Amazon Visions: Saving the Heart of the Planet


"We've been I think helping create a bridge between people who care here and have leverage and have clout, and communities that are taking a stand and have a lot of wisdom and a lot of the solutions that we can learn from, but are also taking a stand to defend something we all need for our future—the Amazon rainforest." - Atossa Soltani

Click here to download Bioneers Radio Series XIII Brochure
Music Credits
Series Theme Music: "Soiridh Leis" from the CD Journey Between by Baka Beyond. Used with permission from Hannibal Records, a Rykodisc label;
 “Field Trip” and “Duet” by Jordan Tice Trio from the album THE SECRET HISTORY; Patuxent Music CD-230; 2011; Contact:,


Bioneers Series XIII - Program 06-13


Amazon Visions: Saving the Heart of the Planet



00:00               Welcome (00:05)


Welcome to The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature.


00:05               Soltani teaser (00:20)


We've been I think helping create a bridge between people who care here and have leverage and have clout, and communities that are taking a stand and have a lot of wisdom and a lot of the solutions that we can learn from, but are also taking a stand to defend something we all need for our future—the Amazon rainforest.


00:25               Macy (00:09)


It’s all alive, it’s all connected, it’s all intelligent, it’s all relatives…


00:34     Bioneers teaser (00:28)


We stand at the threshold of a historic opportunity in the human experiment: to re-imagine how to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations. It's a revolution from the heart of nature - and the human heart.


In this series - The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature - we celebrate social and scientific innovators with breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet - creating a future environment of hope.


01:02               Theme music fade out (00:05)


01:08               Opening underwriting narration (00:10)


Support for The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature is provided in part by Organic Valley Family of Farms and Mary’s Gone Crackers.


01:18     NARRATION 1 (02:17)


The naturalist author Diane Ackerman offers this remarkable vision in her book A Natural History of the Senses:

“Picture this: Everyone you’ve ever known, everyone you’ve ever loved, your whole experience of life floating in one place, on a single planet underneath you. On that dazzling oasis, swirling with blues and whites, the weather systems form and travel. You watch the clouds tingle and swell above the Amazon, and know the weather that develops there will affect the crop yield half a planet away in Russia and China.

The rainforests are disappearing in Australia, Hawaii and South America. You see dustbowls developing in Africa and the Near East.

“And though you were taught about them one by one, as separate parts of a jigsaw puzzle, now you can see that the oceans, the atmosphere and the land are not separate at all, but part of an intricate, recombining web of nature.

“Most of all,” Ackerman concludes, “the twentieth century will be remembered as the time when we first began to understand what our address was… that we are citizens of something larger and more profound than mere countries, that we are citizens of Earth, her joyriders and caretakers, who would do well to work on her problems together.”

How, in the 21st century, will we work on Earth’s problems together? One of the planet’s most critical life-support systems – and one of the most threatened - is the Amazon rainforest and its caretakers - indigenous peoples.

How can we save the Amazon?

This isAmazon Visions: Saving the Heart of the Planet, with Amazon rainforest champion Atossa Soltani and Brazil’s former Minister of the Environment Marina Silva.


My name is Neil Harvey. I'll be your host. Welcome to the Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature.


03:35     Music fade (00:10)


03:45               Soltani int 1 (00:46) [with rainforest sounds]


I started having dreams, recurring dreams of watching forest destruction, bearing witness to it. And I think the Gaia hypothesis when it first came out really spoke to me, and I felt like literally I could feel the heartbeat of the planet, I could hear the call from the forest, and it was entering my psyche through my dreams. And I thought I might go insane unless I start doing something proactive about the call, like come on, you are listening, you know. I was tuning into some frequency.


04:31     NARRATION 2 (00:26)


By the time Atossa Soltani heard the call of the forest, she was already politicized. Born and raised in Iran until the age of 13, Soltani was sent to America by her parents to escape the repressive policies of the Islamic Revolution. She lived with an uncle in Ohio and continued her education. While still in high school, she embarked on a lifelong path of political activism.


04:57               Soltani int 2 (00:42)


Our first campaign was to stop a nuclear power plant, which we did, and we won. This was very empowering. I think I was 17 or 18. And then my best friend at the time in my first year in college was from Peru, and she was a scientist studying conservation biology. She kept talking about the rainforest, the global importance. And I would read along with her a lot of the textbooks and information. I'm just appalled at what I was learning, how we were dismembering one of the Earth's organs, the life support system for the planet and how very few people knew about it, and it became kind of my obsession to tell everyone I met.


