Juli Hirata: transforming fear into courage


Versão em Português   /   Deutsch Version

Juli Hirata is one of those decided and curious people. At nine she looked at her mother and said: “I want to be a scientist”. And she was! In the Biology university she immersed herself into the world of research and laboratories, but it was in a laboratory over water that her plans have changed. “I found out that my place was out there giving field classes, making environmental studies”. Helping children to relate to nature was the way Juli found to also fall in love with human relationships.

However Juli is a person who is always in search for more. She never stopped studiyng. She attended a master’s in Conservation and Vegetal Biodiversity to understand the impact people cause in the hiking tracks. Because of this she began to go to Protected Areas and to closely monitor the relationship between humans and nature. Not satisfied, she applied to study at Yale University, came to win a scholarship, but failed the English test.

Frustration turned into strenght. Juli packed her bags and left for a two-year experience in Europe to improve her English and apply for PhD programs. She took the time to go on bicycle trips. She was approved in a program, but didn’t win the scholarship. So she decided to return with her husband to Brazil, but still with the plans of conquering the world once again.

Unexpectedly, the return to the city of São Paulo, rooted Juli more than she imagined. A job in an humanist school embraced her. Her husband opened a cafe and bicycle shop, and was totally consumed by the new enterprise. Suddenly, Juli sees her dreams and plans of the past disappearing in the present. In a rampant of despair and a potencial new frustration, Juli asked herself: “what makes me more afraid?”. With that question in mind, she found and answer: to leave everything behind.

Juli says that what motivates her is fear. She defines herself as a big fearful person! But she also turns this fear into an endless courage. Afraid of leaving everything behind, Juli did it. She filed for a divorce, quit her job, sold her things, sttled her debts, packed what whas left, took her bicycle, and created the project Extremes of Americas. In this project, besides traveling for two years, alone, by bicycle between North and South America, from Alasca to Ushuaia, Juli will meet dozens of Protected Areas, and understand the relationship between humans and nature, and also how the management of these protected areas can help this integration.


In Alaska, she has seen a lot of this. She observes how Protected Areas are part of people’s lives in the sorroundings. At the same time, she closely follows the accelerated exploitation of petroleum in the region. “Alaska is undergoing a serious issue of oil exploitation and mining, because of the gold”, she explains. She defines the petroleum as “the black vein that cuts through Alaska’s protected areas”.

Juli also tells how climate changes are present in people’s lives. “Since the world talks about climate change, and people in the United States didn’t even believe in that, Alaska’s population already felt it. They survive through looking to the seasons out there”. A simple example: “When there is a bear alert, everything stops. People need to be inside their houses, they don’t work. Winter is a bear season, but last year they started to have bear alerts in the summer”, she says. Juli also reports how climed changes influence directly in food producion in Alaska. “Seasons define the dry season of food, the stock of protein they have in winter and the fishing season”. We wish Juli a smooth sailing!

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