintained that the resource they are trying to protect is far more precious in its natural wild state than as part of any hydroelectric reservoir and generating station. There are few places left where man has not developed or altered nature to fit his design.
The objective of the trip was to create awareness and to provoke action on the part of its participants. You succeeded brilliantly! By inviting key players in the New York political milieu, you succeeded in putting a human face of the proposed destruction of one of North America's last pristine wildernesses. We've talked with Senator Franz Leichter, Assemblyman Bill Hoyt, as well as, Robert and Michael Kennedy on several occasions and the trip impressed upon them the importance of the river to the Cree. In fact, these gentlemen have setup and conducted hearings on the appropriateness of New York State purchasing power generated by the proposed Great Whale Hydroelectric Complex. According to all involved in the various facets of the trip, your expedition was the catapulting and cementing force that brought these people, not only together, but made them aware of the enviromnental and social implications of this project. Their awareness has had a positive effect on New York Power Authority, they are no longer blindly entering into a purchase contract without some understanding of the stakes, both to New Yorkers (economics)and to the Cree (disruption of their way of life). Last week we were surprised to receive a visit from Vincent Tobin, Vice President of the New York Power Authority and although he did not say so, it was understood that the visit by your expedition and its members played a key role in inciting them to see for themselves what's at stake.
For the Cree, the training of their youth on how to operate and run these trips in the near future provides the community with valuable alternatives to destructive hydroelectric development. We are quite aware that development of the territories resources must be undertaken with the utmost care, eco-tourism or whitewater rafting, controlled and operated by a Cree entity assures that this development is done within the limits of the natural environment to sustain it. The operation of limited trips, like those undertaken by you, fits within the limits, they have of development.
We would gladly be part of a similar expedition in the future should you so desire to undertake one during the summer of 1992. Again, we thank you for all you have done to promote the preservation of free flowing rivers and environmental awareness. We hope to see you undertake more rafting trips on the Great Whale and surrounding rivers in the coming future. Some view these trips as "fun" or "touristiclike", in fact the are an extremely important vehicle to create awareness and alternative solutions to a complex environmental problem.
Local Coordinator - G.C.C.Q.
RD 2 BOX 182-A
Accord, NY 1 2404
Dear Mr. Hertz:
It has truly been an honor for us to have spent time with you. It is a rare and special occasion that a group of visitors can develop such a rapport with the community and gain a real sense of the Great Whale River and the land that continues to support us. I especially thank you for leading the party and investing so much personal energy towards our goat of stopping the Project. You have accomplished much by this rafting trip; not only in recruiting key leaders to come here, but in organizing the logistics, leading the rafters in a maiden voyage down these rapids, and cooking the food as well!
During the past few months, our community has had an increasing number of visitors, who come to view first-hand the people and land that wilt be most affected by the Great Whale Complex. We have taken them to the first set of rapids, shown them around the community, and explained the details of the Project. We hope that they depart with a clear sense of the consequences we face, should the damming of these rivers be realized.
The rafting trip was probably one of the best ways to understand the river's richness and importance. As you know. the land you traversed will be under 35 meters of water, if the dams are built. This represents a tremendous and irreplaceable loss, not just to the Cree, but to the entire world. The ecological, social, economic and political factors all reveal this Project as an irresponsible and unnecessary scheme.
As the media continues to follow this issue and its popularity grows, we will surely be greeting more guests and supporters. I assure you. though, that your stay with us will always be remembered as one full of honor, sharing and laughter. After all the words have been spoken, it is still the river, and the traditions which arise from it, that are felt the strongest. I am pleased that you have had the opportunity to experience this, and that we can consider you in unity as we continue the fight against this Project.
The dust has settled on the baseball field, but it's always ready for a re-match!
Chief Robbie Dick
Jan. 26, 1993
Eric, thank you for the wonderful river trip with the artists which Earth River made possible. The GABB/artists trip was very successful and its fruits will ripen in the coming weeks and months. Even without those fruits; a Bio Bio Song, video and Television spots, the human part of the trip was so strong that it justified all the effort. We’re thankful for your generosity and flexibility that made the trip possible. It was for me and all of the passengers very moving to see how solidarity, friendship and respect grew as both groups, Chilean and Americans reached out to each other.
Organizationally and professionally, the trip was carried off very well due to the skills of the guides, whom everyone highly admires. There were so many details on a trip like this and all were deftly taken care of. All the members of the group highly admired the generosity and spontenaiety of you and all the guides.
It was really nice for me - campaign aside - to have ten days of wind, water and currents, a break from the stressful reality of the day to day Bio Bio struggle. Rivers and river trips are good teachers and good healers.
The North Americans and Chileans on the trip are all going to contribute to the Bio Bio preservation campaign in some way, many of them very concretely. In a more subtle way they they have already done so and I’m thankful to have been on the trip and space where that happened and am appreciative that you let it happen.
Grupo de Accion por el Bio Bio (GABB)
As people have learned to harness the tremendous power of rivers, hydroelectric dams have proliferated. Today there are very few major waterways that still flow unimpeded from their source to their culmination in the sea. Those untamed rivers that do remain are not only majestic, but also environmentally vital as aquatic and terrestrial habitat for countless threatened species. A year ago, NRDC's International Program began work to save one such wild river, Chile's Rio Bio Bio, which is slated for massive hydroelectric development.
"Chilean environmentalists con- us for help in their fight to save the river," explains NRDC International Program Director Jacob Scherr, "and we decided to investigate." Senior Research Associate Glenn Prickett spent hundreds of hours studying the proposed project, traveling to Chile in January 1992. Scherr and Prickett worked in concert with the Grupo de Accion por el Bio-Bio (GABB), a coalition of Chilean environmental and human rights groups opposing the project. GABB had experienced great difficulty getting their message heard. To draw attention to the river's plight, NRDC decided to organize a rafting trip down the tumultuous Bio Bio.
