The quiet, tiny community of San Bernabé in the Chinantla region of Oaxaca, Mexico, feels like a world away from the city of Tuxtepec. Yet the bustling municipality is barely an hour away. On the winding drive from the city to San Bernabé, urban development and industry give way to a forested landscape dotted with small, rural homes and subsistence farm plots so rapidly that the transition feels jarring—blink, and you’re in a profoundly different place. “There’s such an isolation to these communities,” Sam Schofield, EcoLogic’s Program Officer for Institutional Development, reflected after a visit to the area.
Meet Samuel. He’s a K’ekchi’ Maya from rural eastern Guatemala, cares deeply about solving climate change, and just turned 29 years old. He’s also an EcoLogic field technician with our Youth Restoring the Nature of Sarstún project in the department of Izabal, which shares a border with Belize on Guatemala’s Caribbean coast.
Samuel lives and works in the town of Livingston, a small, sleepy fishing village situated on the shores of the Sarstún River and the Amatique Bay. Working to protect natural resources and improve local people’s livelihoods in such a remote place comes with a unique set of obstacles. But as someone born and raised in the area, Samuel explains how he works to address the mismatch that exists between short-term survival needs and long-term sustainability—and why he’s optimistic about the Sarstún region’s future.
Hi, Samuel. Can you introduce yourself and where you’re from?
My name is Samuel Coc Yat, and I am from the rural community of Rosario, which is part of the town of Livingston, Izabal. Livingston is small and isolated, and it is located within the Sarstún River Multiple Use Zone, which is a protected area—although the government doesn’t often do much to enforce its protected status.
The Forest of Los Altos in Totonicapán, Guatemala, also known as “The Sacred Forest,” is a breathtakingly beautiful and expansive tropical area that provides critical resources like clean water and wood to approximately 150,000 people. However, the forest isn’t only important to local people—it’s also a critical habitat for at least twelve species of migratory birds whose populations are in decline. Birds help to maintain the equilibrium of ecosystems in the landscape, by preying on insect pests such as beetles, wasps, stinkbugs, and weevils. These birds also provide priceless services to the ecosystem by pollinating flowers and distributing seeds across the forest floor. The largest threat to the migratory birds who make Totonicapán their home for part of the year is habitat loss, caused mostly by humans clearing the forest to expand agriculture and industry.
We need to tell the story differently. The combined message from scientists, nonprofits, and politicians seems to be that there are too many systems in place contributing to climate change, and too many problems that are growing because of it. A few weeks ago, a group of prominent Harvard alumni took a step in challenging that notion. This panel of four included former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, other government leaders, and our own David Kramer. They spoke to fellow alumni about making sustainability compatible with economic growth in a session titled “Moving Sustainability from Problem to Opportunity and Innovation.” We sat down with David to hear what the panel had to say, and how he presented EcoLogic’s conservation work as one successful approach to protecting communities in the face of climate change.
by Dr. David Barton Bray
David Barton Bray is Professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University and a Member of EcoLogic’s Board of Directors. This story was originally published on Mongabay.com, and is re-posted here with permission. Click here to see the original post on Mongabay.
There hasn’t been much good news out of Honduras recently. One of the poorest Latin American nations, it has been afflicted by a series of natural and political calamities. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch killed over 14,000 people, impacted a third of the population and did $3.8 billion in damage—three-quarters of the nation’s total GDP. Droughts followed, reducing corn and bean production by 50 to 70 percent in some years. In 2009, an elected President was overthrown by the military. And in 2014, hard times in Honduras made the U.S. news, as a stream of unaccompanied children fled to the United States.
There is, however, another Honduras, a place where—despite adversity—small, rural communities are getting on with the business of living sustainably and dealing effectively with the vagaries of extreme weather, all on a shoestring budget.
EcoLogic works with local communities in a range of beautiful landscapes across Central America and Mexico. We want to take you on a virtual journey to our largest project site, nestled in the stunning Cuchumatanes Mountains of western Guatemala.
The name “Guatemala” comes from the indigenous Náhuatl word “Quauhtlemallan,” meaning “land of many trees.” It is an apt name for the lushly forested country, which ranks among the world’s top five hotspots for biodiversity. But the “land of many trees” is in danger of losing its namesake. Forest loss in Guatemala has been accelerating rapidly since the 1980s. In 2006, the United Nations Center for Biological Diversity estimated that 73 thousand hectares of forest are lost annually—equivalent to 200 football stadiums every day.
Do you know what watershed you live in? On May 6, EcoLogic hosted New England International Donors (NEID), the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA), and the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA) at our Cambridge office for a lively discussion about solutions to the global water crisis. NEID organized the event as part of their ongoing Pathways to Change Series. Before the conversation began, attendees were invited to introduce themselves—and name the watershed they lived in. Fortunately for those who didn’t know, local watershed expert Julie Wood of the CRWA was there to set us straight. (For the record, EcoLogic’s office in Cambridge, MA, is located in the Charles River watershed!)