A view of San Cristobal Hill from the Parque de la Muralla, a park that borders the Rimac river, the principal source of water in Lima. Photo by Natalia Piland.

A view of San Cristobal Hill from the Parque de la Muralla, a park that borders the Rimac river, the principal source of water in Lima. Photo by Natalia Piland.

Only six countries in the world beat Peru in rain. From this group alone, Peru receives the second most precipitation per capita per year (more than 70,000 m³/year according to the ANA), after Canada. But anyone who knows Peru knows that the rain is distributed in an incredibly heterogeneous manner. Less than 2% of the rain falls on the western slopes of the Andes, which includes the coast, 70% of the national population, and 80% of the GDP, thanks to the productive miracle of Peruvian agroindustry.

In this dry coast, we find Lima, a city with almost 9 million inhabitants, placing it in a group of the 30 biggest cities of the world as the driest city, with only 9 mm of rain/year. ¿Why then did the Spanish decide to found the capital of their colonial project in South America in a place so apparently inhospitable?

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Huaca Pucllana in Modern Miraflores. Photo: Natalia Piland.

I’ve lived in the Bronx, Cusco, Oak Park, Sarasota, Ithaca. I’ve kept my books in other homes—Houston, Manu, Tambopata, Harlem, San José. I pay rent in Chicago, but the Place Where I Live is Lima. The Place is the moment I step out of Jorge Chavez International Airport and feel the water of this desert city coat my skin, and the salt of our neighbor ocean line my nose.

To live in Lima is to live with the Pacific in every pore.

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Mirando hacia el norte en la calle 35, el Riachuelo de Burbujas un atardecer de abril. Foto de Jason Schumer.

Bubbly Creek, looking northwards from 35th Street. Photo by Jason Schumer.

European conquistadors, explorers, and colonizers came to the Americas in the 1400s. Here, they decided to found cities in strategic places, places with access to rivers, lakes, and seas, where these watery bodies could support populations of people with outward gazes. In the city of which I write, through time, these populations grew and the rivers were depreciated. The rivers became trashcans, and as a consequence, the water became dirtier and dirtier. The populations kept growing, the water was overexploited and the fish started to die. In the 21st century, not too long ago, the city’s municipality decided to recuperate this central riverine vein, promoting the creation of new green areas and public spaces where its citizens could enjoy the outdoors, create new business, and inspire each other for a better quality of life.

I could be speaking of Lima. How wonderful it would be if I were speaking of Lima! But while we limeñxs take our time deciding to recuperate our rivers, I’ll write of Chicago, a city that became famous for its pollution and its industrialism. A city that is doing everything it can to clean itself up and become one of the greenest cities of the United States. A city that could, maybe, serve as an example.

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Tripoli-Souk 224

Do cities and urban spaces face a ‘destiny’? Or do civilizations, conquests and wars shape their identity over time, dictating their historical growth? What about planning and economic development? Do they reflect the evolution that drives the minds of traders and city dwellers in old Souks?

A pilgrim visits a lost city in history, torn by wars, and in turn, discovers much about a country in the old souk of Tripoli, filled with all types of diversity be it socio-cultural or plant and agricultural diversity brought from nature. He observes a changing identity, nostalgic to the fading extraordinary human dynamics caught in time!

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Un hombre leyendo en la Plaza de Armas de Lima. Fotografía por Natalia Piland. Junio 2014.

Man reading in the Main Plaza. Photo by Natalia Piland. June 2014.

“Lima the horrible”. WIth this phrase, Sebastián Salazar Bondy achieved much more than just the title of a literary masterpiece– he unintentionally created a “meme” that to this day defines our day-to-day speech when speaking about Lima. Next to phrases like “Lima is ugly,” “Lima’s sky is the color of a donkey’s belly,” “Lima is mean and dirty,” “driving through Lima is like suicide,” we can cover a good percentage of the discussions surrounding this great city. However, more than what Lima is (“great” because it is huge or because it is an amalgamation of cultures and artistic expression), the real questions regarding Lima are: “What do we even know about this city?” and “What do we want Lima to be?” Read More →

Golondrina de la Tempestad del Collar (Oceanodroma hornbyi). Fotografeada desde el mar abierto de la costa de Pucusana, Lima por Tom Johnson, 2012.

Ringed Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma hornbyi). Photographed off-shore from Pucusana, Lima by Tom Johnson, 2012.

Have we ever thought about how the city’s structures, buildings, or even those beautiful lights that decorate them could be affecting the wildlife living in its surroundings? Or, have we really ever sat down to think about how we share these spaces with other living beings and that every one of our acts could harm or benefit their survival?

To reflect more upon this, we want to tell you about what’s been happening from April to August with a small pelagic bird that gets disoriented in our great Lima.