"To the decision-makers, the remote upper Bio Bio is an abstraction," say Scherr. 'To be an effective advocate for it, there's no substitute for going there." This past summer, Senior NRDC Attorney Robert Kennedy, Jr. joined Earth River Expeditions on on a conservation awareness trip down the Great Whale River in Northern Quebec, also threatened by massive hydropower development. This past winter, an NRDC group again joined forces with Earth River, who again donated their time, expertise and equipment, on an expedition down the Bio Bio. In addition to NRDC experts, the trip contingent included Chileans representing a range of political and cultural dispositions, from environmentalists to leading businessmen. A total of 49 people joined in the privately financed convoy, the largest rafting expedition ever to brave the Bio.
The Bio Bio rises out of the Andes, near the Argentine border, and makes its way clear across the country to the city of Concepcion, on the Pacific coast. Its length, volume, and the enormous size of its watershed, make the Bio Bio Chile's most important river. In its upper reaches, the river surges through spectacular canyons, gorges, and steep, forested valleys-complex ecosystems that support a multitude of threatened plant and animal species. Further to the west, the river flows through rich agricultural lowlands, finally culminating in the estuaries of Concepcion and the Gulf of Arauco where its nutrients feed the nation's richest fishery.
Like many of the remote, undeveloped places left on Earth, the valleys of the upper Bio Bio are indigenous lands. The region has long been inhabited by Pehuenche Indians. Approximately 9000 Pehuenche still live on their ancestral lands, descendants of the skilled mounted warriors who managed to arrest the Spanish Conquest at the banks of the Bio Bio. The Pehuenche continue to live sustainably by traditional methods of farming, to speak a unique language, and to observe their own religion, closely bound to the environment.
The Bio Bio occupies a central place in Chile's geography and its history. It has also come to figure prominently in the economic plans of this rapidly-growing nation. To power its economic growth, Chile has increasingly sought to develop plentiful, domestic sources of energy. In the 1950s, the government began exploring the possibility of hydropower development on the upper Bio Bio. Technical and economic feasibility studies were carried out in the 60s and 70s by ENDESA, a state-owned utility privatized during the regime of General Pinochet.
By the late 1970s, ENDESA had laid out plans to build six large dams, which would generate some 2700 megawatts of electricity, a 128% increase in the nation's generating capacity. The company has now completed construction of preliminary works for the first dam, Pangue. It was not until late in 1990, however, that a study of the project's environmental impacts was commissioned. And despite extensive study of the area over the course of two decades, ENDESA did not acknowledge the existence of the Pehuenche communities until 1986 and then did not notify Pehuenche leaders of its plans until 1990.
If carried out, these plans will have a profound and devastating impact on both the Bio Bio's complex ecology and its unique human communities. The project's dams and reservoirs would convert the entire extent of the wild, upper river into a series of artificial lakes, inundating temperate forests rich in rare and endangered species. Roads built into the area will bring a wave of logging as well as tourists, drawn by the lakes. These in turn will threaten the surrounding watershed with deforestation, erosion, and pollution. Concerns about impacts on downstream irrigators and on the rich estuarine fisheries near Concepcion, as well as about the long term safety of large dams in this seismically and volcanically volatile region have not been publicly addressed.
The damming of the Bio Bio will have an equally profound impact on the lives of the Pehuenche. Flooding, road-building, and excavation will force many of the Pehuenche to relocate. Indirect impacts are likely to include disease and crime brought by an influx of workers from the outside world, the loss of the Indians' traditional livelihood, farming, and the collapse of their communal social structure with privatization of their land. As one Pehuenche cacique, or chief, said "It will not bring any benefit to our community, only damage." "The Indians of the region are very poor," NRDC attorney Kennedy elaborates. "With the loss of their long term agricultural base, they will face greatly increased pressure to migrate to urban slums, where they will integrate into Chilean society at its lowest rung and be trampled." He believes that the Pehuenche culture, religion, and language will not survive the construction of the dams. "We have our own way of talking to God," a Pehuenche man told him, "These are the things we have inherited from our parents and grandparents If we moved somewhere else, our children would lose the tradition.''
In the larger context of Chile, however, there is tremendous pressure to build the dams, as well as reluctance to challenge the government on the Indians' behalf. After a generation spent under Pinochet, Chilean democracy is still reemerging. Government and economic leaders, eager to demonstrate stability and continuity to potential outside investors, believe it is vital to move ahead with the dams. Chile's indigenous peoples are a small and marginalized group, and their interests have largely been swept aside by the desire for growth And because Chilean law does not recognize communal ownership, the Pehuenche do not hold title to the land they have inhabited for a millennium. Furthermore, Chilean law includes few environmental regulations or requirements.
NRDC's International Program is working with Chilean environmentalists to help balance this complex equation of economic development, indigenous rights, energy, and environment. The rafting expedition was extraordinarily successful. It garnered extensive media coverage and sparked the very first national debate on the project, which had been considered an accomplished fact. At a packed press conference in Santiago and in numerous interviews during the following week, NRDC urged Chileans to reconsider the dams and explore energy efficiency and other alternative means of meeting energy demand. While in Chile, Kennedy, Scherr, and Prickett also met with government officials and utility executives. "By the end of the week," says Scherr, "it seemed like everyone in Chile, including President Aylwin, was aware of our presence—and our message." Back in the United States. NRDC is working to address the very real pressures for building the dams. As in much of its work, the International Program has focused on the financing of the project as a means of checking unsustainable development. To carry out construction of Pangue, ENDESA has applied to borrow $50 million from the International Finance Corporation, a branch of the World Bank that handles loans to private entities. NRDC and CABB so far have succeeded in delaying the loan application until ENDESA completes studies of the environmental impacts and reviews of all energy alternatives. NRDC is pushing the IFC to permit full public review and participation in what is a precedent-setting case.
