After a few twists and turns of the river, the lush jungle takes over.
Its thick, green curtain hides many of its residents and keeps the happenings within it surrounded in secrecy. That's when it hits you, Arno Kopecky said.
It's this giant, living, breathing oxygen machine and long after he returned to his home in Squamish, the Amazon River's water kept flowing 6,400 kilometres to the Atlantic Ocean.
For seven months, Kopecky attempted to peel away the rain forest and its inhabitants' many layers. He was there to untangle the story behind a deadly protest by the Awajun people at Devil's Curve and the Canadian gold mine that provoked their action.
The environment has always been one of the Edmonton native's many interests. Having studied creative writing and environmental studies at the University of Victoria, the freelance journalist's articles focus on international affairs, social justice and the environment.
In 2009, Kopecky was awarded the Gordon Global Fellow to investigate the Harper government's Americas strategy, a Latin America focused foreign-policy based on three pillars — security, prosperity and democratic governance.
“I was curious about that and what it actually meant,” Kopecky said.
That same year, 60 Peruvian soldiers were sent to break up a 57-day blockade of a highway connecting Peru's northern Amazon to the outside world. Approximately 3,000 Awajun natives set up a protest against the leasing of three-quarters of the jungle to foreign oil and mining companies over the past decade. The clash claimed the lives of 34 people.
Kopecky's research took him through the slums of Colombia and into the depth of the Peruvian jungle.
“I just didn't know what I was going to encounter,” he recalled.
It was a daunting task, he admitted, as uncovering how capital moves around the world is no mean feat. And while befriending people on all sides of the issue, objectivity often becomes a confusing line, Kopecky noted.
“I try and be as transparent and honest as I can,” he said.
Having released his book, The Devil's Curve: A Journey into Power and Profit at the Amazon's Edge, in September, Kopecky is already onto his next project. The author recently returned to Squamish after sailing the tanker route that would serve the proposed Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline. The trip is hard to “put into words,” Kopecky said, noting that's exactly what he's going to do. By May 2013, Kopecky aims to release his next book which examines the struggles closer to home.
The area was a “soap of life,” Kopecky said.
There are many similarities between the story Kopecky unearthed in South America and the struggles First Nations now face in B.C., he noted.
“I just saw this whole thing down in Peru and Colombia,” he said.