In 2013 the United Nations declared October 11th the International Day of the Girl as a means of raising awareness about young women and gender empowerment around the world. To highlight the issue, we spoke recently with Kailani Clarke, a high school student at the Gunston School of Maryland, who is a passionate birder, blogger and rainforest defender.
[crb_slide image=”https://legacy.rainforesttrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/^348FEB6EDFCA5430C65E9E309B0ECD47A5B36CF5FE33332910^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr.png” credits=”Kailani and Yagua Villager. Photo by Jesse Lewis” title=”” text=””]
You recently traveled to the Peruvian Amazon as part of a school program. What drew you to the rainforest?
I grew up with my parents on a boat they owned in Guatemala. Since then, I’ve always had a desire to see more of Latin America and the Amazon in particular. Everything about the rainforest is so amazing. The amount of wildlife there – existing in so many different forms – is incredible. I had to see it.
Did your expectations of the rainforest prepare you for what you encountered?
The Amazon River was wide and muddy, similar to what I imagined. Of course, I expected giant bugs, and we did see many of those. The sounds, though, were different than what I assumed they would be. The rainforest was filled with a heavy silence.
Tell us about some of the trip’s highlights?
The biggest thing was connecting with such a vast ecosystem on a really emotional level. Being around such a diversity of life was a powerful experience. All of this resonated with me when we did a canopy walk in a remote area and I was able to look out over an endless canopy of rainforest.
[crb_slide image=”https://legacy.rainforesttrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/^D6C1C1551926E8CD4FB172C6A3C12EF9B1D7CA5A98540916DD^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr.png” credits=”Kailani and Gunston Students on the Rio Napo. Photo by Jesse Lewis” title=”” text=””]
Do you know what you would like to study in college or have any career plans or ideas yet?
I want to do a double major in Environmental Science and Anthropology. That way I could combine science and aspects of writing. I’m only in high school, so I’m not sure just yet what my career will be.
You are an aspiring writer and blogger. Tell us more about that.
A teacher encouraged me to apply for a job with an environmental education group, Ecoteach which needed a student blogger. In the rainforest, there was just too much to be able to record and write about in the moment. But I love looking back on the experience, so blogging has been great.
There is so much to describe and share through blogging, it has opened up my horizon a bit. Telling a story and sharing the rainforest with others is an important way to inspire rainforest protection.
[crb_slide image=”https://legacy.rainforesttrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/^06BA3C75AC70D7A9E9BA0A203B3A52E8738B86513F31868A86^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr.png” credits=”Gunston Students on ACTS Canopy Walkway. Photo by Jesse Lewis” title=”” text=””]
Why should other young people care about rainforests?
Whenever I meet someone who asks me why I should care about rainforests, I ask them, “Do you like to breathe?” Rainforests literally give us life. The creatures living there are found nowhere else and need to be protected.
Do you plan on traveling back to the Amazon?
Yes. While visiting the Amazon, I felt connected and embedded to the place. The rainforest opened up a whole other world, it changed me.
Learn more about Rainforest Ambassadors.