Connecting with Your Roots

by Gabriela Ponce Guerrero, Ecuador (in Switzerland), ELP 2015
Written on July 4, 2015.

“Take risks and follow your passions.” – Brittany Berger

Image icongabi1-300x200_2.jpgThe Muriqui monkeys are endangered species found only in the Atlantic Rain forest of southeast Brazil. Similar to humans, Muriquis work together and protect each other. They have been characterized as easygoing and highly cooperative. As with many other species, they have been severely affected by deforestation and forest fragmentation. Observing them in their natural environment and knowing their story was one of the most influential experiences for Brittany, which led her to love the forest and devote herself to several social and conservation programs.

Image icongabi2-225x300_2.jpgBrittany is the Environmental and Social Project Coordinator of the Ibitipoca Reserve, recently appointed social director for REDE Ibitipoca, a unit of SEBRAE (Brazilian service of assistance to micro and small enterprises), and co-founder of the NGO Muriqui Institute for Biodiversity. All of these happened by chance. Brittany is a citizen of both the United States and Brazil. She was raised in the US and did not have the opportunity to connect with her roots until recently. After finishing college she decided to travel for six months in Brazil. She never imagined that she would end up staying.

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Brittany believes ecotourism is a framework which can improve the quality of life of local communities and preserve the environment. In her own words, ecotourism is for travelers, not tourists, looking to experience nature and culture without leaving negative impacts behind. The community of Ibitipoca is just outside the national park and has greatly benefited from ecotourism. They all have a great love for the land and the financial benefits provide an additional incentive to protect the environment. The rapid urban growth has caused some problems due to the lack of planning and little government support.

Ecotourism is a promising approach as a fast growing sector. However, it requires travelers to be very careful with greenwashing and make sure that ecotourism is more than just a marketing strategy. Brittany recommends to take some time to research, to look for the mission statement, and to find out who owns the place and what kind of activities are offered.