Santa Rita

When the Earth Charter talks about establishing “viable nature and biosphere reserves,” and of managing “the use of renewable resources such as water, soil, forest products, and marine life in ways that… protect the health of ecosystems,” it can seem like they’re talking about only government or a big NGO’s initiatives.  To preserve a forest, or to plant a new one is something that would take millions of dollars and new laws and support from all kinds of international organizations, right?

And yet when we got to Chiapas in southern Mexico, we met a woman who does all of that on her own, without her government, without any official organization and without anything remotely resembling millions of dollars – just a woman working with her family to plant trees in an area that desperately needs them, often in the face tremendous obstacles, even at risk to her life.

Meet Eufemia Hernandez-Sanchez, a mother and owner of a small store who has helped regenerate forest in over 500 acres of  southern Mexico.  The program started with her brother in fact, shortly after Eufemia and her family were relocated by the government to the village of Santa Rita, after the construction of the Laguna Verde nuclear plant meant they couldn’t stay in their family home any longer.

To carve a way of life out of what was essentially virgin rain forest a five day journey from the nearest town of any size, the villagers were forced to cut back the trees to create fields for planting beans and maize and to graze livestock.  The wood of the forest trees became their houses and community buildings.

The only problem was that just as in every other rain forest, the soils in Santa Rita proved to be poor in nutrients and rarely served for cultivation after more than a few years.  The same is the case in rain forests in Brazil or Indonesia – an ecological irony that some of the most productive ecosystems in the world just don’t make good land for conventional farming.

What happens next then is rather obvious – when the lands stop producing after a few years, new sections of forest are cut down and burned and planted, and the old fields are left for grazing cattle or more often just to lie unused, no longer suitable for any agriculture.  Desertification is the net result, a phenomenon which now threatens 38% of the world’s land surface.

But not in Santa Rita.  In Santa Rita, without government support, without international programs like REDD+, without international conservation organizations or agreements, Eufemia has been planting trees.  Little by little, on unused land that doesn’t serve for agriculture anymore, in spite of the murder of her brother over his own reforestation efforts, in spite of fear for her own life, she keeps planting trees.  She has already reforested over 500 acres, and more trees are planted each year.

If there is a better example of just how much one person can do for the planet, we can’t imagine what it would be.  The fact is that we could all do the same, we can all change the world, we just have to decide we want to.

7 Responses to Santa Rita

  1. Kathryn Meyer says:

    As usual, you have given us a beautiful presentation of an inspirational message. Thank you.

  2. Gordon Magill and Linda Marie Cossa says:

    Your Santa Rita film is a beauty! Its a tantalizing, visually luscious appetizer for what might be a much fuller, longer documentary. Your film-making and certainly your editing shows leaps and bounds of new technique and innovations!
    We can’t wait to see the next one! Gracias!

  3. Gracias guys! We agree about Santa Rita – there was more than enough material in Eufemia’s story for a full-length film. I don’t know if you guys know the book “The Man Who Planted Trees”, but we saw a film of it the other night, and the story of an anonymous peasant in the alps planting forests and changing his whole region really reminded both of us of Eufemia – we just hope our little video captured a fraction of how inspiring she is!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you guys as well, and tell Charlie (and the parents too we suppose…) we say hi!

    -Dave & Anna

  4. Dan says:

    Love that update. My favorite so far. Beautiful filming and sound that transports you to the place.

  5. Thanks Dan! You’re still our number one fan – now what’re you doing about getting us on the Today Show?

  6. I am starting a new website and business to help raise global consciousness of all the many simple and very little things we can do to help change the world by the way we think and do things which will, in turn, impact change. I appreciate your video documentary and would love to see more like it and be able to post them on my new website to further spread the word about what can be done by all of us globally with or without the help of governments, institutions and by any individual no matter what age , race, sex, country, location or religious denomination. Feel free to contact me as per your own goals and purposes in this regard. When my website is complete, I will make sure you can view it. Thanks much for all you’ve done.

  7. Pingback: The end? | permacyclists

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