CLIMATE AGAINST HUMANITY // YADIRA CAPEZ: “JUST JUMP AND SAY ‘WEEEE'”
TRANSCRIPT: Allow the thread to come, the thread of the story. Yeah. When I was 18-years-old, on the last month of high school in philosophy class, [00:00:30] I found a stack of National Geographic magazines. As I flipped through, I found this image. It appeared to be people climbing up a waterfall and I didn’t know why, but I just really, really, really needed to rip that image out of the National Geographic, staple it to my journal and write a poem [00:01:00] about it. It seemed impossible to climb up a waterfall. Wouldn’t the water make you tumble down? Wouldn’t the water be too painful and heavy on your skin? Wouldn’t the rocks be slippery? It seemed the perfect image for daring to do the impossible. And these people in that National Geographic photo were almost at the top. [00:01:30] So jump to 10 years later, I’m 28-years-old, and this past February, I went on a backpacking adventure to Latin America.
For context, my mom and my grandma, neither of them know how to swim. And they’re from Cuba and it’s an island, and I’m about to go solo backpacking to Latin America. [00:02:00] And where do I go first? Well the equator is what defines North from South so I pick Ecuador. And just a couple hours from Quito, a couple days into my trip, I go hike up my first volcano. Cotopaxi volcano is arguably taller than Mount Everest [00:02:30] if you’re measuring from the center of the earth, because at the equator, the earth is a little chubbier. So I was about to climb a volcano taller than Mount Everest at the beginning of my trip. And it was just rocks, and rocks and a cloudy day and you couldn’t see the mountain and I was climbing up. [00:03:00] The guide mentioned that most people eventually start to feel a lot of altitude sickness and they get nauseous, they get foggy headed. And I was starting to worry.
But I kept on walking and I was chewing coca leaves, that helped, and these peanut candies that the Ecuadorian abuelitas gave me, they told me it’s going to help with the volcano. And suddenly I was climbing up and I was like, “Oh, I am a fire [00:03:30] sign, yeah, volcano energy.” The people behind me were starting to lag. They were starting to have nausea and I was walking faster than the guide. And the rocks were getting bigger and they were getting redder. And the fog, it was really just clouds at this point. And they tasted like the Amazon, I swear. This is the Andes mountain range, the clouds, they tasted like the Amazon River. I’ve never tasted [00:04:00] the Amazon River but I started singing at the top of this volcano. And out of the corner of my eye, a fox appeared and there was this strange moss that was yellow. And suddenly, I was on Mars.
And I kept on walking and the clouds parted to reveal a snow-capped peak. Okay, it’s a volcano, [00:04:30] isn’t there supposed to be lava? It’s supposed to be really, really hot. But no, it’s really, really high up. And that means there’s snow. For context, I’m a Miami girl. You know how a lot of us have our first time with snow? This was my first time with a glacier. And so I kept walking up, running up, singing [00:05:00] up to that first sight of ice on this volcano. And I just really, really, really needed to touch it. And as I finally get close, I extend my reach just a little bit away from the cliff and touch the edge of this glacier. And down it tumbles from the cliff. [00:05:30] Oh, this thing is fragile. When the guide catches up to me, he says, “Every year he comes back, the glacier has receded. It’s further and further up the mountain at this time of year.”
And suddenly, I tune in to the sound of the drops of water melting. [00:06:00] And I go sit in a nook just the size of my body to feel the cold of this ice. And I extend my hand as a little drip falls right above my head into my palm, drip, drip, drip. [00:06:30] In that moment, my heart starts to beat faster and I start to feel my eyes welling up with tears. I’m suddenly with this reality that I’ve heard about, melting ice, melting glaciers. This is the real experience of that moment on my [00:07:00] palm, in my hand, melting tears from my eyes, and it cracks a deeper grief inside of me. The grief of changing states, I too am like this ice melting as I go on my journey. And I don’t know what’s going to happen to me [00:07:30] from ice to water. Who am I becoming? But I trust that water falls down the mountain and it falls down to rivers that form and feed other rivers and other mountains.
So down the river of life I go, [00:08:00] from Cotopaxi volcano to mountains nearby, a couple hours farther away from Quito to Banos. Banos is the adventure sports capital of Ecuador and I enter the world of waterfalls. I sign up for canyoning, which is apparently the word for jumping from waterfalls, [00:08:30] for climbing from waterfalls which I didn’t know was a thing until I arrived there. And I want to share with you three adventures I had connecting with waterfalls in this town of Banos. The first waterfall I want to share with you is [inaudible 00:08:57]. According to National Geographic, [00:09:00] this is one of the best canyoning spots in the world. When you get there, the guides tell you you have to go through the entire course. You can’t leave. It’s literally a canyon. Once you enter one waterfall, the only way out is through.
