This summer, the Rainforest Alliance’s education team worked in Chiapas, Mexico, to introduce a group of 57 teachers to our climate curricula. Most of the teachers who attended the five-day workshop came from telebachilleratos, a subsection of the Chiapas school system that includes many rural schools serving underrepresented populations. Though these schools lack financial resources, they live in close connection with surrounding forests and coffee farms.
We spoke to Elisa Jiménez González, a 29-year-old teacher at Telebachillerato Num. 37, 5 de Febrero, about her experience introducing students to the link between deforestation and climate change.
You students live in such close proximity to the forests. How do they view their surroundings?
Most have an attitude of respect. However, all communities need to use their forests for necessary services, like obtaining wood for building houses or for firewood.
There is also an ecological park in their community that generates some awareness about the need to care for their forests.
How would you describe your thoughts and attitudes about forests and climate change?
I feel pessimistic sometimes. The demographic explosion combined with poor use of our resources are both major factors—and I don’t see population growth slowing. But working with the Rainforest Alliance gave me a more positive outlook. All of us can contribute a grain of sand to mitigating climate change by avoiding consumerism and making better personal choices.
How much did you know about climate change before participating in the Rainforest Alliance training?
I had some knowledge of the climate change impacts we had already experienced. In 1998, for example, there was a great deal of flooding in Chiapas caused by a hurricane and since then they talked to us about [climate change] in school.
Three years ago, I also took a graduate program in environmental engineering and saw the film An Inconvenient Truth. I had a clearer picture after that, but was left with questions.
What did you learn in the workshops?
I learned to raise awareness and to have a more optimistic vision. I learned that by working in an organized manner, we can care for the forests and use natural resources responsibly. I learned to distinguish between weather and climate, and how to take measurements to calculate the amount of carbon in a tree and in a particular area of the forest. I learned that there are communities who care for their forests and are already working to mitigate climate change and, therefore, other communities can also do that.
I also learned about the interesting ecosystem services that the forests provide for us and how we can use forests more responsibly.
Did you enjoy the experience?
It was a very pleasant and fruitful experience. I learned so much–from what factors are involved in climate change to what concrete actions can be carried out to mitigate and avoid climate change.
What do you hope students will take from these lessons?
The lessons will clarify the concept of climate change and all of its implications. I hope that they learn about the greenhouse effect, the carbon cycle, photosynthesis and what role these processes play in climate change.
Most importantly, I hope that they realize that they can propose and implement actions to mitigate these changes and can play a part in protecting their natural resources.
How would you describe your community’s current outlook on forests and climate change?
There is a lot of hope about conservation and reforestation. Communities have opportunities to make sustainable use of their forests, and are becoming aware of what climate change brings and how they can help to mitigate it.
The Rainforest Alliance is part of the Alianza México REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), whose mission is to contribute to the creation of climate knowledge, strengthen capacities to meet the objectives of a national REDD+ strategy and implement rural sustainable development in Mexico.