Through GABB, NRDC is working to equip the indigenous people to confront ENDESA, the nation's most profitable company. NRDC is also working with GABB on the development of economic alternatives for the Pehuenche, some of whom now see employment by ENDESA as their only option. Finally, NRDC is undertaking research on energy conservation This fall, NRDC will sponsor an exchange between U.S. and Chilean utility executives to discuss this approach, which has successfully averted the need for hydroelectric development in America's Pacific Northwest. Kennedy believes that the comparison to America's own great rivers is both apt and cautionary. He likens the damming of the Bio Bio to the U.S. government's decision to dam Yosemite's wild Hetch Hetchy valley in 1913, a project carried out in the face of ardent protests by John Muir and other conservationists. "Seventy five years later, even the most growth-oriented Americans concede the great mistake we made in destroying that special wilderness," he says thoughtfully. "Hetch Hetchy was our nation's patrimony, a symbol and defining element of the American character that we have lost forever."
Thirty years ago, Wallace Stegner wrote "Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed. We need wilderness preserved—as much of it as is still left, and as many kinds—because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed." Kennedy says T h e Bio Bio occupies precisely this central place in Chile's history and identity. Its loss will diminish the Chileans, just as damming Hetch Hetchy diminished us.'' It will not only be a loss for Chileans, but for all people. Kennedy says, "One cannot judge the value of an untamed river solely by cash and kilo- watts. We must consider it in spiritual, cultural, and aesthetic currencies as well." Wild places and wild rivers have a value far beyond their use for exploitation, a value for all people. With the unstinting support of members, NRDC will continue to fight for the preservation of the magnificent Bio Bio.
After my mom agreed to let me go, I was on my way to my first multi-day rafting trip at six on the Salmon River in Idaho. For the next few years my dad took me on a number of different rivers but my favorite was the Magpie in Quebec. At 9 I began paddling the Magpie in an inflatable kayak and shot videos to sell to the guests. My favorite part of the trip was starting the fires, my least favorite, editing.
Growing up I knew my dad had been involved in fighting dams in Quebec and Chile but was really too young to understand what was at stake. That perception changed in 2003 when I was eleven and my day told me that a private company, Hydro-Mega, proposed a series of dams on the Magpie which would flood the spectacular lower part of the river, destroying the most beautiful camps and best rapid. I remember when he told me I didn't have much of a reaction. He said, "Cade don't you care?". I mean what could I do? As a kid you feel helpless. My dad told me I could write a letter to the government commission studying the dam's feasibility and testify against the dams at a government hearing being held in a tiny town up near the river.
After traveling for a whole day we arrived at a packed town hall where the hearings were taking place. I remember thinking how strange it was being up there in this tiny village on the St. Lawrence River instead of being in middle school. The power company's engineers testified that the first dam would only be 35 feet high, impacting only a small fraction of the river. They showed slides on a giant screen of the rapid and falls to be flooded and claimed the rapid had never been rafted and never would be because it was too dangerous. After they were done, it was my time to speak. I read my statement which mentioned that I had been running the river since I was 8. That it was my favorite river and that the best rapid was the one they were planning to destroy. I went on to say that my dad would not let me run the rapid until I was 13 and that if they built the dam I would never get to run it. They had set up my video camera to play on the big screen. For the next five minutes I showed raft after raft successfully running the supposedly unrunnable rapid. The video concluded with an interview with some of the guests at the bottom of the rapid saying it was the highlight of their trip. The power company engineers looked pretty embarrassed and the judge running the hearings said "Thank you, Mr. Hertz, for such an informative testimonial."
That next summer Earth River ran a conservation trip on the Magpie to raise awareness to the threats from the dams and I shot video of the trip. Bobby Kennedy along with representatives from environmental groups such as the Canadian Sierra Club and Green Peace came to see and then fight for the protection of the River. After the trip there was a press conference in Montreal. There was a long line of television news cameras set up in the back of a packed room so I set my handheld camcorder next to theirs on the top of a giant tri-pod I had borrowed from my dad's friend Steve Mahan. I climbed up on a chair in order to reach the camera and get a clear view of Mr. Kennedy, my father and the members of the environmental groups sitting at a table in the front. I remember my dad saying that the Magpie was the best multi-day whitewater rafting river east of the Mississippi and that it was one of the top three or four multi-day whitewater rivers in North America. Mr. Kennedy said that, he had rafted all over the globe and between the scenery, rapids and fishing he considered the Magpie to be among the best. He said "damming the Magpie was like finding the Mona Lisa in your attic and selling it at a garage sale." When they were finished speaking the camera guy to my left asked if by chance I had any footage of the actual trip? I said yes and suddenly I was swarmed by news people asking to borrow the footage. They got together and agreed to take me and my footage back to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) studio to interview me and make copies for the other stations for the evening news. That night the interview and the trip footage was aired across Canada on all the major stations.
Driving back toward the border the next day we stopped for ice cream and gas near the New York border and someone came up to the Earth River truck and asked my dad if we were the ones they had seen running the Magpie River on television last night.
In the end, they built the first dam and I never did get to run that final rapid but the other two dams were stopped and although it's hard to float over the buried falls and rapid now, I learned everyone has a voice, if you use it.
I grew-up in the lakeside village of Shanty Bay, Ontario. At that time it was one of the fastest growing areas in North America. Box stores seemed to be growing out of the ground and with them, a greater detachment from the area's rural roots. One day, while leaving one of the malls, I witnessed my mom's reaction to something that I have never forgotten.
My younger brother and I were in bolster seats in the back of our family minivan. We were stopped at a red light when the driver of the car ahead of us, nonchalantly dropped a chocolate bar wrapper out the window. Without hesitation, my Mom got out of the van and strode up to the culprit's car. She bent over, picked up the wrapper, leaned in toward the driver and said, in a tone that was reserved for serious indiscretions: "I have two young boys in my car that would be happy to pick this up, and you're setting a terrible example for them." At that, she turned on her heels and returned to our car, leaving the driver speechless. At the next light, we ended up beside the car and driver flipped my mom "the bird". I imagine it was his way trying to save face in front of his girlfriend.
Although the littering act was small and regardless of whether my brother or I would have pick up the wrapper, her controlled conviction always stood out in my mind as representative of the clash between environmental indifference and advocacy.
