The imbalance between need and consumerism has upset the equilibrium of nature. But in the current scenario, people are forced to eke out a living, sometimes in extreme circumstances.
The 22 islands along Peru’s coastline where guano – bird droppings used to make fertilizer – are a reminder of the asymmetric prosperity that characterized 19th century Peru, when the country exported this product in large quantities to the United States and Europe.
Back then, Chinese coolies where sent to these islands to collect guano. Labor conditions were harsh: they harvested the guano under the sun and ended the day covered in seagull excrement. The situation is not much different for today’s guano laborers.
Now, the demand for organic products around the world has renovated global interest for guano. It is a natural and powerful fertilizer that satisfies the demands of “green” consumers who are against the use of chemicals in agriculture.
People at the end of the economic chain can barely imagine how the harvesters work on Peru’s guano islands. Laborers generally spend one-month stints at the islands where they work.
Along with the frailty of their existences, nature’s equilibrium also proves to be fragile.
There is progressively less guano in the islands because of over fishing. As a result, birds have less food and Global warming worsens this scenario. The ecosystem is endangered, as well as the source of income for guano workers. Both laborer and nature are fighting for survival.
In the Fallout of the Guano Fever I portray the current movement of guano – a sad reflection of what was once a bonanza and is now being taken advantage of. With this essay I would like to create more awareness on the subject that reflects the connection between man and nature, and how crucial this connection is for survival. A story where man and nature hold the same dream, balance.
(Ernesto Benavides | Fallout of the guano fever, PRIVATE 53 – Hope, pages 08-13)