from Latin America share their visions as the planet celebrates
World Environment Day, June 5. In this Tierramérica exclusive,
they respond to the question: What is the environmental problem
that most worries you, and how should it be solved?
Without Trees, the Land Can't Stand It
DE JANEIRO - "The biggest problem is deforestation. In Brazil
many forests are cut down and, without trees, the land can't stand
it when it rains very hard. We need forests so we can have oxygen
and breathe," says Priscila Gomes de Souza, 12, a sixth-grader
at a public school in Rio de Janeiro.
Deforestation leads to "the contamination
of the air, the death of animals, the collapse of hillsides and
floods that kill many people," says Priscila, a girl who loves
her science classes.
"People cut down trees to build their
houses and for industry. Where I always go, in Campos (a town 180
km from Rio), there isn't any more forest because now there is a
lot of sugarcane. But it doesn't all have to be deforested to do
Priscila proposes reducing deforestation of
the Amazon through campaigns on television and billboards and lessons
in the schools. She also suggests planting trees, but stresses that
"it has to be done with many different kinds."
Priscila thinks most of her schoolmates do
respect nature and that Brazil's youth "are more environmentally
aware than their parents."
Corks for All the Buses
CITY - "We should cork the city buses that spew so much black
smoke. Yes, cork them, put a big stick in the exhaust pipe,"
says Marcos Jeremías, a 10-year-old K'iché, one of
23 indigenous groups of Guatemala.
Marcos doesn't know how to read or write, but
he does know how to count 'pisto' (money). He earns around 20 quetzals
(2.5 dollars) each day for selling chewing gum, juice, sweets and
cigarettes from a wooden box he sets up on one of the concrete benches
in the Plaza de la Constitución, in the Guatemalan capital's
"The buses pass by here and they make
everything dirty. They are annoying because they spew so much smoke,
and it gets in my noise and mouth," he says.
"The worst are the 'gusanos' (worms),"
he adds, referring to the articulated double buses that have been
circulating on the streets of Guatemala City since 1998.
A 2001 study conducted by the state-run University
of San Carlos recorded up to 600 micrograms of total suspended particulates
(TSP) per cubic meter at two locations in the city's southern district.
The maximum recommended by the World Health Organization is just
65 micrograms per cubic meter.
Sea Stars Alive, Not Dead
CITY - "If you throw garbage into the sea, the water becomes
polluted and the little fish will die. That's why I don't throw
anything in when I go to the beach," says Sara Emma Cevallos,
five, a preschooler from Mexico City.
"I really worry about the animals that
live in the sea. The ones I like best are the flying fish, pink
seahorses, baby octopuses, turtles, mermaids and sea stars, living,
She is also concerned about whales. "The
hunters are bad because they kill the whales and their babies. But
in Mexico they don't do it anymore because the president said not
to," says Sara Emma.
Recently at school, she and her classmates
spent an entire month studying different things related to the sea.
Through stories, films, games and artwork they learned about the
importance of marine life.
"I made a poster about the octopus. I
drew an octopus and I learned what they eat and how they care for
their babies. We filled a bottle with blue water, sand and little
fish made of paper. We put the sea in a bottle to show our parents,
in case they didn't know about the sea."
No Aerosols, Not Even for Graffiti
- "What I'm most worried about is the destruction of the ozone
layer," says Franco Balerio, 11. He proposes a ban on using
aerosol sprays, especially "for useless things like painting
graffiti on the walls."
Franco is in fifth grade at a private school
in the Uruguayan capital, and he is passionate about electronic
"Aerosols have something that wears out
the ozone layer and then it makes a hole, and the harmful solar
rays get through," he explains.
"My teacher told us about how before people
spent many hours at the beach and nothing bad happened, but then
a lot of aerosols were used and now we have to be careful, because
the sun burns our skin. There's a limit on which hours you can spend
in the sun."
Who is to blame? According to Franco, "the
industries, because they aren't concerned about nature. And the
people. Some people just don't care, and others don't realize the
harm they cause by using certain products."