After years of environmental education, I now have the necessary knowledge to stand up against a mining development in a river basin's headwaters or new dam proposal and even to perhaps suggest some viable alternatives. My current goal is to find a career path that balances and merges, my guiding and academic interests. It is a privilege to be a part of Earth River. Their combination of advocacy and ambitious expeditions is a path worth following.
My family has known Robert from the first day he came down the river when I wasn’t even born yet. When I was little I used to watch the rafts float by my home. All I could think about was one day being a guide. When I was 15 Robert invited me to train with the company. Naturally I said, yes! Usually guides who come down to train on the Futaleufu have many years of rafting. The Futaleufu was my first river. It was very tough in the beginning. I loved rafting by my home and my parents and brothers and sisters would come out and wave at us. After a couple of years of training I started feeling good and asked Robert when he thought I could be a paid guide? Robert said when I didn’t have to ask that question I would be ready. It took three more years and dozens more trips down the river before I did my first paid trip as a safety cataraft guide. After being with the company these past years, I have seen many training guides come down and never reach a level to guide. I now realize that guiding for this company isn’t about who your family knows, where they live, friends, or favors. It isn’t about thinking you’re ready when you think you are but only when the rest of the guides think you are. These guides come from all over; the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Europe and tell me this is the best river for rafting and kayaking in the world. I didn’t know that. I thought all rivers were like this one. The guests on our trips tell me they have never seen such a magnificent place. It makes me proud to think people come from all across the world-- to this place-- my home. Some people from the area think the dams they want to build will bring jobs. But what about after they’re built? Then what’? You have to protect what is yours-- your home.
My childhood was as normal as any other middle class American kid. What I didn't realize as a child was how hard my parents secretly worked. They both had entry level blue collar jobs, putting in well over forty hours a week just to keep food on the table and gas in the cars. Don't get me wrong there was always food on the table and mom always had my two brothers and I to hockey or soccer practice on time. As a kid my biggest worry was finishing my homework as quickly as possible so I could ride my bike or build a fort. Life was easy for me, and the sacrifices my parent made to provide that were amazing. It wasn't until I was fourteen when life hit me like a grand piano. It was Valentines Day when I learned to live life to the fullest and to never take it for granted. I watched my dad give my mom a Valentine and a kiss, before we rushed out the door, so dad could get us to school on time. "Bye dad!" I said as I turned my back and walked to class. That was the last time I would say that. My Dad spent his whole life working as hard as he could to provide the best life a kid could ask for and he did a good job at it too.
After my dad was killed in a car accident, I knew I had to live every day as my last. Living life to the fullest was and is my focus ever since that day. In a way I believe that my life has become even better since then, with the realization that life could end as soon as tomorrow.
Every day I wake up excited to live, excited to play and excited to share this beautiful world with others. It didn't take much searching for me to find a way to fulfill my need to live life to the fullest. The hard work and big fun of rafting has made it simple to share my passion for life with others while having as much fun as possible everyday. The river has filled that important void and it is for that reason, my love for life and the river continue to grow. The tragedy of my dads passing has forever shaped my life and my attitude. I will continue to live with a exquisite work ethic but will always play first. Every day is a gift, get up early and stay up late. Thanks dad!
I have had some extraordinary moments guiding and met some remarkable, prophetic people. I have also witnessed my share of impacted environments. I remember standing on the shore, admiring an awe inspiring falls on the threatened Rupert River in James Bay, Quebec. A giant hydro-electric scheme was threatening to take the water out of the river and divert it through a tunnel into a second river. This was not a new experiment for Hydro Quebec; a similar project reduced the massive Eastmain River just north into an ugly rocky channel. Major rivers, on the scale of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon,reduced to barely discernible trickles. Standing next to me on shore was Jake Weistche, from the town of Waskaganish; the Cree First Nation Village that was to lose their river and way of life when they shut the water off. As we stood there admiring the falls, which were deafening, Jake said to me, “What do you hear?” I said, “I hear the roar of the rapid”. He said, "Listen closly... Mother Earth’s heart pounding.” Since that day I have always looked at and listened to rivers in a different way.
My discovery of rafting was both good fortune and luck. In 1985 China experienced reform and opened the My discovery of rafting was both good fortune and luck. In 1985 China experienced reform and opened the doors to foreign expeditions. A group of Americans wanted to raft the Yangtze River. After three years of negotiations, the team finally received government permission under the condition that it had to be a joint SINO-USA expedition. This was China's most famous river and the government felt the country must be represented.
River rafting was absolutely new to China, so the contract specified that the Americans would train the Chinese team members. By luck I had the privilege of being selected and in 1985 completed an intensive three month raft training program, on 8 rivers in the US. I had found my passion.
1986 was a Chinese rafting "New Year". Besides our SINO-USA Expedition, a number of Chinese teams attempted the river. The race to be first down China's most famous river was a major media event. Regardless of the dangerous rapids and their lack of experience, no one retreated and in the summer of 1986, China's first rafting year, 10 people lost their lives on the Upper Yangtze. I personally had a close call on the final class 6 rapid that ended our expedition, as I was nearly being crushed between a heavy overturned raft and a wall.
Being selected to represent my country on the first rafting trip was luck and surviving that final rapid was luck but the terrifying memory of that final rapid has since been buried beneath the beautiful plateau landscape and the lovely Tibetan people I met. Luck can open your eyes or it can close them, but either way, it changes the way you see the world.
Over the years Earth River has given me the chance to work at something I really enjoy and I feel extremely fortunate to have met so many wonderful people on our trips and locals from the areas we visit.
A few years ago I spoke at a friend, Senor Nico's funeral. The entire communtiy of Futaleufu was there and I told a story of a man and his word.
A few months before he passed away, I was walking across a street in Futaleufu and Senor Nico approached me on his horse. I had known him from the first time I visited the area 20 years earlier. We greeted each other. Even at eighty his grip was still firm.
