My good friend Ricardo Carrere, Coordinator of World Rainforest Movement (WRM), passed away on 16 Aug 2011. It’s a big shock and I’m very saddened by this loss.
I have worked with him on forest campaigns especially about industrial tree plantations. He invited me to collaborate on a WRM film “Green Invasion” using case studies of the impacts of tree plantations around the South; I filmed and contributed the Thailand case study. When he visited Thailand, I had a memorable trip travelling together with him to villages who were fighting for greater access to their forest resources.
He was always keenly involved in my life in Thailand and always had something to say, usually extremely witty + acerbic (which he got away due to his huge charm) and always, always laugh-out loud humorous.
When I emailed to invite him to my wedding, he replied (using the “L” instead of the “R” for my name … knowing that’s how some Thais are prone to say it):
Wow!!!! I AM impressed. This is very serious business and there’s yet the Indian ceremony to come! It seems that when you marry you REALLY marry. I am also very impressed by the length of your bride’s name and surname. Can you actually pronounce it? Unfortunately, I have other things on my agenda on that date and will be unable to attend. I wish you the best. Cheers, Ricardo
In end December 2008, and only a few days before my wedding on 4 January 2009, I was working on an article on agrofuels for the WRM bulletin that took up more time than we expected and he kept editing and sending me new revised versions. Then we at last nailed the final version that he liked, after which he said (in some exasperation):
Finally! I hope this marriage thing will soon be over and your brain will start working at least the not-too-bright way it used to work in the past. Happy New Year! Ricardo
When I emailed him that I was soon expecting to be a father with my son to be born in June 2009, he said:
Dear Rajesh, Congratulations on your father-to-be status. I don’t have a clue about what you are supposed to be doing, given that when my daughter was born I was living underground and when she was 4 months old I had the stupid idea of getting myself imprisoned for seven years! But I’m sure your wife will tell you in very clear terms that you role is not about stocking beers or blogging your mind away. If you don’t want to get yourself in trouble you’d better be careful my friend!
The loss feels even more sudden as I was in touch with him not very long ago as he informed me about his retirement, mulled over the future of WRM and discussed setting up a Mekong/Southeast Asia office of WRM. He sounded me out about working with WRM based in the Mekong region, saying WRM will have to re-invent itself again, though I don’t expect very dramatic changes in the near future. The Montevideo team will continue its work led by a new coordinator. Maybe now -that you know I won’t be around and that you have become a full-time father- you might begin to think seriously about my offer regarding a possible Southeast Asia WRM person.
This was probably something I would have leapt at even a few years ago, but now as I wanted to spend time with my son Rawin I was not able to give the idea the attention it should have merited, and replied to him that I would not be able to. This was something I feel quite sad about once I learnt of Ricardo’s passing away, that I was unable to do enough to help him when he really wanted me to.
He was a wonderful friend who always had time for a few beers and stories and some laughs.
I was really fortunate that I had more than a few occasions with him (in Thailand and also once in Oxford) exchanging stories over beers, and finding out more about his life, hearing those personal stories that he rarely talked about, and it was a privilege to hear him talk of his early life and struggles in Uruguay fighting against dictatorships, spending time in jail and later finding asylum in UK.
He always carried a mate drinking-carafe which had a long sipper. Mate is made from the coca plant and is prepared and drunk as a herbal tea. Ricardo always carried the jug and accessories as well as the tea leaves – for which he was detained once briefly in Malaysian immigration as they thought he was carrying cocaine. He even gave me a gift of a bombilla (metal straw that also acts as a sieve to drink the tea infusion) when he was in Thailand.
We shared many football stories and he was the classic Latin American passionate-fanatic-fan of his Uruguay team. When I asked him if I should try to go to Brazil for the World Cup in 2014, he emailed me:
On a separate issue, I wouldn’t advise you to come to Brazil for the World Cup. It’s probably going to end up as in 1950 (with Uruguay beating Brazil in the final) and I don’t think that Brazilians will be able to take it peacefully as they did last time. This time there’ll be rioting my friend, 11 Brazilian players (plus the manager) hanging in Copacabana, the police out in force, a coup d’etat and perhaps a quick invasion to Uruguay. You stay home and enjoy all that -and more- on TV.
Ricardo was an inspirational activist and my mentor on all things in life. He was my elder brother whose humour and advice I always cherished.
I will always really miss you, Ricardo.
Go in peace, in fond farewell.