The Ecuadorian sun shone through the leafy greenery, casting intricate shadows upon a group of twelve college students and beating down upon their necks. David Poritz, the group’s leader, walked through the underbrush to the edge of a lake and jabbed his machete into the water’s black surface. When he pulled it out, instead of being wet, it was darkened. The black skin floating on top of the lake had congealed and clung to the blade, dripping oil and petroleum waste onto the soil.
Only fifty feet away from the waste pit, through a small patch of forest lived the owner of the land, a one-time cacao farmer. His house sat on a plot of oil-contaminated land between the waste pit and a dusty road that ran through the Amazon. David, unshaven, but dressed in a clean white v-neck watched with the students as the man’s four children played outside barefoot. The cacao trees around them had long since grown disheveled and shriveled up. Some of the students wondered why these people didn’t leave. It was a dangerous place to live.
David, a college freshman, had taken the group of Brown University students to Ecuador, to this man’s land, to show them exactly this situation: the widespread and destructive oil pollution in the Amazon. He hoped that directly educating them about the country’s environmental issues would create a movement of Ecuadorian activism at Brown.