“Senor Roberto,” He said, “we need to fix the property you bought from me many years ago and make it right. ”
He handed me a tattered scrap of paper with our names scribbled on it worth no more than the ink. We had made the deal over 17 years ago and the property had appreciated considerably. I had thought about trying to legalize the transaction for years but had never gotten around to it and had pretty much written it off as a lost cause.
“Someone else wants to buy the property now for a lot of money” Senor Nico said, “ I might get tempted and I don’t want to die a dishonest man.”
We agreed to go to the oficial government notary where we made the transaction legal and registered the property in my name.
A few months later I heard Senor Nico was very sick and went to visit him in the hospital. You could see he was in pain but his handshake was as steady as ever -- stronger than a yoke of oxen.
Late one April after the rafting season, I was at Cave Camp building a trail around Laguito Azul to Lost Beach with the caretaker of the camp, Checho Berrera. The camp got its name from the massive rock shelter on the property. At one time the Puehenche Indians lived in this natural stone house which had a natural fireplace and was large enough to ride a horse inside.
My company, Earth River Expeditions, had been using the Camp for three seasons and yet the top of a 300 foot granite monolith that rose straight out of Laguito Azul and could be seen from everywhere in the camp remained a mystery.
Stoping to rest, I looked over at the granite tower, my eyes tracing the sheer, unbroken 300 foot north wall to the top. I turned to Checho and asked if he had any idea what was up there. We communicated in a cross between Spanglish and sign language, yet each of us knew what the other was saying.
Many times I had wondered about the mysterious tower but the foreboding walls guarding the top had always seemed insurmountable. Checho gave me an odd sort of look as if to say, why would anyone in his right mind care. After all, you couldn't graze cows or sheep up there and it certainly wasn't worth breaking your neck to find out.
Things had remained pretty much unchanged at his Casa Piedra farm for the four generations Checho's family had homesteaded it. He was born in the primitive turn of the century farmhouse his great grandfather had built on the plateau overlooking the river about a mile from Zeta Rapid. Cut off from the outside world, they lived off the land without electricity, running water or plumbing. Checho's children, starting at age six, rode three hours by horse, in all weather conditions, to reach the nearest public boarding school where they lived for a week, returning home on weekends.
Nothing much had changed at Campo Casa Piedra until the first time Checho saw a strange yellow raft float by. In the ensuing years, we had purchased the property around Zeta Rapid including the strange tower for our wilderness camp and Checho became the caretaker. He took tremendous pride in his work as the camp's handyman, builder and guardian. He was a gracious host with a wonderful smile that filled the camp and everyone who met him liked him. When a new group arrived they would often ask,
“Whose the guy running around with all the sleeping bags and pads?”
The river guide's would say,
"Oh that's Checho, he takes care of everything around here."
My relationship with Checho grew as we spent many cold, wet days in the rainy season designing cliff dwellings for sleeping, setting up hot tubs in the natural pot holes carved into the rocks around Zeta Rapid and building trails while exploring every nook and cranny of the expansive property looking for things river guests would enjoy seeing or doing. Every nook and cranny with the exception of the top of the mysterious tower which was never far from my mind and the furthest from Checho's.
The next day while working on a wooden bridge, that connects the cliff dwellings to the native stone shelter, I mentioned the top of the tower. Checho's incredulous reaction soon turned into an understanding nod. The trail work stopped. Without a word we headed around towards the back side of the tower. Fighting dense thickets of bamboo and bramble we searched for some sort of chink in the tower’s seemingly impenetrable armor.
Finally on the southeastern corner we found what looked like a possible route. It started with a sheer 80 foot wall, broken in the middle by a ledge large enough to comfortably stand on. It looked as if we could just make it past those first two pitches, we could probably bushwhack and boulder scramble the rest of the way up. Scouring the area, Checho found a six inch diameter log stripped of limbs and bark. It looked long enough to reach the first ledge and light enough to move. We wrestled it up against the wall and shinnied up to the first ledge. We then pulled the log up. Unfortunately when we placed it up against the second wall it was a few feet short necessitating a free climb of the final few feet.
I went first. Being tired made the final scramble much more difficult then it actually was but I made it up. All was going smoothly with Checho until he began to tire a few feet from the top. I knew something was wrong when he began muttering something in Spanish I couldn’t understand. Rather than giving up and sliding back down, I imagine the intrigue of reaching a place he had spent his whole life below was too great not to continue. He wildly lunged for the top grabbing it with one hand. I grabbed it and he began kicking wildly sending the log crashing down. Time paused for several minute like seconds. Finally I was able to inch and drag him to safety.
Checho bent over trying to catch his breath while I contemplated our predicament. The log was now laying uselessly on the shelf halfway down. It was small solace that it had stopped there. Shaken but with renewed resolve, Checho signaled that he was ready to continue. I nodded, at this point there was really no reason to worry about getting down.
With Checho now leading, the steep route took us scrambling up and over small unexposed ledges and through choked brush. As we neared what appeared to be the top it was getting harder and harder for me to contain my anticipation. The view had to be unbelievable. Crashing through one last stand of intertwined brambles our excitement was abruptly broken by a final 40 foot, featureless granite barrier. There were no dead trees to shinny up and even if one of the bent over stunted live ones had been long enough, without a knife or saw there was no way to cut it. Searching for some sort of weakness in the rock, we bushwhacked to the right until confronted by a 250 foot drop off.
Moving left, our hopes slowly dwindling, we came to a large vertical crack. A single chink in the stone gates that guarded the mysterious upper world. The crack was wide enough to squeeze into sideways. Placing our backs against one side and pushing off with our arms and legs, we could safely inch our way within the confines of the opposing walls. After about 15 feet, the crack widened giving way to a steep scree slope laced with roots allowing us to scramble to the top.
Suddenly Checho let out a wild whop. We were standing on top of the world. The emerald colored Futaleufu flowed between snow-capped peaks as far as the eye could see. Everywhere I turned we were in the center of the view. It was the height of fall and a wide swath of brilliant red lenga trees ringed the mountains beneath the snow line.
