All Hope is Not Lost – The Power of a Regenerating Rainforest

By Gregory Palmerino

I sit here, under my mosquito net, the tapping of my keyboard merging with the symphony of cicadas singing, rain pattering, and birds twittering. Every few minutes Gavina, our local three toed sloth, wails in the distance—a sound I had never heard before coming to this place. In moments like these I wonder what my childhood self would think if they could see me now—for the rainforest has captured my heart and imagination for as long as I can remember.

The animals, the insects, the idea of trees so close together that they scatter out the light into emerald shadows—it felt like a fantasy; a place only real between the covers of magazines and books. As long as I have been living, the stories of the rainforest were presented in tandem with dire warnings of it’s disappearance—with facts and figures of deforestation and destruction.

“Will there be anything left?” I would wonder, “Will the ancient trees and wild beings still be there when I am old enough to make the pilgrimage to this magic place?”

While it is certainly true that the natural world is threatened and much of the Earth’s beauty is disappearing at an alarming rate, the story is far from over. There are people and places in this world that are focusing their energy on reversing the damage that humanity has done to our Earth—who are proving that it is possible—that there is still hope. The Manu Learning Center is one of those places.

The Manu Learning Center, or “MLC” for short, is situated in the Manu Biosphere Reserve—a buffer zone for the protected Manu National Park in Peru. The property covers 660 hectares and as recently as the 1940s was a working cattle ranch and plantation.

Completely cleared rainforest sign
Two ants explore a sign announcing the entrance to the “Completely Cleared & Regenerating” portion of the MLC.

At that time, a vast section of the forest had been completely cleared away (now referred to as the CCR), another portion had been partially cleared (PCR), and beyond that much of the property had been selectively logged (SLR). Today, it has been left to nature to regenerate for around 40 years yielding brilliant results.

Not only has the forest healed itself—many, if not all of the species that once called this land home have returned. At the MLC, dedicated volunteers and researchers spend their days studying this regeneration to prove to the Peruvian government and to the world that it is possible to reverse the damage we have caused, and that there is value in that reversal.

“So often in our society value is calculated by financial gain—yet it is impossible to put a price tag on nature. Yes, there is money to be made on tourism, on plant derived pharmaceuticals, on insect inspired technology—yes, there is an importance in preserving what are deemed the lungs of our planet—however the connection and unity one feels to the Earth when standing beneath the canopy, surrounded by a symphony of biodiversity is an invaluable medicine for the soul”

Conservation Intern Sam teaches volunteers Izzy and Pavi how to make a wax casting of the footprint of a Lowland Tapir found deep in the “SLR” or “Selectively Logged & Regenerating” forest of the MLC.

Places such as the MLC inspire hope for the world and for future generations and that hope extends beyond the rainforest. If this forest can regenerate, there is a chance that our entire world can as well—the oceans that have been polluted, the redwoods that have been levelled, the prairie lands cleared for mono-cropping and pastures… all of the beautiful places destroyed in the name of progress have this innate power of regeneration. All we need to do is let them—all we need do is to remember that we are a part of nature and not above it. All we need to do is know deeply that all hope is not lost…

Multimedia Coordinator Daniel Ash and intern Roger walk beneath a mushroom archway in the “PCR” or “Partially Cleared & Regenerating” forest of the MLC

By Gregory Palmerino – 



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