Below, former student Ashley Bassett blogs on the environmental education day that my UW course set up for 15 students from an elementary school on the outskirts of Puerto Maldonado, Peru. Puerto Maldonado is best known as a gold mining boom town in the southeastern lowlands of Peru. Until recently it was a small outpost surrounded by hundreds of miles of unbroken Amazon rainforest, only accessible by boat or dirt road. Now Puerto Maldonado is also a stop on the Interoceanica Highway (from Sao Paulo, Brazil to the Peru’s Pacific coast). Because of its newfound prominence, the town is growing exponentially every year, in the most ramshackle of ways. Poor peasants from the highlands flood into the area in search of work in the gold mines, while illegal logging operations have sprung up uncontrollably on either side of the highway. This growth (not to mention gold mining and logging, both of which are mostly done illegally) has been accompanied by massive environmental and social issues in the area.
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