As this year's Earth Month (April 2023) comes to an end, we look back on reflections from our own community as to what our Earth means to them and what motivates their work to protect our environment on a daily basis. All the while, we ask readers to contemplate what it means to foster a relationship with their environment that encourages positive, balanced interactions within the context of their livelihoods and community.
Each year, as Earth Day comes and goes, individuals, corporations, and governments alike try to take the time to show their appreciation for our environment. Each year, conversations emerge as to how one day cannot be enough – ‘Earth Day Every Day’ spans across the homepage of https://www.earthday.org/. Here at EcoLogic, we ask: What does it mean to celebrate the Earth each and every day? We look no further than our own community and partners to answer this crucial question.
For the last few days of Earth Month 2023, we wanted to take the time to reflect on the importance of fostering individual, long-lasting relationships with our environment – recognizing that the Earth ‘gives,’ and we ‘take,’ but we also mean something to the Earth and the environment we are in. Instead of just asking ourselves, ‘what does the environment mean to you?’ we can go further to ask ourselves, ‘what do we, and what CAN we mean to our environment?’
Looking through our past interactions and interviews with our community, we find a diverse set of perspectives and personal relationships that each of our members have fostered within their own work with the environment. We hope that collecting and sharing these reflections encourages all of us to stop and think about our own relationship with our environment, and the impact we can have on our surroundings.
Growing and Changing with our Environment
Our relationships with our surroundings and our environment can change throughout our lives. From one day to the next and across the years, we always have the opportunity to grow and change our mindset regarding our planet and how we interact with it.
There are people like Germán Alfonso Martínez, one of the forest guardians that we work with in Honduras who has experienced a significant shift in his relationship with the environment in adapting the role of forest guardian.
“I have to tell you, my life is really different from how it was before. Before, I was a fan of hunters and I was a hunter myself. Now instead of hunting [the animals], I try to protect them.”
-Germán Alfonso Martínez (Olanchito, Honduras)
Isabela Alonzo Martín, another forest guardian from the Northern Border Municipalities Alliance (MFN) in San Mateo Ixtatán, Guatemala, offers important reflections on the interconnectedness of every aspect of our environment, thus emphasizing our intrinsic duty to protect it.
“Trees have been one of the most important factors of our lives. For the air, because without air we would not exist as people; animals, and everything else – plants, water, nothing would exist. [...] Because of this, we might say it is our duty as citizens to manage and conserve the environment.”
-Isabela Alonzo Martín (San Mateo, Ixtatán, Guatemala)
Caring for Our Community is Caring for Our Planet
Caring for our planet is caring for our communities, and caring for our communities means empowering underrepresented or undervalued identities. For this, gender equality and empowerment form a crucial aspect of EcoLogic’s work. Recognizing the importance of each and every identity and their contributions to a community is crucial to a sustainable livelihood and future.
In an article interviewing community members from Guatemala’s coastal communities in Livingston, Izabal, Rebeca Gisela Tróchez of San Juan notes the tight link between conservation work and social empowerment.
“And, as a woman, I know I have an important role towards my community and nature. And I plan to continue in this process and try to ensure that the women, girls, and young people of San Juan continue conserving our land and nature,"
- Rebeca Gisela Tróchez (San Juan, Livingston, Guatemala)
From another perspective, as Director of the Municipal Office for Women of Livingston, Guatemala, Feve Cabnal emphasizes the importance of including women as equal partners in the fight against climate change and towards a sustainable future. She notes,
“In the end, climate change directly affects rural women. It is a process of raising awareness so that they understand their role and can be actively involved.”
-Feve Cabnal (Punta Arena, Livingston, Guatemala)
Feve (far left) works to build the administrative, financial, and organizational capacities of women across Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala.
Learning and Expressing Appreciation through Art and Education
Learning to be more aware of our environment and its intricate systems can be done in a myriad of ways. Environmental education is a cornerstone to EcoLogic’s model of work. Through a variety of hands-on activities, environmental education allows participants to interact with their natural surroundings directly, learning about the environmental processes that happen all around them – whether it be through art, workshops and training programs, or visiting a tree nursery first hand.
With our partners at Creative Action Institute, EcoLogic has supported a variety of creative initiatives across our communities to encourage our communities to foster an intrinsic connection and understanding of their environment. Initiatives like our mangrove mural in Livingston Izabal, Guatemala allow young students to visualize important ecosystems, their natural beauty, as well as their critical contributions to the well-being of the entire community. It’s a fun, colorful way to understand the value of our surroundings.
Don Agustín (48 Cantones) and students at Creative Action Institute - EcoLogic collaboration in Totonicapán, Guatemala.
What Does It Mean To Be 'Of the Earth?'
“Where does life come from? From the Earth. From the Earth we came and to the Earth we shall return.”
-Don Agustín (48 Cantones, Totonicapán, Guatemala)
In protecting our Earth we are protecting ourselves, and how we protect our Earth is thus a reflection of how we protect ourselves. For this, it is crucial to maintain awareness of our link to our surroundings. For this, Earth Day is remembering that we are on this Earth and play a role in protecting it just as it protects us.
“The Earth is our Mother. She gives us everything, no one else. She sees us and takes care of us.”
- Don Agustín, 48 Cantones, Totonicapán, Guatemala
On the other hand, conversations about “individual impact” can be extremely overwhelming — we recognize that. Not everyone can be a climate activist in the streets or devote their hours in the day doing work in forest monitoring or watershed protection. Our relationships with our environment are built on an individual basis, and all of them stem from a recognition of an intrinsic responsibility we have to our land. That can look different for each and every one of us.
Additionally, all of this functions within the context of the community. It’s a gentle balance between doing what calls to you, what feels best to you, and what you can best offer, as well as recognizing that your actions, no matter how big or small, affect your community. With this, our message here is that we all have a part that we can play, and that role can take many different shapes. Just like a forest has fungi and moss, streams and soil, little worms and large predators – we cannot all play the same role, but as a part of the ecosystem, we inevitably have one to play.
To end our reflection, we wanted to take the time to look back at an important speech from former Chair of the Board Bill Green. When Green stepped down as chair in 2011, his speech, “Why Not B. Green,” interrogates the concept of ‘being green–’ noting it as something we strive for, a lifestyle that constantly adapts to orient itself more and more towards a balanced way of living with our environment. He notes,
“As the concept of "green" evolves, it becomes a term for me, and for us, to understand and live up to. If being green is coming to signify increased valuation and protection of the natural world; if it means limiting the human contribution to global warming; if it means us living in a sustainable way, not depleting the resource base on which current impoverished peoples of the world and indeed our own future generations depend, then a dramatic course correction towards a deeper green is necessary.”
With this, here at EcoLogic, we ask you to reflect this Earth Day on your personal relationship with the planet. Ask yourself what it means for you to live in equilibrium with your environment that gives you so much and with your community that supports you all the while.