05:39     NARRATION 3 (00:24)


Following her calling, Soltani moved to California in 1991 to work with the Rainforest Action Network, a globally recognized rainforest conservation and indigenous rights group. Five years later, she founded Amazon Watch, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the rainforest and advancing the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin.


06:03               Soltani int 3 (00:46)


When you look at the Amazon rainforest, you have the world's largest tropical rainforest. It's larger than the size of the continental United States. And when you look at the amount of vapor and moisture and water and heat that is generated by all of these trees evapo-transpiring their water, and lifting it up into the atmosphere, you have a release of heat, which makes the Amazon one of the hottest places on the planet. So the Amazon is truly like a heart pumping moisture and air and heat around the planet causing rainfall as far away as Iowa or Mexico, and as far away south as Argentina.


06:49     NARRATION 4 (00:24)


The beating heart of this global hydrological cycle produces one-fifth of all the fresh water on Earth. The Amazon rainforests support one-third of the planet's animal and plant species. Nearly 400 different indigenous peoples have lived there in relative balance for thousands of years. They continue to make decisions based on a principle that protects future generations.





07:13               Soltani int 4 (01:12)


When I go to the Achuar communities, they say in seven generations we want our children to speak our language, to have monkeys, you know, all kinds of birds that we have now, to have the wildlife we have now, to know what the jaguar is, to have flowering trees and the medicinal plants and our ceremonies; we want to have our dances and our traditions. Certainly things adapt and change, we're not saying keep them as a museum, but the values that represent our culture, we want it to still be here in seven generations. They're very clear about that.


And their whole life, you know, the meaning of development, the purpose for development is to maintain this function of the forest, function of the rivers, the productivity of their natural world, and the cultural and sacred part of their world into the future. So, when you think about that, they have integrated that all things in their territories have rights.


A river has a right to survive and be here in seven generations. A forest has the right to maintain its function, the way it functions, be alive. It’s living. And they live with that wisdom.


08:25     NARRATION 5 (00:32)


Forty percent of the Amazon is already destroyed or damaged. If the pace of deforestation continues at the current rate, Amazon Watch estimates that by the year 2020, half of the Amazon will be lost. Many scientists say we are already near the tipping point of radically disrupting the planet's hydrological cycles.


To resist further destruction, Amazon Watch partners with Ecuadorian communities in their protracted battle against Chevron.


08:56               Soltani int 5 (01:23)


The company drilled for oil, took out all the profits, left all the contamination behind, and then left Ecuador. The affected communities are basically about 30,000 people, 80 villages of farmers and campesinos and five indigenous tribes that lived in the forest for thousands of years. These folks were seriously affected, their forest destroyed, their rivers contaminated, people have cancer, birth defects, all the explainable diseases. Every day just to survive they're bathing in polluted water, they are drinking polluted water. Every time it rains the pits overflow with petroleum waste into their farmlands, so their crops are all filled with petroleum. The fish taste like oil. They can't even eat the fish. And most of the game is gone. So, you know, it's sad.


You go to a Cofan village, once a nation of 15,000 people who lived in this part of the Amazon, there's less than a 1,000 Cofan now, and they're dispersed through an area that's totally degraded, and they eat tuna fish in cans, cans of tuna fish. It's a tragic situation. So, we've created the international solidarity campaign, the pressure campaign on Chevron, and they work on the ground to support the communities in staying grounded, united and supported.



10:19         NARRATION 6 (00:19)


Chevron was found guilty of environmental contamination and ordered to pay nearly 20 billion dollars to clean it up. Chevron has appealed the decision, but the court ruling has sent shock waves through the oil industry. Atossa Soltani says that in itself is a significant victory.


10:38               Soltani int 6 (00:58)


What we were is a group that did on-the-ground work supporting the communities, uniting them, helping them have strength to form a committee of affected communities. We helped do the publicity campaign to get Chevron on the hook; you know, front page of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, 60 Minutes, and get stories in the media.


And we bring the affected communities from the villages in the Amazon to Chevron's annual shareholder's meeting. Every year we're there with a lot of drama outside, inside, able to get shareholders that represent over $500 billion in assets, and about $20 billion in Chevron shares to actually support the Ecuadorians. So, in this way we're making this a big issue for the executives at Chevron, and reminding them every day that, that they're responsible and that we're not going away until there's justice in Ecuador.


11:36     NARRATION 7 (00:26)


In neighboring Peru, the Achuar tribe has fought for many years to keep oil companies out of their territory. Amazon Watch organized global letter-writing campaigns, and brought Achuar chiefs to shareholder meetings. The front-page publicity and sympathetic shareholder pressure has helped drive four major oil multinational corporations out of the Amazon.


