“Like a hurricane”: People power keeps Mexico’s forests standing SEARCH NEWS

Tree trunks covered in green lichens.

The Sierra Gorda is a "sanctuary for bromeliads" which offer micro-habitat for other species in the Biosphere Reserve. Credit: Roberto Pedraza Ruiz

Pati Ruiz Corzo is an inspirational change-maker in Mexico’s nature conservation movement. As Founder and Director of Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda (GESG) she leads the way for bottom-up solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises, by and for local people. Previously working as a music teacher, she now cares for the mountains, rivers, deserts and forests to keep these ecosystems singing with life. Being a female environmental leader in Mexico hasn’t been without its challenges. “I came at them like a hurricane”, Pati notes in a new video made by GESG to illustrate the community-led fight against climate breakdown.

In the process of addressing the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, Pati and her team have been building up a “conservation economy” in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve. In so doing, they have created benefits for the roughly 100,000 people living in the region. Here, rural people who are owners of forests can earn an income through ecotourism and forest restoration instead of cattle ranching and logging. In so doing, people have been repairing and maintaining relationships with the nature they are part of. For many people who are farmers, they have also increased their resiliency to the effects of the climate crisis by diversifying their income. This is reason for hope, explains Pati, because “in these moments of severe crisis is when the best human beings can emerge.”

GESG’s climate mitigation work is evidence towards a need for local communities to be consulted and prioritised within global carbon sequestration efforts. Around the world, governments, organisations, businesses, and individuals are keen to mitigate their role in the climate crisis. WLT’s Carbon Balanced programme recognises that it is more important now than ever for local communities to be fully involved in the development and benefits of its projects. GESG are a role model for what this looks like in practice. So successful in fact, that it has advised and supported Mexican authorities on taking climate action — for example via regional carbon taxes to companies and industries. The work goes beyond carbon too; the trees that GESG helps to keep standing offer vital habitat for Sierra Gorda’s vast biodiversity.

Pati’s optimism is infectious. She reminds us that in the face of the overwhelming climate and biodiversity crises, with the right opportunities and alternatives people will choose to defend nature.

To support WLT’s Carbon Balanced programme, or to find out more about our partners who participate in it, please click here.

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