After some unofficial meetings at the hostel over the pool table and breakfast tables in the day and some some meals together in the center of Manaus by night, the course officially launched on the morning of July 12th at the Sustainable Amazon Foundation (FAS) headquarters.
After a quick physical warm up with a dynamic called the social justice stretch, the group was invited to actively listen, witness and absorb the words of Diversity Welcome. This framing reminds listeners that the spaces people work and live in are not always enough to truly manifest whole selves or identities. The intention to invite diverse perspectives and human spirit to the program was set by naming, speaking power to and inviting the parts of people that are visible but often pushed to the margins or ones that are invisible.
Each person had the chance to present themselves and check-in about what energy they were bringing to the first day and to the course. After some introductions about the agenda and journey ahead, the morning session began with introductory classes by Jeffrey Sachs and Virgilio Viana. Jeffrey presented a historic perspective of the sustainable development movement and sustainable development goals, covering 200 years of history in half an hour over skype. Virgilio focused more on his experience in the amazon’s development and its historical context, explaining FAS’ approach to sustainability and community development.
After the first traditional amazonian lunch - the famous Tambaqui fish - the group headed to MUSA, the museum of the amazon. Here they had the chance to learn about indigenous myths and histories and see different species of trees, serpents and fish. For many, the highlight of the day was a climb to the top of a high tower to see the perspective of the forest and trees from above. Many mentioned in their check out that they were starting to appreciate and how broad, green, and diverse the amazon is.