11:59               Soltani int 7 (01:32)


It's been a journey. I think it's been an incredible honor to work with indigenous communities in the Amazon, where we see their wisdom, their commitment, their courage. Those things inspire us and we basically are there to support them in defending their rights, defending their territories.


But more importantly to bring the leverage points back to the United States, Canada, the—around the world, in Europe, in developed countries where it's our corporations with money from often our governments or our banks, our financial institutions that are wreaking havoc in the Amazon. It's our consumption of products from the Amazon. It's our consumption of oil or timber, or even grass-fed beef in Europe coming from the rainforests of the Brazilian Amazon.


So, we've been helping create a bridge between people who care here and have leverage and have clout, and communities that are taking a stand and have a lot of wisdom and a lot of the solutions that we can learn from, but are also taking a stand to defend something we all need for our future—the Amazon rainforest.


So, really, we have to take the precautionary principle and say moratorium on all new oil and gas, moratorium on large-scale cattle ranching and agriculture, moratorium on large dams. Look up solutions for restoration and truly sustainable development that recognizes this larger function for the planet.


13:32     NARRATION 8 - Lead to Mid Break (00:35)


Atossa Soltani’s environmental activism began with a dream, transforming a nightmare of forest destruction with a resounding call to make a difference.


Along the way, she’s had many mentors. She draws great inspiration from the longtime Brazilian activist Marina Silva, who boldly invites us to reimagine the purpose of civilization - when we return.


This is “Amazon Visions: Saving the Heart of the Planet.”


I'm Neil Harvey. You are listening to The Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature.


14:07               MID BREAK (00:35)


14:42     NARRATION 9 (00:22)


To explore all available Bioneers radio shows and video programming, please visit


At a Bioneers conference, Atossa Soltani shared the stage with her mentor Marina Silva, one of Brazil’s and the world’s most important political thinkers and leaders.


15:04               Soltani plen 1 (00:42)


I'm Atossa Soltani, the founder and executive director of Amazon Watch, and it is my great honor to introduce the next speaker, the legendary champion of the Amazon rainforest, and one of my heroes, Marina Silva. Her life story is an inspiring tale of courage and perseverance... And I first met Marina in 1997 when she was presiding over a senate hearing, and at that moment I was incredibly inspired, and over the years I've just been so inspired by her, by her vision, her courage, her humility, and her brilliant thinking. And I’m always amazed at all the new things that she comes up with in terms of concepts that we all need.


15:46     NARRATION 10 (00:53)


Marina Silva grew up in a poor community in Brazil, the daughter of a rubber tapper. She was orphaned at a young age and didn't learn to read or write until she was 16. After years of serious illness, Silva began to organize rubber tappers with Chico Mendez, the legendary forest activist who was murdered in 1988. Their nonviolent movement saved millions of acres of rainforest.


When Silva became the youngest senator ever elected in Brazil, she bravely cracked down on illegal logging. As Minister of the Environment, she created policies that helped reduce deforestation by 80 percent. In 2010, Silva ran for president on the Green Party ticket. She received a whopping 19 million votes.


Marina Silva spoke at a Bioneers conference.


16:40               Silva 1 (01:02)


We are living a moment of a crisis, a very grave crisis. This is a crisis that is constituted by various crises, multiple crises. This is a crisis that is an economic crisis, a political crisis, an environmental crisis, but above all, a crisis of values. And a crisis of this magnitude, it is a crisis of civilization. The greatest challenge has been to change the paradigm of development from one that is unsustainable to one that is sustainable.


17:42               Soltani int 9 (00:42)


When you look around the world, most governments, most societies are singularly focused on maximizing those values that are these economic indicators: GNP, gross national product, or we're looking for employment, reducing employment, increasing wage earnings, increasing per capita income, all of those things depend on unlimited consumption and production, right?


And what she's talking about is a value system that goes into how we are, our happiness, our contentment, our relationship with ourselves, with our family, with our community, with our natural world, with nature.


18:24               Silva 2 (01:36)


For a model to be sustainable, it has to face the social inequalities. It cannot be a model based on accumulation of resources and richness. For a model to be sustainable from a cultural point of view, it's important that it maintains the cultural diversity. In my country, we are blessed to have people that speak over 180 languages. And if the model of development eliminates these cultures, certainly it's not a sustainable model. Sustainability in the political dimension has to do with the majority of people having a new commitment to —in the ways of producing, in the ways of consuming — a new way of being in the world.


