Nerding Out in the Amazon

Kate Paladin
March 14, 2014

The Second law of Thermodynamics states that entropy increases, or that the universe tends toward disorder. But what do the laws of thermodynamics, which are used to describe particles, have to do with my visit to the Amazon? A reasonable person might answer nothing. Clearly I am not reasonable, because it was all I could think about as we walked through la selva. The biodiversity in the Amazon is great – with more than 40,000 plant and animal species. The earth there supports as much life as it physically can, leaving the soil nutrient poor. El Oriente ie gorgeous as a result of the vast diversity – beautiful, but a disorganized mess. As a naïve visitor to el bosque, it seemed to me that plants, trees and fungi were scattered around (or should I say stuffed into) the land in a disorderly fashion. Hence the second law of thermodynamics. (Physics truly is an amazing thing!)

Birds-eye view – literally.

The Amazon supports not only one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, but also contains a vast store of petroleum (a political hot topic that I have strong opinions on, but won’t discuss here). But my time in the Amazon did not remind me of oil. In fact, I barely gave it any thought. The accommodations were wonderful, and managed to use electricity just 6 hours a day. The jungle was the opposite of the technology centric and oil dependent world I live in. It seems ironic that as I canoed in lagoons, ate “lemon organisms” and learned to make bird calls. policy makers, oil companies and environmentalists were fighting over the fate of this beautiful place. And all because of cars, computers, telephones that barely exist there.

Swimming in the river Tiputini.

I admit, I apply the laws of physics to inappropriate situations. I should probably let go of the Environmental Studies major in me long enough to reflect on my experiences without thinking of the political and economic importance of the Amazon. But a friend told me visiting the Amazon would change my life, and as cheese-y as it sounds, and as strange as the places my mind wandered during the trip, she was right.

Exploring from canopies in the trees.


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Kate Paladin

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Kate Paladin and I&#39;m an Environmental Studies major, Math minor at Bates College. I am a research assistant studying lake ecosystems, volunteer in an elementary school classroom and perform Bollywood dance. Most people study Spanish and then decide to visit South America, but I did the reverse - after choosing Quito for study abroad, I took my first Spanish class! Although I have just 2 years of Spanish under my belt, I couldn&#39;t be more excited to study in Ecuador.</span></p>

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