‘Diversity Within the Unknown’, a Conservation Blog in Bolivia

Few media outlets—mainstream, alternative or citizen-led—pay careful attention, or devote themselves fully, to the subject of conservation in Bolivia. Diversidad entre Pendientes [es] is a blog that offers direct contact with the Bolivian biodiversity, home to mountains and sub-tropical valleys.

The blog's author, Mauricio Pacheco, spoke with Global Voices about his work, and the state of thematic blogs in Bolivia.

Global Voices (GV): Hi Mauricio. Can you introduce yourself and tell us about what you do?

Mauricio Pacheco (MP):: My name is Mauricio Pacheco. I'm not a biologist, nor a forest engineer and, in reality, I'm not a photographer either. Although my job is probably the most boring in the world, I have organised it so that the work doesn't have to be. Professionally, I dedicate myself to planning projects for Cooperación Internacional [International Cooperation] which is what pays the bills.

GV: Tell us about your professional life and its relationship with your blog: Diversidad entre Pendientes. [es]

Tropical mountain forest by Mauricio Pacheco © for Diversidad entre Pendientes. Published with author's permission.

MP: There is very little actually! It just happens that I've always had an unexplainable need to be in the jungle and I think that I've developed some sort of bond at a personal level. I always try to propel from my work those things in which I most believe: the creation of an exemplary lifestyle in harmony with the environment and the co-responsibility we have for what surrounds us, however this isn't always necessarily reflected in the blog.

GV: How and when was Diversidad entre Pendientes born?

MP: A few years ago now, I started as an amateur photographer in order to pass the time and fulfil this profound need that I have of escaping into nature. In one way you start to ask yourself what you're going to do with the photos other than show them to your friends, and so the idea occurred to me to publish a book, which I then started to work on. It took me a few more years to learn about the biology and taxonomy and to understand the jungle, which has now become a sort of obsession.

It just so happens that while I was advancing in this project, I had an interesting conversation on a bus journey. The person next to me suggested that a book of this sort would just end up abandoned on a coffee table in the living room of people completely uninterested in the topic. He must have said it very well, because I left the book to one side and I started to look for an easier way of reaching more people. The blog was born like this; through chance. In fact, I've never been a devoted follower of the blogosphere and neither am I part of it now, really.

GV: What matters are addressed by Diversidad entre Pendientes?

MP: Initially I was only looking for an alternative way to show photos, but I was a little late in realising that photos are only a vehicle and that Diversidad entre Pendientes could inform people too. So I got together everything that I knew about the jungle and the places I go, and I put the photos at the service of this information.

Specifically, it's about the biodiversity close to home; that of the Yungas de la Paz [valleys in central Bolivia] and of any other place that you can visit.

In reality I only travel in my free time, I have to balance work and family, so I don't have many opportunities to travel far. Fortunately, within an hour and a half from La Paz, you can reach some of Bolivia's most important and interesting forests. Nobody knows it: not those who cycle the “death trail”, not even those who have lived all their lives in these valleys know what there is there and the things that we have the responsibility to protect. Currently the situation is critical in these forests.

Inevitably, the blog also has an activist side and its content has been committed to various environmental causes, even if it isn't necessarily its central objective.

GV: Do you take the photos that you publish and those that accompany your posts? Have you taken a photography course?

MP: I nearly always take them. I've been taking photos for some seven years but I've concentrated on nature photography in the last three or four years; it's not anything professional, in fact I'm terrible at promoting myself as a photographer. I learned thanks to digital technology, without formal courses. But yes, I've had mentors, in fact many of the things I know now I have learned from people that I've met through the blog.

Diversidad entre Pendientes has helped me a lot with getting in contact with people involved with conservation matters, as well as biologists and photographers who have been key in this work. As a nature photographer, often the photographic technique becomes secondary because what's really difficult is understanding the species that you want to capture and above all, be able to find them.

Gastrothecan frog by © Mauricio Pacheco for Diversidad entre Pendientes. Published with author's permission.

GV: Are there similar blogs about biology, conservation or science investigation in Bolivia?

MP: I'm aware of very few blogs that follow these subjects regularly. Pajareando en Bolivia [es][Birding in Bolivia], is the blog by the Asociación para la Biología de la Conservación [Association for the Biology of Conservation], or the blog by the Iniciativa Anfibios de Bolivia [es][Bolivian Amphibian Initiative]. Recently activist blogs have increased, above all to do with the TIPNIS conflict [es], and there have been various attempts by nature photographers. Few are updated regularly (neither is Diversidad entre Pendientes updated as much as I'd like), or their formats are neglected, making them hard to follow.

Of course, the conservationist institutions have the best content and give further impetus to the creation of content on the web. It's not a national problem, there aren't many personal blogs like this anywhere.

GV: How would you evaluate the media coverage of issues such as conservation in Bolivia?

MP: I've never considered the Bolivian media as true creators of Bolivian opinion, but they have been able to capitalise on general concerns. Little by little the interest in subjects such as sustainable development and conservation are gaining ground in Bolivia, despite being a country not traditionally known to be concerned with these.

I think the National Government's rhetoric during their first few years, and then the serious contradictions especially with reference to TINIS, have fuelled the debate, the information generation and of course people's sensitivity, above all in the cities. The media has jumped on board, but lack the capacity to interpret what is going well, so in many cases report from a ‘for and/or against’ government perspective.

Although I have seen a lot more responsible disclosure lately,it is still the institutions that bear leadership on what information the public is able to access and how they access it… which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

GV: Are you part of a network, scientific community or conservation group in Bolivia or outside Bolivia? If so, do they publish any web content?

MP: Sadly I'm not part of any network. The truth is that to be part of something like this requires much more time and responsibility, which I cannot give at the moment.

I draw up nearly all of the content but I do have friends that check some things. I hope to convince someone to help me compile content in the future so that Diversidad entre Pendientes is more dynamic, but we'll see.

Viscacha by © Mauricio Pacheco for Diversidad entre Pendientes. Published with the author's permission.

GV: There are those that believe blogs are dying out. What do you think about this?

MP: Much has been written about this. I see it as a ‘quality of content’ issue. I have to say that no one writes in a blog what can be written in a social network. It's logical. It's infinitely easier to write socially on your Facebook wall. The problem is that huge numbers of blogs- those containing questionable content or those that disseminate content created by someone else- end up being forgotten by the person that created them. However, blogs continue to be the tool that offer most depth, that which social networks cannot provide.

On the other hand, the blog's format isn't the easiest to develop for social interaction which can be frustrating, in particular for those only starting one up or those that aren't covering a popular topic. Recently Diversidad entre Pendientes has been trying to integrate itself within different networks, particularly in Facebook [es], which has been significant in increasing the number of people who view the blog. Now when I post something I always receive comments on the Facebook page [es], which isn't a bad thing.

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