From: Aniska Bitomsky
Sent: Monday, 19 August, 10:49
Subject: Why I chose Ecuador
Writing my first blog post is kind of exciting and scary, but here we go. I came back from the Ecuadorian consulate in London yesterday and finally received my visa, wuhu. Getting that visa was such a struggle for me, especially as it was the first visa I ever had to get in my life, bless the EU and Schengen. There were a few weeks in which I was scared I wouldn’t receive it on time, so finally getting to see the virtual visa wasn’t only a great relief but also made me realize that this is really happening and it is happening soon (I am leaving for the US in a week). And I am so not ready at the moment. That is partially due to me having to go back to Germany and pack before I leave which is still a few days away. Enough on the current situation, it isn’t really that interesting anyways, and more about why I decided to go to Ecuador in my gap year.
As most of you know, Ecuador is on the equator and is known for its high levels of biodiversity and the Amazon rainforest. In fact, it supports around 10% of the world’s biodiversity due to its different ranges of habitats, such as its coastal areas, the Andes mountains and of course the tropical rainforest.  To me this variety of complex ecological systems is super fascinating, especially as most scientist agree that we are currently experiencing the sixth mass extinction event (great book to read: The Sixth Mass Extinction – An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert).
Quick definition: “The extinction of a large number of species within a relatively short period of geological time, thought to be due to factors such as a catastrophic global event or widespread environmental change that occurs too rapidly for most species to adapt.”
You may have guessed by now that I am somewhat passionate about environmental activism and species conservation. To me it is a great privilege to be able to emerge into the culture of a country with such a high biodiversity level, variety of habitats and especially the rainforests which are so vital to global climate patterns. I come from Europe and lived in two wealthy nations where there generally is a growing awareness about environmental degradation and climate change as summers are getting hotter and plastic pollution more visible. But so far, most people are still too comfortable and unaffected to realize how urgent the environmental crisis is. Sustainability is a common term, yet still mostly absent from every-day life for the majority of people. I am intrigued to know what the situation is like in Ecuador as the surroundings are very different and the GDP significantly lower than in the UK or Germany. What is their understanding of sustainability? Is environmental degradation regarded with more concern? How do the people in my future community respond to climate change?
My interest in these questions has not only led me to Ecuador but also to a place in the course development and environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science after my gap year. However, I didn’t want to start my university studies on the topic of sustainable development without having any practical experience of different cultural perspectives on environmental issues and a deepened understanding of implementations of sustainable development across the globe. I am very grateful for the opportunity to explore the topic I am planning on dedicating my life to in a more practical sense in my gap year with Global Citizen Year!