The top was much bigger then I had thought it would be, about the size of an Olympic swimming pool. In a spontaneous moment we jumped into each others arms and began dancing around like children screaming exuberantly in our native tongues, neither having any idea nor caring, what the other was saying. That there was no easy way back down was now but a distant memory.
We broke our embrace, walked out on a knife-edged face to the right of the main tower and sat down to take it all in magnifico” I said.
“Beautiful” Chech responded.
I’m sure up until that moment he never quite understood why people would travel half way around the world to visit his little piece of Patagonia. How could he? He was now learning to row a raft on the dangerous river with the unpredictable currents his mother had so often warned him about. That afternoon, in that moment, it probably all started to make sense; all those years of toiling on the land, of enduring one harsh Patagonia winter after another in a seemingly endless cycle.
Aside from the joy of his children and his passion for racing horses in the rodeo, this strange job with its crazy adventures, was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to him. As he sat there on that ledge, he told me a little bit about his father and grandfather and growing up there. All the things that had made their farm the least desirable in the valley, the massive granite outcroppings and its extreme isolation, were the very same things that now made it special to so many people.
Checho's responsibilities with Earth River had grown over the years to the point where he was setting up ropes for the Tyrolean river crossing. He was able to put away enough money to buy a pickup truck and build a modest house in the town of Futaleufu. It had electricity, running water and most importantly was only a few blocks from the school. Never again would he have to ship his children off each week for eight months of the year. Never again would he have to helplessly watch as they endured three hours on a horse through driving rain, wind and sleet.
With our condor-like view, Checho and I spent the next hour pointing out Zeta rapid, the stone hot tub, Lost Beach, the main stone shelter and turquoise Laguito Azul. Checho told me that more than anything else he wanted his children to be guides, especially his one-year old son Alfredo. He enjoyed living at the Casa Piedra farm during the summer months when the weather was good and the kids were out of school. Even with all the past hardships he loved the place passionately and understood fully the opportunity it had given his family. We stood up, and shook hands in one last congratulatory touch. The wind had picked up considerably and yet down below the trees were still.
"Mucho viento los Torres"
much wind on the tower, Checho said. "Torre de los Vientos",
"Tower of the Winds", he said. Eric nodded.
As we headed down, my thoughts quickly switched to getting off the tower. With little choice, we grabbed some dead, twisted bent over limbs and tied them together with our shirts. Using Checho's belt, we lowered the makeshift ladder over the edge and climbed down the mass of intertwined branches to the middle ledge. We carefully lowered the original log to the ground and slid down.
The moment Checho touched the ground, he crossed his chest, dropped to his knees and kissed the ground. The sun had set and the temperature had fallen considerably, yet even without a shirt I didn’t feel the cold. While we were walking back to Checho's house, my mind wandered to the the top of the tower. In a career that had taken me all over the world, the experience on top of that tower with Checho was one of the highlights. I couldn’t wait to be able to share the experience with our clients.
That evening we sat around the hot cook stove in Checho's tiny kitchen eating homemade bread with cheese and sipping mate. I was exhausted mentally and physically. Checho and I hadn't said a single word to each other since getting down from the tower. It had been a wild day. It must have been especially wild for Checho whose strange journey had really begun three years earlier.
The next day while working on the trail to Lost Beach, Checho stopped and looked over at the tower, his eyes tracing the unbroken North Wall to the top. Billowy white clouds were flying across the sky just above it and yet down below everything was still.
"Necesita todo cliente vamous alto los Torre." “All the clients need to visit the top of the tower,” he said.
I nodded and smiled. I had never said a word to him about taking our guests up there. In a single day, a useless chunk of granite had gone from being in the way of everything, to being the center of everything. It was perhaps the first time in Checho’s life, that the past, present and future were one.
NOTE: In August of 2002, our dear friend, Checho Berrera passed away at the age of 38. The Earth River staff and guests who knew him will remember Checho as a kind, gentle soul and a gracious host who made everything work so smoothly at Campo Casa Piedra. We will never forget his wonderful adventurous spirit and smile.
Aaron started guiding as a student at the University of California, Davis where he received a degree in civil engineering. After graduating, he continued to guide on the Grand Canyon, Cherry Creek and the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Internationally Aaaron has guided in New Zealand, Peru through the Colca Canyon and for 5 years in Chile on the Futaleufu. He has taught numerous guide schools and worked as an instructor for Outward Bound. When not guiding he has worked as a math teacher and water polo coach at Wagner College. Aaron has been a an EMT for ten years and is currently applying to medical school. His interest is emergency medicine which will allow him the flexibility to continue guiding.
"Just wanted to let you know that Brent and I had another amazing trip with Greg (Our fifth). His passion for the outdoors and wanting to share it with others is only surpassed by his attention to detail, friendly demeanor, conscientious nature and concern for people's safety and well being. We can't wait to do another trip with him."
- Shanna Chan, Futaleufu, Colca, Yangtze & Magpie.
Greg has been guiding expeditions around the world for 25 years, working as an Earth River trip leader for the past 15 years on the Colca, Yangtze and Futaleufu Rivers. He is among the most highly respected and experienced whitewater guides of our time. He has rafted on five continents and been an integral part of Earth River's conservation efforts on the Magpie River and British Columbia's, Yosemite like, Headwall Canyon. In addition to guiding rafts he spent five years on the U.S. National rafting team. Greg received his EMT and Wilderness EMT certification in 1988 and continues his medical training to the present. He has taught numerous guide schools in California, Oregon and Australia. When not guiding for Earth River, he runs his own fly fishing company on the Rogue River in Oregon and works as a general contractor. He lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife Susan.
