I am fortunate to say that SAGE Magazine published on of my photos on gold mining in the alluvial river plains of the Amazon. My colleague wrote this story, "The Pit in the Woods", bringing to light the myriad of social and environmental issues, and the complexity of our answers. No simple solutions are offered - instead Nigel Pitman provides insight to the overlapping territories of miners, parenthood, and environmentally conscious field biologists "from away".
Posted by Nigel Pitman on September 20, 2013 at 5:22 pm
SAGE Magazine is thrilled to award Nigel Pitman’s “The Pit in the Woods” third place in our 2013 Environmental Writing Contest.
[Note: Names of the children in this story have been changed.]
One afternoon, back when my daughters were too small to think for themselves, the three of us left the research station where we lived in Amazonian Peru and took a short ride down the river to the town of Boca Amigos. The town sat on the bank of the Madre de Dios, and when the current was high you could pole a boat across the soccer field and tie up at one of the houses. That afternoon the river was low, like a glass half-empty, and after beaching the canoe we climbed up the dry riverbed into town. It was a tiny place – only about ten families lived there year-round – but whenever I visited there was always someone waiting on top of that bluff. They weren’t waiting for me, though. They just liked to stand and watch the river go by.
“Paying us a visit, Doctor?” said the mayor, shaking my hand.
The town that day was full of strangers. In the middle of the soccer field, half a dozen men in shorts and rubber boots were pushing a water pump the size of a car towards the river on a crude wooden sled. They put their shoulders to it, moved it a few steps, and sank to their knees, groaning. The rest of the town – a dozen houses nailed together with planks and corrugated zinc – was quiet. As we headed down the dirt track to the schoolhouse, heads started poking out of windows, women waved hello from their kitchens, and kids came running after us.