At seven in the morning the teenagers took out their brushes and started an atypically sanctioned graffiti project. It was hot and humid. Really hot and humid. And the temperature steadily rose throughout the day. Tourists and locals in bikinis and shorts stopped to look at the blank wall near the boardwalk that was quickly becoming a colorful tapestry of reef images. Cars along the quiet island’s main drag stopped to gawk, causing a resorttown anomaly – a traffic jam. (The traffic, and thus the event, made the headlines the following day.) City workers came to drop off donated audio equipment and were intrigued enough that they not only stayed, they called friends and family to come out and join the festivities.
“They thought it was a really cool event,” says Dulce Espelosin, Rare alumni associate for Latin America. Through an alumni network established a couple of years ago Espelosin offered three grants of $3,000 for outstanding applicants wanting to augment work that began in a previous Pride campaign. Itzel Arista won one of the grants. Arista’s campaign aimed to engage the youth of Cozumel – the future taxi drivers, hotel managers and tour guides – that have influence over how tourists interact and respect the reef system. The island of Cozumel only has 79,000 permanent residents, but that number can quickly double as cruise ships (which can hold upwards of 15,000 tourists each) dock on the island’s sandy shores. Snorkelers, scuba divers and even beach bums put a tremendous amount of pressure on the fragile coral ecosystems. To inspire the young artists, Espelosin took them out snorkeling with a guide. Prior to their underwater education they thought the coral was just something with which to woo a girlfriend or sell on the streets.
They were completely awed by the diversity of species and functionality of the ecosystem. “Wow!” said one of the teenagers. “That’s why during the hurricane the island is protected.” On the morning of July 26th, when they got to channel the field trip into their craft, it was clear that their talent echoed their enthusiasm for the reef. One of the island’s program directors that does youth outreach was amazed that the graffiti artists – usually targeted for their illegal vandalism and a hard segment to reach – were using their skills for a positive cause and asked for advice on how to keep them engaged in this way. People of all ages and nationalities participated in what turned into a street party to protect the reef. On one half of the wall the artists featured reef-scapes and on the other half supporters left a colorful handprint to represent their commitment to protect Cozumel’s reefs. By noon, when the dancing, singing and painting was drawing to a close, more than 300 individual hands had left their mark.
Rare has launched 11 campaigns in the Andes to help protect vital watersheds as well as safeguard important habitat for endangered species. This story is really about the journey of water from the páramo grasslands in Cajas National Park through the dairy cattle communities upstream to the downstream farmers and water users all the way to Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador. Rare Conservation Fellow Marco Bustamante scripted the lyrics to this lovely song that accompanies this slideshow that follows water through breathtaking vistas to the people who rely on the rivers and the relationships that are developing to protect the watershed.
If you’d like to learn more about how Rare is protecting cloud forests and endangered species in the Andes with reciprocal watershed agreements, I highly recommended checking out this Q&A.
Here are the lyrics to the song:
The Páramo of the Yanuncay I was born in the mountains I am the páramo and I am thinking of you I protect water in a place Where the sky is high And I bring it to you via the river Yanuncay
You must protect the grasslands They are the heritage of your people Therefore everyone should Respect the environment So that you will always have water in your home
Chorus But this land cannot survive If the cows and calves Continue to cross the river and trample the land The spongy black soil Cannot endure this abuse And it will no longer be able to secure the water that it harbors
I only ask that you help me Because I tried to no avail Protect our hills Where the cows and calves roam
Here are the lyrics to the song in Spanish:
EL PÁRAMO DEL YANUNCAY EN LAS MONTAÑAS NACÍ YO SOY EL PÁRAMO Y PIENSO EN TI YO GUARDO EL AGUA EN UN LUGAR CUANDO DEL CIELO YA NO CAE Y LLEGA A TI POR EL RÍO YANUNCAY
EL PAJONAL HAY QUE CUIDAR ES PATRIMONIO DE LA COMUNIDAD POR ESO YA TODA LA GENTE ESTA CUIDANDO EL MEDIO AMBIENTE PARA QUE EL AGUA NUNCA FALTE EN TU HOGAR
CORO PERO ESTA TIERRA NO PODRÁ SOBREVIVIR SI LAS VACAS Y TERNEROS SIEMPRE CRUZAN POR AQUÍ EL ESPONJOSO SUELO NEGRO YA NO RESISTE EL PISOTEO Y NO PODRÁ GUARDAR EL AGUA QUE HAY EN MI
SOLO TE PIDO QUE ME AYUDES PORQUE YO TRATÉ Y NO PUDE PROTEGER A NUESTROS CERROS DE VACONAS Y BECERRROS
SI DE LA TIERRA NECESITAS TODO TE DA NADA TE QUITA SIN EL AGUA NO PODREMOS PROGRESAR
Interview with Stuart Green - Protecting Marine Resources in the Philippines
In this video, Stuart Green, Director of Rare's Philippines Program, shares the importance of protecting marine resources in the region.