EcoLogic’s Executive Director Barbara Vallarino and Guatemala Program Officer Mario Ardany de León participated in the second annual virtual World Rainforest Day summit to discuss leveraging art for forest advocacy.
By Beaujena Stoyanchev
On Wednesday, July 22nd, EcoLogic’s own Executive Director Barbara Vallarino and Guatemala Program Officer Mario Ardany de León presented at the second annual World Rainforest Day (WRD) summit. Hosted virtually with passionate participants, this community-oriented event featured presenters hailing from around the globe. Those presenting offered a variety of solutions and fostered dialogue with one overarching goal in mind: ending deforestation by 2030. EcoLogic was invited as one of World Rainforest Day’s 60 partners represented at the event.
Barbara and Mario helped coordinate and participated in a workshop led by the Creative Action Institute (CAI). CAI is one of EcoLogic's Strategic Partners, and we have collaborated with them to incorporate creative aspects into our community conservation work since 2004. The presentation – Leveraging Art to Advocate for Forests – highlighted three of Creative Action Institute’s partners and how they have implemented creative workshops, projects, and initiatives to foster a new culture and awareness around sustainability and forest protection. The workshop was facilitated by Isabel Carrió, a Project Manager and Community Artist at CAI who has worked with us previously. Barbara and Mario were joined by Ewi Stephanie Lamma (FOREP, Cameroon) and Tulio Dávila (CECAMA, Peru).
It began and ended with an interactive activity for participants to take part in. We started with a Padlet activity, in which participants were directed to another site with an array of photos from various CAI initiatives, such as EcoLogic’s mural initiative in Barra Sarstún, and were instructed to leave a comment with whatever word or phrase that came to mind. The icebreaker allowed for audience members to get a glimpse into the nature of CAI collaborations.
Interactive activity during EcoLogic's presentation during the virtual summit.
Next came each organization's individual presentations. Mario took the time to present EcoLogic’s CAI projects that centered creative approaches in an environmental education campaign to raise awareness of the importance of mangroves conservation and restoration. The site of the campaign was in the San Juan and Barra Sarstún communities of the Livingston Izabal municipality in Guatemala, where local community members collaborated to plan and execute a mural illustrating their local ecosystem. Mario was able to share the impact of CAI’s creative approach as a crucial strategy for forest conservation within EcoLogic’s wider work model, which features environmental education as a form of community empowerment. Through these projects, EcoLogic and CAI are able to raise community awareness of the rich offerings and biodiversity a local ecosystem provides, while also illustrating the community’s role in protecting it.
Mangrove Ecosystem Mural in Livingston Izabal, Guatemala.
The workshop ended on an inspiring note, with participants guided through a seemingly simple activity that proved to be incredibly meaningful. CAI Field Project Coordinator Christian Chacón Gallardo instructed participants to close their eyes, and imagine any part of the forest. Each person could have a different element of our rainforests in mind, from the soil, to the roots of the trees, to the raindrops, to the tapirs. After a minute, CAI opened up a collaborative digital notepad where we could all draw what we had imagined and create our own virtual forest.
The outcome was stunning, bursting with color and light like a rainforest itself. It reminded us of why we do what we do, and through such a simple activity we were able to connect with something that for many organizers, is not in our backyards. World Rainforest Day reminded us of how crucial our rainforests are, not just for our Indigenous communities who live in and protect them, but as the lungs and soul of our Planet. Just like with our drawing, we all have something we can contribute to help save our forests, and something as simple as tapping into our creative imaginations can allow us to remember that.
Collaborative Rainforest by WRD Participants.
Beaujena Stoyanchev is a rising junior at Boston University with a passion for social and environmental justice that places Indigenous and rural communities at the forefront of proposed solutions. She is studying International Relations with a focus on Environment/Development and a regional concentration in Latin America, with additional minors in Spanish and Environmental Policy. As a Content Intern with EcoLogic, she helps establish and grow EcoLogic’s online and social media presence, while also getting a chance to learn more about the technical aspects of the organization’s work.