20:00               Soltani int 10 (00:58)


And she inspired people with her attitude that, look, things that we all care about—the planet, the future generations, justice, equity, sustainability, the forests—these are all things we all care about, and why can't we put our creative thinking into protecting the things we love and care about; what can we direct our policies towards that. And supporting this whole concept that if we protect the environment, we will create jobs, we will maintain our competitive advantage, we'll be a great nation, we'll promote equity, that through protection of the Amazon and the forest and the natural world in Brazil, Brazil can actually meet all of its other goals. She's visionary, and her values go beyond just her policies. They go to the core of the purpose of civilization, what is the purpose of civilization? Are we human "beings" or human "doings"?


20:58               Silva 3 (01:15)


We have to ask ourselves the following question: What it is that we want to be as human race? What do we want to be as civilization? Nobody asks a child what is it that the child will do when the child grows up. So we ask the child, What is it that you want to be when you grow up? And these new ideals, they cannot be based in a culture of production and consumption. They have to be based on a culture of being. And this is the way that we will live in a world being happy for who we are instead of being happy for what we do and what we consume. (Applause)


22:13               Soltani int 11 (00:34)


She also talks about literally a ecosystem function of activism where we, these activist communities, inspire and propagate and disperse. We don't try to unite and work all together, we celebrate our diversity, celebrate our geographic differences, work locally and globally on both levels, disperse and propagate, and literally spring into being a surface around the planet, which is really an organism coming to the defense of the life force.


22:47               Silva 4 (02:48)


And as activists of civilization, we are becoming pollinators of these new ideas. It's not a moment to really bring together, to aggregate. It's a moment to disperse. Think of yourselves as a little bit of a gravitational point. All dispersed all over the globe. And getting together with other little dots.


And forming a base of sustenance. And I believe there are new form of activism is appearing in the world. And I see this for the most part in the youth. And a new kind of leadership is also emerging in this new type of activism.


It is a leadership that is multi-centric. One time, I am the leader of something, but another time it will be you. And this new type of leadership is bringing about a new type of political subjects, political actors. And this is why the authorities in my country were surprised when I achieved almost 20 million votes. [Applause] Because people no longer want to be spectators of politics. They want to be protagonists. (overlapping applause)


And that's why I believe we can be pioneers of a new civilization here in the United States, in Brazil, and all over the globe. Thank you very much. [Applause]




25:35     Narration 11 (00:18)


Atossa Soltani and Marina Silva, Amazon dreamers and activists -- helping us to learn our full address as citizens of Earth - and to work on her problems together. “Amazon Visions: Saving the Heart of the Planet”


25:53     Music fade (00:17)


26:10               Bioneers BXIII - Program Close/Credits (1:40) 


You can explore more Bioneers radio shows and video programming online at For information on attending the National Bioneers Conference and Bioneers events in your area, please visit or call 1-877-BIONEER.


The Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature is a production of Bioneers and Collective Heritage Institute. 
Executive Producer: Kenny Ausubel
Written by Catherine Stifter and Kenny Ausubel
Senior Producer: Neil Harvey
Managing Producer: Stephanie Welch
Production Management and Station Relations: Kate Hunter

Interview recording engineer:  Jeff Wessman.
Our theme music is taken from the album "Journey Between" by Baka Beyond and used by permission of Hannibal Records, a Rykodisc label. Additional music was made available by Clint Goss at and Traumton Records at For more music information, please visit
The opinions expressed in The Bioneers Revolution from the Heart of Nature radio series are those of the presenters and are not necessarily those of Bioneers and Collective Heritage Institute, the underwriters, or this radio station.
My name is Neil Harvey. Thank you for listening. I invite you to join the Bioneers in inspiring a shift to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.
This is program number 6-13

27:52               Closing underwriting narration (00:38)


This program was made possible in part by:

Organic Valley Family of Farms. Organic and family-owned since 1988. Visit

Mary’s Gone Crackers, healing the planet through conscious eating. Gluten-Free and vegan products sine 1999.  Learn more at

John Master’s Organics. Feel good about looking good. Visit

Funding also provided by a grant from The Park Foundation - dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues.

And by the generous support of listeners like you.


28:30               END


Amazon Visions: Saving the Heart of the Planet | ATOSSA SOLTANI and MARINA SILVA

About this Listing

Amazon Visions: Saving the Heart of the Planet


Posted by Bioneers on Oct 4 2013 in category 2013 Bioneers Radio Series
Tags: Bioneers Radio Series XIII