Accord, New York
"Cade is an exceptionally mature and sensitive young man. We were amazed by his competence at such a young age. It was hard for Natalia and I to believe he was only 18." David Larkin, first descent of Yavero River, 2010
Cade has been running expeditions since he was 6. He has worked as a guide on the Middle Fork of the Salmon, Magpie and Grand Canyon. Internationally he has done expedions in Patagonia, Peru, Tibet, Fiji, British Columbia, Yukon Territory and Quebc. At 10 he was on the first exploration of the Lakes of Patagonia, featured in National Geographic Adventure Magazine. At 9 he began paddling an inflatable kayak down the class 4 Magpie River in Quebec and shot video to sell to the guests. In 2003 he became active in the fight to stop multiple dams slated for the lower Magpie River in Quebec, testifying at government hearings in Sept Isles, Quebec and showing a video that contradicted the developers claims that the River’s most impressive and soon to be flooded rapid was not runnable. His Magpie footage was shown across Canada on CBC Television. In 2010 he shot video on the first raft and commercial descent of Peru’s recently discovered Yavero River. Cade is an avid kayaker and shoots video on our Futaleufu expeditions.
Ty has been guiding for 12 years. He has a B.S. and Masters in Environmental Science. Ty is a graduate of the 90 day, W.I.L.D guide training program. W.I.L.D. is the most intensive and arduous guide training program in the world with participants running rivers from Canada to Costa Rica over a three month period. Ty guides on the Magpie and will be down in Chile this winter to begin training on the Futaleufu. He plays the mandolin and often sings around the campfire.
Leonardo Medina (Peke) was born on a farm in the Escala Valley along the Futaleufu River just below Infierno Canyon. Peke’s early years were spent working on his family’s farm. When he was 15 he became the third recipient of Earth River’s guide internship scholarship program on the Futaleufu. For the next five years Peke trained on Futaleufu on Earth River trips. Upon completing his internship, he was hired by Earth River and is now a core member of Earth River’s Futaleufu crew as a safety cataraft guide. He is considered, among his peers, to be one of the finest safety cat guides in the world. He has been working on his English and expects to be guiding clients down the river within the next few years. He was recently featured in the award winning documentary, “Fighting for the Futaleufu.”
Danny has been guiding river expeditions for 8 years and is a wilderness EMT and a NOLS instructor. Besides river guiding, he is a certified ice climbing, rock climbing and fly fishing guide. His river guiding experience includes numerous rivers throughout the western U.S. including Alaska and the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Internationally he has guided in New Zealand, Morocco, Nepal and in Chile on the Futaleufu. Danny is an airplane and helicopter pilot. He is currently pursuing a commercial helicopter flight instructor license.
Syracuse, New York
"Steve's incredible energy level is only superceded by his enthusiasm to share incredible places with others. His eyes light up when he talks about his work with inner city kids and photography."
- Dick Shiro, Futaleufu, Upper Yangtze
Steve has been guiding for over 35 years and has been with Earth River since it’s inception. He has run rivers on nearly every continent including 10 years on the Grand Canyon, 9 years on the Upper Yangtze and 5 years on the Futaleufu. He guided on the first ever descent of Tibet’s class 5 Poe Sang Po and on many of the earliest Futaleufu expeditions. Steve is an accomplished photographer and his work has appeared in National Geographic Adventure, American Airlines Magazine and Conde Naste Traveler. He is an associate professor of photography at Syracuse University where he founded the PAL project which connects university students with inner city school children through photography and creative writing. He lives in Syracuse with his wife Mary Lynn and their two daughters.
River & Mountain Guide
In his twenties Shaohong was China's premier decathlete and honored with the prestigious "Chinese National Sportsman Award". When he retired from track, he forged a new career in adventure travel becoming an expert mountaineering, trekking and river guide.
Shaohong has taken part in numerous mountaineering first ascents in eastern Tibet. He participated in the 2002 joint China-Japan expedition that reached the summit of ChoOyu, the world's fifth highest mountain. In 2005 he summited Everest as part of a Chinese team organized to formally measure the height of the mountain. He was awarded China's highest sporting honour, the Sport's Medal of Honour, for his contribution to the expedition's success.
Shaohong has participated in many Earth River rafting tours on the Great Bend of the Yangtze in Yunnan and the Upper Yangtze river in Qinghai provinces. He has gained a great reputation for his Chinese cooking on the rafting expeditions.
Shaohong is also a professional photographer, and photographs have been published in China National Geographic and Japanese and Hong Kong outdoor adventure and travel magazines. In 2008 he was the official photographer for the Chinese Mountaineering Team's ascent of Mount Everest with the Olympic Torch. His photographs were used in the official commemorative album, "Olympic Shining Flame on Mount Everest."
Jim Coffey is Canadian and has been guiding for 30 years. He is considered to be among the most experienced and accomplished guides in the rafting industry. Jim has run rivers in 35 countries, guiding expeditions in the U.S., Canada (Quebec, Ontario, Yukon Territory, Northwest Territory, and British Columbia), Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, India and Nepal. Jim is a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (EMT-B) and an accredited certified instructor in a number of disciplines including; rafting, canoeing (American Canoe Association), First Aid/C.P.R., and Swift Water Rescue. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Higgins and Langley Awards for Excellence in Swiftwater Rescue. Jim brought the Swift water Rescue 3 program to Eastern Canada and has taught swift water rescue classes throughout the Americas. He has raced whitewater canoes representing Canada internationally and captained the Canadian rafting team to 5 top 10 finishes at the World Rafting Championships. Jim is the Founder, Director and Lead Instructor of W.I.L.D (Whitewater Intensive Leadership Development School), the world’s most comprehensive whitewater guide training program. Graduates of this 4 month intensive program learn Swiftwater Rescue, wilderness first aid, rafting, kayaking, adventure leadership, conservation and Wilderness Ethics. Jim has worked to bring attention to the threats to a number of Canadian rivers including James Bay, Quebec’s Rupert and Kipawa Rivers.
Jiyue is one of the grandfathers of adventure travel in China. Upon graduation from Sichuan Sports Institute in 1982, where he was a highly ranked 400 meter runner, Jiyue began working for China Mountaineering Association as a climbing guide and liaison working with international climbers. In 1985 the Chinese government sent him to the U.S. for whitewater training where he ran eight different rivers. The following year, he participated in the joint Sino-USA, first descent of the Yangtze River which completed 2000 kilometers of the previously unrun river. ABC's American Sportsman,featured the expedition in a two-part, 90-minute special titled, "Challenging China's Yangtze".
