Latin America’s Biodiversity Gives Hope Amid Growing Climate Fears

CLIMATEBy 2023-05-24T14:09:40-04:00April 28th, 2023|
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Every day it seems like there is another environmental disaster or news of a new concern from scientists regarding the health of the planet. “Doom Scrolling”, or spending too much time reading negative news on the internet, is our generation’s vice. If we are prepared for the worst, then nothing can surprise us, right? Why are we, as a society, wired to inundate ourselves with negative content until we become desensitized to it? Is this also a coping mechanism? When we constantly feel overwhelmed with news of the climate crisis, the big victories begin to feel small and the small victories begin to feel minute. We don’t even register them.

With so many environmental changes happening constantly, Earth Month, celebrated every April, marks a special time to spread awareness for our planet. It’s a time where globally we come together to show love to our planet and organize to take initiative to preserve it. Constant bad news can be exhausting, but not all statistics invoke fear. Here are three positive takes — and good news from Latin America! — to know for Earth Month 2023.

Costa Rica’s Abundant Biodiversity

Costa Rica has signed more than 45 international environmental treaties to preserve its natural beauty. What makes this any different from any other country signing environmental treaties? The secret lies within this Latin American country’s biodiversity. Although Costa Rica occupies only 0.03% of the Earth’s surface, it is responsible for 6% of the world’s biodiversity. Costa Rica is home to more than half a million species, making it the most biodiverse country in the world. In fact, even though it is much smaller than the United States and Canada, you can find more bird species in Costa Rica than in both of these countries combined. You can thank Costa Rica’s natural wealth, in both ecosystems and species. 45 international environmental treaties is impressive and extremely important for our planet’s overall wellbeing.

A Win For Indigenous Knowledge

Colombian Indigenous knowledge has been recently granted Intangible Cultural Heritage status by UNESCO. This means that the sacred, ancestral wisdom and traditions of the Arhuaco, Kankuamo, Kogui and Wiwa peoples are now considered essential to our planet.

This ancestral wisdom is believed to play a fundamental role in protecting the Sierra Nevada ecosystem, and maintaining the cultural identity of the four peoples of the region (UNESCO). Their home, located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria, known as the Heart of the World, is one of the most biodiverse sites in the world. The Ancestral System of Knowledge entails caring for sacred sites with rituals, traditional dances and songs, and retributions or offerings to spiritual powers. What a huge win for Indigenous peoples and their knowledge everywhere!

The Scarlet Macaws’ Comeback

After nearly facing extinction in Mexico, the scarlet macaw is making a comeback thanks to a reintroduction project led by Patricia Escalante, a Mexican biologist with a doctorate in ecology and evolution. Scarlet Macaws are victims of habitat loss, wildfires, the illegal pet trade, and are highly sought after by poachers for their bright feathers. They used to cover the rainforests with their beautiful colors, but numbers in the wild have dwindled. It is estimated that there are only 300-400 scarlet macaws surviving in the wild but this conservation project is bringing the numbers back up. According to EcoAméricas, Escalante calculates that of the 189 parrots that were introduced into the wild in Los Tuxtlas, some 150 have survived. She adds that the total population count is heading upward, however, because some of these scarlet macaws have been actively breeding. Her team calculates that in the last four years, some 28 to 30 young macaws have been born to the reintroduced population. Escalante says, “We have seen flocks of 20 in the wild, which are a great joy to see.” These birds are important to their habitat and need to be preserved and protected.

Amid the frequent barrage of alarming climate news, it’s important to recognize our environmental victories. As this Earth month comes to a close, LATINA encourages you all to continue to fight for victories in your own communities. You can plant flowers and plants that are native to your area, not only does this make your community more lively, it helps with pest control and supports pollinators in your area. Think about how you can make changes in your own community. Organize neighborhood cleanups, or plant neighborhood gardens that can then feed the community. There are some household items that you can easily swap out for more eco-friendly options, such as compostable bags free of plastics and chemicals.

While it’s important to monitor our own wasteful habits, companies and mass corporations need to be held accountable as well. Find ways to organize within your community. When you communicate within your community, you are able to find out common goals. In regards to Earth Day, figure out the needs within your community. Do you have clean water? Clean air? What are the biggest polluters within your neighborhood? You can call on your local representatives and demand the health of your community and planet to be top priority. No matter how you choose to celebrate Earth Month, remember that caring for our planet doesn’t end on April 30th. Environmental justice is a constant battle that needs all of us to show up in our own unique ways. Don’t let negative mass media desensitize you to the struggle. When we are able to organize, we are able to create real change.

Galilea Mendez is a freelance content creator based in Chicago who loves storytelling, fashion, and building community.