[Translation of her presentation at the First Global Prout Conference in Venezuela, “Building a Solidarity Economy based on Ethics and Ecology”, July 7-9, 2011, Caracas.]
Chelo Nogueira: Thank you very much to José and all the organizers for giving us the opportunity to show some of our work. We are a group of people who are working at the Fundación La Tortuga (“Turtle Foundation”). We created it in 2005 thinking about the responsibility and role that each one of us has as humans beings. So we gathered together and started to do what we thought we must. We created Objective Earth, which is an environmental program, and we have the very important support and alliance with the Zambuling Institute as well as Trees for Peace.
We’ll talk a little about who we are. We are a non-profit non-governmental organization (NGO), a leader in the fields of ecology, environmental education service, scientific research, and the conservation and protection of the marine, coastline and island ecosystems of Venezuela.
Our activities are aimed at the public to encourage them to treat nature with respect. We want to create innovative and flexible financial programs that allow the participation of enterprises and citizens of all ages who are interested in improving our environment.
Seas and oceans cover approximately 70 percent of the earth’s surface, and they are the home of more than 90 percent of the living biomass. Land, though it is a small part of the planet, is where there is the highest concentration of life. What is happening is that everything we produce and everything we get from the land, and the problems we have on land, go directly into the oceans. This impacts and endangers the great amounts of food that humans harvest from the sea.
We have done more than 50 scientific research expeditions on the Venezuelan coastline and islands, and we apply the knowledge acquired to implement appropriate management programs and create effective environmental education programs for all citizens. We implement methods for the conservation and rational use of our resources, and for ecological improvement and cultural development that is economic and sustainable.
Our Achievements: We have developed a scientific area that is important and that has given us the base to carry out projects. We have mobilized 71 beach cleaning work teams with over 2,500 volunteers who have collected more than 70 tons of garbage. Our main intention is to educate the participants so that they apply these experiences in their daily life. Human beings by nature don’t want to get dirty. In these work teams collecting garbage, you start to sympathize with the creatures of the sea and develop solidarity and realize that this pollution should not happen. Because one way or the other, we are all polluting the planet. Therefore if we all get busy and join with those who litter the planet, then we become the cleaning team. The more we clean, the cleaner planet we will have.
Our activities in the scientific field: Research for the conservation and preservation of the marine habitats of Venezuela. We do oceanographic and biological profiles. We design and implement programs for the protection of endangered species. We design and implement educational programs and policies for the sustainable management of natural resources.
A very important activity is education. We organize workshops for children, teenagers and adults in order to encourage the sustainable use of the natural resources and in order to better understand their benefits for the present and future generations.
We organize work teams to clean up the coastlines in order to create public awareness. We promote feasible environmental policy proposals for other institutions. And we publish scientific contributions and discoveries.
In conferences and public talks, we invite people to participate and convey the conservation message. But almost always the same people come. What’s happening? The people who already are aware do not need us to explain that we have a problem and we need to solve it. The people we really need to reach are those who are not interested in the subject. So what to do? We created an informal educational program called Ambientart using a language through which we could call their attention, through which they could listen to us. What is the universal language? The universal language we all understand is art and its expressions. Music, dance, what is cool, allow us to communicate without the need for words. We feel that at a cognitive level, everyone knows a lot. We all know that we have a global warming problem, we all know that we have a pollution program. But people don’t really feel that it’s their problem, they feel it’s somebody else’s problem. It’s the government’s, it’s the economy’s, but they don’t accept and acknowledge it as their own problem. They don’t feel it.
Ambientart was created to reach people who think this is somebody else’s problem. It’s about connecting with this feeling, not only theoretically, but the feeling that it is their responsibility, the responsibility of each one of us. How do we tell them? We tell them through dance, music and video. A language that we all normally use, and what we all feel. That’s the reason for our performances in this conference. We transmit these messages in a more direct way. For example, there are many of you here who know the situation of the environment, perhaps more than I or other members of our foundation. Now we are trying to reach people who do not attend these conferences, the people walking on the streets.
This is why we created Ambientart which is performed in public squares. It is going precisely to places where people are thinking about something else.