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It’s the last weekend before Christmas! Here in Lima, as in the rest of the world, that means the shopping season is in full swing! The stores have strung up their lights and hung those sale posters, luring even the most unassuming pedestrians into the store, “just in case there is something cool on sale”.  No one can resist a good christmas sale! But this year L.O.O.P. wants to help you celebrate a “Navidad sin plastico,” and that means being more conscious about the way we shop, the purchases we make, and the way we gift our gifts.  Below are a list of tips and alternatives to help you go green this christmas season, Feliz Navidad!

  • When shopping: bring your own reusable bags. If you forget to bring bags, try to consolidate purchases into one bag instead of taking a new one from each store. Before going shopping, parents can let kids decorate canvas or paper bags. This involves them in the conversation about conservation.
  • When wrapping: reuse last year’s wrapping paper and ribbons; while they make a beautiful presentation, stores can really overdue it on the wrapping paper, tissue and ribbon. Instead consider wrapping gifts at home using last year’s paper, recycled paper, or even newspaper (comics are a big hit with kids)

  • Gift giving: be a conscious shopper! Think about giving gifts that are light on packaging and consider gifts that don’t need to be wrapped at all.  Give recycled or second-hand gifts. If you must give something plastic, make sure it is a durable, good quality product that will not need to be quickly replaced. Give intentionally and creatively!

  • Avoid toxic toys for kids: Many plastic toys produced around the world are still made of dangerous plastic chemicals that can be harmful to the health of your child and the environment. Look for toys made of wood or cloth – they are the safe and longer-lasting alternative. For a database of healthy toys, check out HealthyToys.org.

  • At holiday parties: use reusable dishes rather than plastic disposable flatware and silverware. If you don’t have enough, ask your guests to bring their own! And when shopping for fruits and veggies to prepare your holiday meal, try to buy loose vegetables and avoid the pre-packed stuff. Food packaging materials account for a huge percentage of the trash that we create. Save jars, bottles, and containers for reuse later, don’t send them to the landfill.

  • Avoid purchasing plastic with plastic. Your Visa or Master Card can be the most dangerous bit of plastic around the holiday season. Always try to pay with cash or check, you’ll spend less.  Remember, giving a gift does have to require a lot of money, only a lot of thought.

This post was republished and adjusted with L.O.O.P.’s permission. It was published originally on December 1st here

Una chacra en Ica, Perú.

A field in Ica, Perú

Where does our food come from? The answer, for the great majority of urban Limeñxs, is: a market, or, increasingly, a supermarket. The average consumer in Lima – like in most cities in the world – is entirely at the mercy on the food industry: we don’t know where or how our food was grown, how it was produced, or whether the pesticides sprayed on it are safe for us to eat. We don’t know where the Gloria and Laive cows live, why there’s gelatin in the yoghurt, or why the mass-produced chicken eggs taste like fish. If we assume that the situation is similar in the rest of Peru’s urban centers, somewhere around 78% of Peruvians, the percentage living in cities rather than in rural areas, have been disconnected from the origins of the food they eat every day.

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Bonito, un pez noble

Bonito, a noble fish

In 2003, a top 40 hit played over and over again in the radios of Lima, achieving the pop star dream– that even the most indifferent Limeñx sang:

“Bonito, todo me parece bonito Bonita mañana bonito lugar bonita la cama qué bien se ve el mar bonito es el día y acaba de empezar bonita la vida respira, respira, respira”

(Bonito, everything is bonito, Bonita the morning, Bonito the place, Bonita the bed, how good the ocean looks, bonito is the day and it’s only just begun, bonita is life, so just breathe, breathe, breathe)

The word bonitx (bonita or bonito) has different meanings all deriving from the word, bueno (good). In the song by Jarabe de Palo, it clearly highlights the beauty of the sea, the day and life. For Peruvians, in particular those from the coast, and even more those from Lima, the word “bonito” makes us think of Sarda chiliensis, scientific name of the fish of the same name (now imagine Jarabe de Palo’s song while thinking of the Bonito fish: truly great!). Read More →

Una tórtola orejuda en el comedero de Alicia Srinivas

Eared Dove visiting the bird feeder in Alicia Srinivas’ garden

When I moved to Quito from New York City, and had my own garden for the first time, I was excited about not only making it beautiful, but also wildlife-friendly.  As a conservation biologist, I know that remote forest areas are not the only places where one can enjoy wildlife.  Within an urban setting, it’s quite possible to support a great deal of wildlife right in your own backyard.  I started out by doing some research, and came across a great tried-and-true program that I could use as a model: the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat Program.  However, not surprisingly, the website is tailored to a North American context.  I found nothing written for Latin America.  So I decided to take some of the basic principles of this program and adapt them to the unique context in Quito.

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