Tag Archives: Kary vannice

Earth Day Celebrates Mother Earth – Do We?

By Kary Vannice

April 22, 2020, marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, our annual celebration of Mother Earth. A day when we pay homage to the natural beauty that surrounds us and take stock of the environmental quagmire we find ourselves in 50 years after the start of the environmental movement.

There are few who would balk at calling our planet “Mother Earth”; after all, she does provide us with the essentials to maintain human life – food, water, and shelter (for some). But would any of us really treat our true mother as we treat Mother Nature?

Fifty years is a milestone, a time when we often take stock and look back to see how far we’ve come, to assess the progress that’s been made … or not made.

On the first Earth Day in 1970, 20 million Americans, one in every 10 people, took to the streets demanding that the US government pass laws to protect them, the animals, and the environment from rampant air and water pollution, which, at that time, was almost completely unregulated.

Celebrations of Earth Day 2020, due to the COVID-19 virus “shelter in place” orders in 45 of the 50 United States, have been almost entirely virtual, and have exerted much less impact. It has been the same in Mexico, where one scientist candidly pointed out the irony of the situation: “Social distancing from home will imply an excessive increase in the use of electrical energy. The consumption of electrical energy is one of the factors that produces the greatest number of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This electrical power will burn more fuel, considerably polluting the atmosphere.”

But, while the only thing these situations may seem to have in common is irony, that’s not entirely true, as this excerpt from an Earth Day article published on Fortune.com points out.

Virologists and scientists say that our broken relationship with nature is at the very heart of this pandemic. Accelerating biodiversity loss—caused by a mix of pollution, over farming, urbanization, and changing temperatures—has made complex ecosystems much simpler and more unstable. That makes it easier for viruses to jump from animals to people, as they have begun to do with alarming frequency.

The truth is, we haven’t come far enough in 50 years. While some things have gotten better, many have gotten worse, and we are not where many eager young environmentalists had hoped we would be in 2020.

On the first Earth Day, polluted rivers, many of them veritable oil slicks from factories’ unremittent dumping, were a top agenda item. And, while most first-world countries have indeed regulated corporate sludge dumping, some developing countries still lag far behind. And our oceans are far more polluted than they were 50 years ago, so much so that scientists can’t even quantify the effects that plastics will have on the biodiversity of sea life, not to mention the fact that our oceans are also warmer and more acidic than they were in 1970. It all adds up to a grim prognosis for all, not just our fishy friends, since biodiversity really is the key to health, at both the macro and the micro level.

This year on Earth Day, The New York Times reported that the World Wildlife Fund estimates that, on average, thousands of different wildlife populations have declined by 60 percent since1970. And that “last year, a comprehensive scientific assessment from the United Nations warned that unless nations step up their efforts to protect what natural habitats are left, they could witness the disappearance of 40 percent of amphibian species, one-third of marine mammals and one-third of reef-forming corals.”

We haven’t done much better on land either. The rate of rainforest destruction has also increased. Before the 1970s, deforestation in the Amazon was mostly done by local farmers, clearing the land to grow crops. In the latter part of the century, deforestation became more of an industrial affair, when large-scale agriculture entered the region. By the 2000s, cattle ranching was the number one cause. In 2018, 30 million acres of the Amazon rainforest were lost. That was slightly less than in recent years, but it’s not slowing fast enough.

Why does it even matter? Well, this brings us back to our Mother. The Amazon has been called “the lungs of Mother Earth,” the largest producer of life-giving oxygen and a huge storehouse for carbon dioxide, which is the main cause of global warming. We humans need the trees to survive. But it doesn’t stop with the trees. The Amazon is also the richest, most biodiverse ecosystem on the planet, home to at least 10% of the world’s biodiversity. And biodiversity equals health, not just for Mother Earth, but for all her inhabitants, including humans.