So we jump backwards, we jump from high, we climb down a waterfall, we zip line down a canyon, [00:09:30] we slide, and at the very end my heart racing from so much fun. Well everyone else is taking their fancy tourist photos with the fun helmets and the cool wetsuits, I sneak away behind the curtain of a waterfall. There’s just enough space for me to walk and touch the wet stone behind the waterfall. [00:10:00] And it covers me. It gives me some privacy. And again, as I touch that stone, I start to feel my heart racing. My nose is spicy, my eyes scrunch up with tears and my smile, it hurts. It hurts from smiling. And I started feeling this [00:10:30] overwhelming joy and gratitude for being here. I chose this. This was that moment I felt 10 years ago calling to me, this moment of joy, of ecstasy, of gratitude, of bliss, of being alive in a human body on planet earth. What a gift. What a gift. [00:11:00] I swear I felt rainbows in my blood.
The next waterfall I want to share with you I found on the Ruta de las Cascadas in Banos. It’s an eight-hour mountain bike ride to see seven waterfalls in one day. [00:11:30] As you can probably tell, I do not have the physique to do that, but somehow I agreed to go along with the French and English Olympic squad to do this. And I did. We went to seven waterfalls and our guide said, “Want to go to one more?” And I said, “Yes, [00:12:00] we can do it.” Really, by the time we got there, I couldn’t keep pedaling. My legs hurt, I had to walk. And then I had to walk down a series of a thousand steps, hyperventilating, already pushing my physical limits beyond anything I thought was possible to reach this majestic waterfall. The first site [00:12:30] is always so breathtaking. But my favorite is getting up close to feel the mist of the water on my skin, to see that slight rainbow that you can always find in a waterfall if you look at the light in just the right angle. And I did.
I walked up to [inaudible 00:12:55] and as I was on the edges of the rocks [00:13:00] in front of the pool, I saw a butterfly stuck to one of the rocks. The water had probably weighed its swings down, but I was fascinated because when I looked closer, the butterfly had a jaguar pattern. At this point, I am in an expanded state of consciousness, okay, after eight hours of mountain biking [00:13:30] and I feel somehow the earth is trying to tell me something. Am I the jaguar butterfly? I have to pick it up. I put it on my hand and I walk up and along the river, and suddenly I’m flooded. I’m flooded with tears and with a voice, a very high- [00:14:00] pitched voice [inaudible 00:14:03]. It starts to speak to me about my future children. I had never thought about my future children. I’m backpacking through Latin America. My children are in my thirties, but suddenly I had this rush of visions of my children. [00:14:30] Who will my children become if I show them how to connect with nature in this way early on? What will they choose to do?
This yearning I start to feel to protect this beautiful landscape, this sacred [00:15:00] water. I wish I was an environmental engineer. I wish I was a climate scientist. I wish I could scale up my impact than the life path I’ve chosen. What if I could open up those choices earlier to my children? Eventually a bee stings [00:15:30] me, just lately, not a lot, just enough to tell me, “Okay, it’s time to stop hyperventilating, crying, having a mystical experience. Just go jump in the river and have fun.” So I go. I lay the jaguar butterfly under a rock next to me. I nestle into one of the rocks. I lay back [00:16:00] and I merge with the water. Perhaps I was reborn. The third waterfall I want to share with you is called Chamana. And this was actually the first waterfall I went canyoning too. [00:16:30] It’s a simple starter course, some basics of grabbing onto the rope, move a little bit to the left, move a little bit to the right.
The waterfalls aren’t that difficult, they’re actually really fun to slide down from. But surprise, surprise, in the last part of this waterfall, you have to jump backwards into a height that you don’t know [00:17:00] in an act of pure trust. So I’m a daredevil, okay? I’ve got this, I’m not afraid. So I let everyone else go first. And when it’s my turn, I’m a big girl, I can do this. Tell me what to do. Okay, tour guide. Uh-huh. Just grab onto the rope, [00:17:30] stand your legs and then suddenly, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no. Please don’t let me go. [foreign language 00:17:40]. What are the physics of what’s about to happen?” In my panicked state, I just heard gibberish. So I just had to trust that his words were science, he was going to catch me. And out of the depths of my spirit, I [00:18:00] uncovered an ancient, ancient wisdom which was to let go and say [inaudible 00:18:09]. He caught me just in time. I gracefully lowered down to the ground, unhooked the rope [00:18:30] and when he asked if I wanted to do it again, I said, “Yeah.”
Trust and let go is a lot of what this trip was about. But saying, “We,” stuck with me for the rest of the journey. [00:19:00] Now, I say, “We,” all the time. When I’m in the ocean in Miami in the winter and the water’s a little colder than usual, instead of slowly torturing myself as I get in the water, I just jump and say, “We.” And when I fear about the future [00:19:30] of my life, my family, what I have to figure out, how I’m going to save our communities, what we’re going to do about climate change. The only real emotional tool of fortitude that allows me to just trust and let go and dare to do the impossible [00:20:00] is just to say, “We.” So I offer to you this question, what are the moments in your life where you felt so connected with nature, so fully embodied in the gift of being alive that you feel that love bubble up [00:20:30] and give you courage to dare to do the impossible out of love for our planet? Thank you.