Charlotte Streck is the director of Climate Focus, an organisation that develops policies and advocates for the reduction of greenhouse gases. In 2015, Streck directed Sinfonía Trópico, an initiative that invited artists to work through art to consider climate change across Colombia.
Streck visited the Chocó Base and her experiences are found in the text Washed up on the sea, which is an account of her experiences there. It is published in Better Than.
Washed up on the sea
By Charlotte Streck
Gauchalito, September 2014.
CASTAWAY OF THE CONSUMER SOCIETY
I stand on the beach and my trousers are drenched. Heftily swaying on these Southern sea waters, the tiny ferryboat that brought me here had dropped me on the beach along with a novel, a volume of poetry, several mobile phones, a computer, a torch, three t-shirts, two pairs of trousers, and a ridiculously large supply of makeup.
FIRST DAY: HIGH TIDE
My senses apprehend the sea, the whales far away, the beach, and the rainforest. The rainforest that stretches its hand out to the sea; the rainforest from which chirping, squeaking, creaking, pounding, and whistling sounds emerge to lend rhythm and melody to the murmuring sea.
FIRST DAY: LOW TIDE
The night descends, and the darkness that surrounds me is so deep and dense that it seems to enclose the world. The clouds hide the stars from me.
In the city, the night is always another version of the day. Here, the night leaves me no option and I crawl under the mosquito net. The concert of the rainforest and the sea continues, but at night it is enriched with different odours. Sporadically, I can hear the sound of a coconut falling to the wet ground.
SECOND DAY: HIGH TIDE
I walk along the beach, captivated by the sea, fascinated with the rainforest. So green, all this greenery. It never ends. The tree trunks offer their body for more vegetation; each one is beautifully decorated. Flower diadems and leaf necklaces: this is how the forest adorns itself.
However, this forest is not inviting, it leaves no room for a walk; you cannot see through it, you cannot walk through it. The richly decorated and uninvit- ing façade is at the same time an impermeable curtain that excludes, it ap- pears dark and uncanny.
SECOND DAY: LOW TIDE
None of my mobile phones has reception. There is no network. There is no music, which has become otherwise omnipresent. There is no television, no air conditioning; there are no windows, and anything that could protect us from this indiscrete, shamelessly intrusive nature is missing, just as there are no signs of the world of artificial lighting, which has made us independent from day and night cycles.
THIRD DAY: HIGH TIDE
There is a contrast between the world of artificial abundance I come from and this union of the sea and the rainforest. Here, I am not a consumer, I cannot be a user. Nobody offers me something I don ́t want or need.
Nature rebels against the systemic imbalance of the consumer society and challenges the economic law of permanent discontent.
Here, equilibrium is not equivalent to recession. The rainforest and the sea are so finely adjusted that they can fulfil all needs, and each one and everything has its place, its function.
THIRD DAY: HIGH TIDE
I am the foreign substance here. The lack of information is irritating. Is there anyone here who can tell me about the wars in the world? Where is the weather report to inform me when it is going to stop raining? They don’t even have a tide table. I find it confusing not knowing what is happening. I have to go down to the beach to know how high the tide is. I have to wait until this endless rain stops. Anything I cannot perceive which my eyes, my ears, my nose remains distant and unknown.
FOURTH DAY: HIGH TIDE
The rainforest must be chopped down to make way for more fields. The cows need space, more space. Here we find him as well, the predator cattle grower.
Protecting the rainforest is my vocation. I publish articles and deliver lectures and yet everything remains distant and alien to me. My love for the forest is an abstract love. Without the sensation, the smell, the mosquitoes that eat up my ankles and my wrists. But, what do I know.
FOURTH DAY: LOW TIDE
At last I got used to the fact that seven o’clock in the evening is ten o’clock and that half past eight is midnight. Time to turn off the torch.
FIFTH DAY: HIGH TIDE
I read poems and I have the peace of mind to enjoy them. I whoop, dance, grieve, and cry. I cannot find the solution to environmental problems in this place. Nature is too close, too demanding; it confuses my body.
FIFTH DAY: LOW TIDE
Everything seems to be in equilibrium, except human beings. They get food from the sea and from their gardens, they fish sustainably, eat what they can get and hardly produce any waste. This sounds idyllic but it is actually due to poverty. The idyll sinks in mud, the houses are just shacks and the state hand-outs hardly reach this place.
SIXTH DAY: RETURN
The boat is here again. I am going back to my world, to loving the rainforest in my abstract way, and I am looking forward to at last being able look up on the Internet the weather report for Gauchalito in Chocó.