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Last week at the Rainforest Action Network’s rip-roaring 25th Anniversary party REVEL I had the opportunity to meet Oliver Utne. He was in town only a few days after spending several months in NYC learning how to install solar panels. Oliver works for the Pachamama Alliance; the recent New York Times article put it best in describing the NGO, ‘Pachamama Alliance, which for the last 15 years has helped the Achuar and other Amazonian indigenous groups from its Quito office with land titling, skills training, economic development and policy advocacy.’

Oliver has lived in Ecuador for the past two years working with the Achuar tribe at their Kapawi Lodge & Reserve, and now plans to install solar panels to supply the lodge with 100% solar energy. The United Nations said the lodge was amongst the top five outstanding environmental conservation and community development projects in the world. No. Big. Deal.

On paper, Oliver’s life looks like he would make for a great interview. I decided to do a profile on him not because of what he has done, but because of his mentality and attitude about what he is doing.

What do I mean, you ask? I asked Oliver what his goal in life was, and he couldn’t answer. We talked a bit more, and it became clear to me that he is motivated by emotion. He just does what makes him complete, what makes him happy.

Oliver is a special person to me because he is more than just happy. He is fulfilled. I wanted to find out what experiences Oliver has gone through to make him think, ‘This is it. This is what life is all about.’ Those formative moments grant humans the opportunity to be perpetual students of the world, and inspire us to grow. A life-shaping moment for me was when I took a crazy-haphazard trip through western Panama only to find myself on the other end, giddily swimming in the blue blue ocean doing 360 spins admiring the beauty of Isla Grande. I believe that life is about letting go, and welcoming those challenging but inspiring, wonderful moments to happen.

I learned why Oliver is fulfilled, because it is clear that he has those moments on a daily basis. When it comes to life-moments, most people have a few good ones, but Oliver has a lot of great ones. I think it is because Oliver is the best kind of explorer, the kind that isn’t searching for an answer but rather a way, a process, to open lines of communication and allow voices to be heard.

This exploration has led him to work alongside the Achuar tribe as they increase their global voice and preserve their culture. Oliver said that working with the tribe allows him to play a role in the history of this small corner of the earth. I find it profound in that Oliver and the Pachamama Alliance help an isolated tribe become a member of the global community, a place in the world. This is significant because it helps change the American dream to be something of substance and sustainability. They call it ‘awakening the dreamer‘. In a world where we all have different ideals and success measurements, this is a perfect example of the way things should be done. Uniting cultures through a mutual respect, understanding, and appreciation for differences in culture under the realization that we are all responsible for the state of the earth.

So, Oliver is headed back down to Ecuador to install solar panels. This will help the Achuar tribe, as tourism has proved to be their most viable source of economic stability. As oil companies foam at the mouth in a demented excitement over Ecuador’s natural resources, the Achuar are working to preserve their land, culture, and society.

All-in-all, I’m sure Oliver is in fact human and not infallible, but I do think he’s got a bit of super hero in him. It was wonderful meeting him and gaining a greater appreciation for the Pachamama Alliance and their efforts to defend the Amazon! I know you want to help them, so I made it easy for you, just click here and do your thang.


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