According to the Montreal Protocol on the ozone
layer, Latin American countries must quit using chlorofluorocarbons
(CFCs) by 2010. These ozone-depleting substances are used in refrigeration
Kids Can Fix It
- "If the world continues as it is, the children in the future
won't be able to enjoy life. The animals, trees, flowers, water
-- everything will be contaminated," says Manuela Jaramillo,
12, a Colombian girl who will participate in the United Nations
International Children's Conference on the Environment, to take
place in the U.S. city of New London in July.
"I think the adult world has a lot of
work to do because most of the resolutions made about the environment
are just words. If all the governments made an effort to keep the
promises they already signed, the world would be better off,"
According to Manuela, the only Latin American
girl in a group of 11 youths from all around the world in charge
of organizing the children's summit, her generation "is very
concerned about the environment, because we are talking about the
world coming to an end."
She maintains that kids today are more aware
about environmental problems, "because now in the schools they
tell us about contamination and we learn a lot about it."
And Manuela remains optimistic: "The world
of the future has to be better, because when we kids become part
of the adult world we will be able to fix many things."
Garbage and Mercury
- "I like my forest because there are plants and animals. I
am worried about pollution, because it can make us all sick. And
what I'm most worried about is the garbage," says Oshin, 11,
who lives in the Peruvian Amazon.
In Oshin's village, Boca Amigos, there are
23 indigenous Andean families who moved there to search for gold
along the banks of a river in the Amazon jungle, nine hours by boat
from the nearest city.
There, the non-governmental Association for
Children and Their Environment (ANIA) is developing a pilot project
on environmental education for children and their parents.
"All of the kids in Boca Amigos put garbage
in three different bags. In one we put paper, in another goes food
scraps that are put in special containers to produce fertilizer,
and in the third we put glass and plastics, to be buried in a pit,"
But there is another serious problem that worries
Oshin: mercury. She knows that the liquid metal her father uses
to separate gold from the sand is a danger to her and the rest of
her family, and to the fish that they eat. But she does not have
a very clear idea of how to prevent or reduce that threat. That
is why she would rather talk about garbage.
The Color of Papaya
- "When they talk about nature, I think of lively colors, like
the color of parsley, pumpkins or the papayas we planted next to
my school. If we continue destroying nature, I imagine a gray future,
gray like ashes," says Carmen Elena Corales.
The 12-year-old resident of the Venezuelan
capital is in seventh grade at the Bolivarian Ecological School
"Simón Rodríguez", which is supported by
the army at Fort Tiuna, the main military base in Caracas.
"My school is built up against a mountain
and we grew the little plants that we later enjoyed in the lunchroom.
If we wanted to we would be able to conserve nature," she says.
The illegal trafficking of animals also worries
Carmen. "Birds are my favorite animals, with their vibrant
colors and their freedom of flight. I don't like zoos, with their
caged, sad animals, and it hurts me to see animals sold in cages
along the highway."
"There should be campaigns like those
of Inparques (National Parks Institute) so that people become aware
that the Earth is our big house. There should be games so that children
are in contact with nature and see how wonderful it is."
Too Much Water in Buenos Aires
AIRES - "The most serious problem is the flooding, and if (President
Néstor) Kirchner solves it, that would help many people,"
says Manuel Waldman, a 10-year-old who lives in the Argentine capital.
Manu, as he is known, is a fan of "Harry
Potter", and he even looks like the famous book and movie character
when he puts on his little glasses.
He is upset about the rains that frequently
transform his city into something that looks like Venice, Italy.
Once, the bus that was bringing him home from summer vacation was
delayed several hours because of flooding. His parents worried desperately
until he finally arrived, safe and sound.
"In Buenos Aires, people throw garbage
in the street and it (blocks the drains), so everything becomes
flooded. There are people who can't even get out of their homes,
and the traffic is awful," he says.
In April 2003, the flooding of the Salado River
in Santa Fe province, caused by heavy rains and the lack of a containment
system, was so severe that 23 people died and 135,000 had to be
"That would really upset me if it happened
to my family," says Manu.