We also created a fashion line. The young girl you see here is dressed in a garment made of plastic bags and newspapers. What is this about? It’s about having everyone look at these materials that normally are thrown away, that are familiar and common to all of us. Because we show how they can be used in a different way, an alternative way, as another possibility.
We did a performance in Madrid in 2010 that was very well received. It was about a baby turtle represented by Robert Bracho with Linozca. During the intermission you will see and feel what really happens to turtles. We talk about protecting the planet to allow the survival of other species. They were here on Earth before us, and they will be here after us, too. We have to acknowledge that we are preserving our own life support systems for us to continue living here. We need Planet Earth to survive. We need clean air, we need water, we need food. Our own species is endangered, and through these programs we want people to realize that the problem is not, “Oh, look at those poor little turtles!” It is not the turtles, it is every one of us, every person who is walking around, we are all endangered.
We inherited a healthy planet from our ancestors. We are drinking the same water that primitive humans drank. Thousands of generations on this planet have inherited clean water, and we must pass this forward to future generations. What are they really inheriting from us? The water we pass on and the fertile land are what we bestow. Our lives are in trouble, as well as the lives of our children and grandchildren. We need to act quickly. We can’t continue thinking it is somebody else’s problem.
This is the show we presented in Madrid, in Matadero, a place for cultural activities. These are artists who communicate their message. We prepared a mural where participants could write their thoughts and post them, so we could give nice energy to the planet.
Objective Earth is a program that we take to plazas, parks, as a joint venture with the Zambuling Institute. This photo of trash on the street is quite normal to us. We see it every day, and no one is surprised by it. Underneath is a photo of uninhabited Turtle Island, where no one would expect to find trash from our cities which ends up on these pristine beaches. None of this garbage was produced on the island, yet it all floated there. This is why we protect the sea. We have to get there from land, because our problems originate on land.
In our reuse workshops, we show how as individuals we are responsible, we all are the ones who must take responsibility. It is not everyone, rather each one of us has his or her own responsibility. Here are the things we can do with these materials. This vest is decorated with beer bottle tops. These children’s toys made from old plastic bottles and cans is how we teach children to recycle.
I will now introduce my companion Mairelis. She is producing the jewelry that is shown in the picture. It is her own creation and it is very beautiful. Mairelis Moya: We have developed a store that sells all kinds of fashionable products made from recycled materials. Items such as bracelets, necklaces, jewelry, decorations and lamps are made out of plastic soda bottles and plastic bags. Some visitors to the foundation are very interested to learn how we make them.
Objective Earth presentations have developed an interest for products made from these kinds of containers. As more customers become interested in these products, we know that we are benefiting the Earth. Our main objective is to create quality products which customers choose not only because they are made from recycled materials, but because they are the best.
We are also carrying out a very important reforestation program called “Trees for Peace”, which is an initiative of the Zambuling Institute for the Human Transformation.
Patricia Castillo: Our Fundación La Tortuga has received great support from the Zambuling Institute for the Human Transformation in Lecheria, in the state of Anzoátegui, Venezuela. I would like to briefly present the Institute . The founder and current president is Dr. Alfredo Sfeir Yunis, an environmental economist. What is its goal? Peace. We believe that world peace can be achieved through silence. Silence will lead us to nature’s self-healing. If we don’t heal nature and ourselves, we cannot achieve peace.
We have a proposal. Our proposal is the solidarity economy. We all know that the market economy does not guarantee everybody’s wellbeing, it has a negative impact on the ecology and on the human and natural environment. We propose a union between aims and interests with consciousness. We propose emphasizing collective identity and the awakening of consciousness. How can this be done?
Our proposal is based on human values that are collective. We must express ethics and integrity in all actions in the public and private sectors and in communities. We wish to change the educational system to raise individual and collective awareness. What is the process? The creation of a consensual vision where solidarity is an essential pillar. Training professionals in communication media. Establishing solidarity programs in its formation and essence. Promoting meditation, silence, prayer, contemplation and other methods to increase collective awareness. We are working on three programs: Trees for Peace, Gardens for Peace and Bees for Peace.
Chelo Nogueira, Mairelis Moya and Patricia Castillo: “What is impossible for one person, is possible for everyone together.”