By Sergio Adrian Angeles
Queretaro, Mexico, Dec 25 (efe-epa).- Martha Isabel “Pati” Ruiz Corzo, proclaimed “Mexico’s Hero” by Global Citizen for her tireless defense of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, tells Efe that she is deeply concerned about the health of the environment in her country.
At 67, she continues directing the organization she founded more than three decades ago to advocate for the mountainous reserve and its communities, Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda.
The protected area encompasses the northern third of the central Mexican state of Queretaro and part of neighboring Guanajuato, Hidalgo and San Luis Potosi.
The highest peak in the Sierra Gorda range rises 3,100 m (10,163 ft) above sea level.
“It is a very complex reserve because it is 384,000 hectares (947,810 acres) with 638 communities, where those communities of extreme poverty are the owners of the land,” Ruiz Corzo says.
“Achieving the conservation of the natural resources implies generating many opportunities for economic development, social development, for formation of an ecological culture among the citizenry,” she adds.
Ruiz Corzo has concentrated on fostering sustainability through education and social programs, showing Sierra Gorda residents how to reduce the negative environmental impact of their activities, above all by moving away from cattle ranching.
“They are forest owners who receive payments for excluding cattle and allowing natural regeneration. That is the great wager of the Sierra Gorda, that still has a lot of energy from nature,” she tells Efe.
“And if you bring in extensive grazing of cattle and leave the forest without that grazing, that is the great opportunity to mitigate climate change significantly,” Ruiz Corzo says, referring to an approach that eschews the creation of artificial pasture for livestock.
One of the most pressing problems for the guardians of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve is arson.
“Unfortunately, there is still no environmental authority that listens to us when there is a daredevil who starts a fire and you know who it is. And that impunity, that lack of consequences, that is the worst,” the activist says.
Global Citizen, whose mission is to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, views the climate crisis as having an enormous bearing on the chances of accomplishing that goal and Ruiz Corzo agrees.
“That is the worst threat, climate change: drier years, always less rain – years when it doesn’t get cold enough, the pests overwhelm us.”
“I see a wounded Mexico, a Mexico with its natural resources exhausted. I see a Mexico exposed,” she says.
The Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda can point to tangible achievements in persuading the inhabitants of the reserve to adapt more sustainable practices. The challenge now is to bring that message to everyone.
“Prepare for a drastic change in our way of life. Because it’s not possible that our planet endures a society of so many millions and millions of people with those barbarous consumption habits,” Ruiz Corzo warns.
She insists that the Mexico’s Hero honor belongs to all of the people who have joined the effort to protect the biosphere reserve.
“The recognition is not for Pati Ruiz Corzo nor for the ecological group. There are many us who work in favor of Mother Earth in the Sierra Gorda.” EFE sa/dr