In 1993, under China's Open Door policy, Jiyue founded, Sichuan Earth Expeditions, one of the first private adventure companies in China. The company organized and led numerous first ascents throughout China and Tibet including the North Face of Gonga Mountain with one America's of America's most distinguished mountain climbers, Fred Becky. Sichuan Earth Expeditions also participated in the 2005 Chinese climb of the Mt. Everest and the 2008 World Olympic torch relay to the top of Everest.
As Earth River's China partner, Jiyue helped organize and run the first descent of the Shangri-la's Shuilo and Po Tsangpo Rivers in Tibet, as well as early commercial descents trips down the Great Bend and Upper Yangtze, He has been featured in Outside, National Geographic (yellow), National Geographic Adventure, Men's Journal and on National Geographic Television, China's Outdoor Exploration and Japanese Outdoor Magazine.
"Hertz and his partner, the Chilean white-water expert Roberto Currie, made an expeditionary first descent of the Futaleufu in 1991 and figued how to safely navigate what today is one of the most intensive stretches of commercially rafted white-water rapids in the world."
- New York Times
Robert is a native of Santiago, Chile. After finishing his formal education, he ran his family's farm in the Chilean Lake District. In 1990 he began managing Earth River's Chile operations, joining the company as a partner three years later. He has rafted on four continents having done trips in Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Africa, China, Quebec and British Columbia. He was part of the first descent of China's Po Tsang Po featured in National Geographic Adventure and was on the first complete raft descent of the Futaleufu. He has appeared in Outside Magazine, Town and Country, National Geographic Adventure and the New York Times and on ESPN, PBS and The Discovery Channel. He narrates the award winning documentary "Fighting for the Futaleufu".
Upon discovering plans to dam the Futaleufu and realizing that the local farmers along the river had no idea what that meant, Robert loaded up two vans with local farmers (most had never been out of the area) on a week long trip up to see what had happened to the Bio Bio. Seeing what was left of the once spectacular Bio Bio Valley left many of them in tears. When they returned to Futaleufu the group spoke of what they had witnessed to the entire community in the school gym. Robert then organized members of the community in an unsuccessful bid for the river's water rights which were granted to the power company, Endessa. Robert co-founded the Earth River Land Trust on the Futaleufu which has protected almost 15 miles of the rivers most spectacular shoreline.
He has participated in numerous conservation awareness expeditions in Chile, Quebec and British Columbia. Robert was instrumental in bringing awareness to the Chilean government about the dangers from water borne invasive species like Didymo that adversely impact rivers, streams and lakes destroying fisheries and tourism.
"Eric is one of the best in the business - Obsessed with safety."
National Geographic (yellow) Magazine
I met Eric in 1988, when he almost single-handedly stopped the James Bay II Hydro-electric Project, which would have destroyed eleven major rivers in northern Quebec. I worked with him to save Headwall Canyon in British Columbia and Quebec's Magpie.
Robert Kennedy Jr., Town and Country Magazine
Eric’s guiding began at 16 on a cross country bicycle trip where he met a guide who invited him to row a baggage boat on Oregon's Rogue River. Throughout his high school and college summers he guided on the Tuolumne River in California where he was one of the first to run a commercial paddle boat. After college, he spent his summers guiding on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon and was a playwright the rest of the year. His plays won a number of awards including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. His play “Between Rails” was successfully produced off-broadway. (New York Times review). During this time he also co-founded the Rondout-Esopus Land Conservancy in the Catskill and Sharwangunk ("gunks") Mountains of the Hudson Valley in New York which has protected over 3,500 acres.
In the late nineteen eighties, Eric gave up playwriting to start Earth River. The company was founded on a number of core principles; exploring and finding the most amazing trips, running the finest, safest trips possible and fighting to preserve important river resources. Over the past 23 years, Eric has organized and led dozens of conservation awareness trips taking policy makers and media down threatened rivers. His efforts focussed on stopping the James Bay Hydro-electric Project in Quebec and dams on Chile’s Bio Bio and Futaleufu rivers and Quebec’s Magpie. Eric's other conservation efforts helped bring awareness to the preservation of watersheds like British Columbia’s, Yosemite like, Headwall Canyon and New Foundland’s Main River, which were both threatened by clear cut logging. Using his land trust experience, he and his partner, Robert Currie, founded, the Earth River Land Trust on the Futaleufu which to date has protected over 20 kilometers of the river’s most dramatic shoreline.
Eric has been a pioneer in river rafting safety. He introduced the industry to foot cups to keep paddlers in the rafts and was among the first to teach clients active "self rescue" swimming techniques rather than passively floating on their backs. He was the first outfitter to offer a raft training day before running class 5 and introduced the industry to the use of caterafts "safety cats" as a rescue craft on large volume rivers like the futaleufu. He was the among the first to introduce oar-paddle hybrid rafts and double guided boats on challenging rivers.
Eric has organized and led first descents around the world and has been featured in American Airlines Magazine, Outside, National Geographic (yellow), National Geographic Adventure, The New York Times, Conde Naste Traveler, Town and Country, Men's Journal and on National Geographic Television, P.B.S., ESPN, TBS and Nicolodian. He pioneered and opened commercial rafting and multi-sport trips on a number of spectacular destinations including; Patagonia Chile's Futaleufu, Peru's Yavero, China's Great Bend of the Yangtze, Quebec's Magpie, Peru's Colca Canyon, Tibet's Upper Yangtze, British Columbia's Headwall Canyon, Yukon Territory's Primrose, , Fiji's Vanua Balavu and Chile's Lakes of Patagonia. Eric was the trip leader and captained the lead boat on a number of notable first raft descents including; the Futaleufu, Magpie, Headwall Canyon and Tibet's Schulo ho which was featured in National Geograpic (yellow) Magazine; the only time a commercial river outfitter has ever been featured in the Magazine's 100 year history. His two sons, Cade and Teal, are now guiding commercially.