In a report for Call to Earth, CNN speaks to Mexican conservationist Maritza Morales Casanova about her work with aspiring environmentalists in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and why children teaching each other is vital in solving the climate crisis.
Having witnessed the loss and degradation of natural areas in the region, Morales Casanova started her environmental advocacy group HUNAB in 1995, when she was just 10 years old.
She explains to CNN what inspired her to start HUNAB at such a young age: “There are schools to learn more about music and if you want to be an artist, there are places where you can polish your talent. But what happens if as a child, you want to be an environmentalist?”
25 years on, HUNAB is going strong and its reach has grown. In 2013, Morales Casanova opened the Ceiba Pentandra education centre in the outskirts of Merida, the capital of Yucatán, to provide space and resources for children to learn about the environment.
Morales Casanova tells CNN that she currently has more than 10,000 students in 300 communities utilising their educational resources and that HUNAB has trained as many as 50,000 young people to be environmentalists by promoting peer-to-peer learning.
Outlining the benefits of the model, she says positive messaging is also incredibly important: “When we see kids sharing the knowledge, the first thing that they do is to understand the message for themselves and then to share it through a simple way. They share the information [in a way that is] very clear and very honest… Information about the environment is very alarmist and negative around the world. We cannot teach climate change and just scare kids about what’s going to happen. What we need to do is inspire them.”
Due to coronavirus, HUNAB has adapted to remote learning but Morales Casanova, who was named a Laureate of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise in 2012, says that the global pandemic hasn’t slowed their work and information sharing.
“We are doing courses online, and sending materials to students’ homes, so they can keep working and training as heroes for Grandma Earth.” She explains, “In a few years, they could be governors, politicians, entrepreneurs… We don’t know, but I’m sure that they are going to make decisions that respect all living beings.”