After 50 years, if you run the numbers for air pollution, water pollution, environmental toxins, species extinction, deforestation, overpopulation, waste disposal, and climate change, you’ll see that while some areas have made some small gains, there are simply too many losses to make up the difference. Far too often the real issue comes down to the environment vs. the economy. And in this fight, the environment will always be the loser, unless the consumer, the true driver of global economies, starts to make environmentally friendly products and companies a priority, sending the message that they aren’t willing to sacrifice one to benefit the other.

Now consider your real mother, what would you be (or have been) willing to sacrifice for her health and well-being? Does Mother Nature not deserve the same sacrifice?

Mexico’s Women Eco-Warriors

By Kary Vannice

In September of 2019, the online edition of Forbes featured an article titled “The Greta Thunberg Effect: The Rise of the Girl Eco-Warriors.” But the truth is, women have been advancing the environmental movement for generations – even here in Mexico. Though not making headlines around the globe, these five Mexican women deserve credit for their contribution to the eco-movement.

Margarita Martínez, 21, a student in the Sustainable Development Engineering degree at Tecnológico de Monterrey, has dedicated her time to promoting environmental care in her environment, raising awareness among young people about the threat of climate change.

The Spanish-language newspaper El País named her “the Mexican cleaner” for her initiative Limpiemos Nuestro País (Let’s Clean Our Country), which has managed to remove more than 65 tons of garbage from public spaces located in Monclova, Coahuila and Monterrey, Nuevo León.

In an interview, when asked why she decide to create such a movement, Martínez said it was the “indifference” that exists towards the realities that the world is going through, not only environmental matters, but also social matters, since the challenge of climate change is a socio-environmental problem that affects us all, but especially the unprotected and unsupported classes.

Wendy Herrera, a student in the Industrial Physical Engineering program at Tec de Monterrey, headed up a team to create a smartphone app that allows users to generate points and exchange them for services or products to protect the planet. You can cash in these points to do things like pay for groceries or take public transportation, all for taking care of the environment.

The app is called Iknelia, which translates from Nahuatl as “help.” Iknelia also seeks to raise awareness through content such as videos, environmental programs and a calendar of workshops aligned with the theme of the environment.

At the age of 22, Ixchel Anaya was studying interior design when she became a mother for the first time. When she realized that disposable diapers were causing her baby a painful rash, she started looking for alternatives. And although she found a lot of products in Europe and the United States, she found there were no products in the local market and decided to make her own design with the help of her grandmother.

Since 2009 she has dedicated her life to the manufacture of cloth diapers from environmentally friendly textiles. Her product can be reused up to 600 times, is better for the baby’s health, and allows families to save up to 25 thousand pesos, all while reducing disposable diaper waste in Mexico, which is estimated at 14% of all waste.

Sarita Mazuera, the Chief Operations Officer for Veolia Mexico (an international company specializing in efficient management of water, waste and energy), is another woman dedicated to the development of techniques and alternatives to both care for and improve the environment in Mexico.

She has also been a member of the national Water Advisory Council, an independent body focused on analyzing, evaluating and finding solutions for the country’s water crisis. And, to inspire more young women to become change makers, she participated in the international movement Girls on The Move Week, which mentors young women in order to strengthen their development in professional fields.

Sandra Pascoe Ortiz, an academic from the University of Valle de Atemajac (UNIVA) in Guadalajara, developed a biodegradable plastic primarily made from the nopal cactus. Using a mixture of powdered dried cactus and cactus juice, along with other organic ingredients, she managed to create a plastic that starts decomposing in the soil after one month. If put in water, it starts to break down in a matter of days. Even if it were not to break down completely, her plastic is 100% non-toxic and can be ingested by both humans and animals without causing any harm.

When it comes to her revolutionary new plastic, she recognizes that despite its being an environmentally friendly material, it is not a complete solution to stop environmental contamination of non-recyclable materials. In an interview with Forbes, she said, “I believe that it is never too late to start changing things. Every day, there is a new opportunity to do things better, so if we each do what we have to do, there is another opportunity to reverse all the damage we have done to the planet.”

I think the other women on this list would agree!