During the last five years, the struggles of Bolivia’s indigenous community against government corruption and globalization have garnered unprecedented visibility for the nation around the world. As an aid worker living in Bolivia, Powers did not just witness the change; he was immersed in the action, forced to juggle the country’s internal conflict with his environmental organization’s mission of saving the rain forest. By “thinking locally and acting globally,” he forges a delicate partnership with Indians and multinational energy corporations to designate a swath of the Amazon forest for absorbing greenhouse gases. While matters of politics and the environment provide the framework for the book, much of the story is focused on the friendships he builds through genuine curiosity and emotion as he attempts to truly understand the needs of the people around him. What results is a deeply personal and informative chronicle of Powers’s ambitions, the Indians’ ambitions and perhaps most importantly in a country as physically diverse and dramatic as Bolivia, nature’s ambitions. Although more background on Bolivia would have been helpful, the book succeeds in using the country’s recent history to reveal how the worldwide battle for increased economic equality and environmental conservation operates locally.
Powers wrote about his experiences helping manage sustainable development projects in Liberia in Blue Clay People (2005) and now presents a piquant and provocative report on his work with Bolivia’s largest conservation organization. Writing with self-deprecating humor and fluid understanding of the complex dynamics at work in this persistently poor land, Powers exposes the environmental and cultural destruction wrought by multinationals and the corresponding–and quite remarkable–uprisings of Bolivia’s indigenous peoples in defense of the rain forests, their physical and spiritual home and the habitat for endangered species. Bolivia is the site of the world’s largest Kyoto Protocol rain-forest experiment and pioneering debt-for-nature and carbon-credit projects, and Powers is keenly sensitive to the realities, possibilities, and paradoxes inherent in Bolivia’s revolutionary politics and environmental innovations. By profiling a courageous and pragmatic Indian activist, tracking complicated disputes over land ownership and use, and detailing such green endeavors as “eco-wood” production, Powers chronicles Bolivia’s success, against all odds, in leading the way toward creation of biosphere-sustaining and socially just societies.
“Powers new book, “Whispering in the Giant’s Ear” is a rip-roaring chronicle of the struggles and compromises, doubts and determination needed to implement the Kyoto accords—an international agreement setting targets for industrialized countries to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions—in Bolivia.”