Bolivia’s environmentalists feel their country’s environmental disasters have not drawn media attention due to the greenwashing campaign of its ex-president. Recently, Gina Mendez, a leading environmental activist in Bolivia was interviewed by Rhett A. Butler, founder of Mongabay, in which she spoke of how they are tackling Bolivia’s environmental crisis.
How Bolivia’s Environmental Crisis Worsened Through the Years
During his term as president, Evo Morales. diverted people’s attention away from the industrial agriculture’s destruction of ecosystems, which mostly involved burning of forests. Yet in the past 20 years, Bolivia’s forests have been rapidly disappearing, causing a great loss of primary forest by a size that is ranked as the second largest in South America, next to Brazil.
Despite previous governments’ much publicized announcements of laws aimed at protecting Mother Earth, the increasing incidences of severe wildfires initiated by the country’s agricultural industry have destroyed ecosystems, and caused the rapid shrinking of its diverse forests.
In 2017, a group of Bolivian citizens led by Gina Méndez, founded a non-government organization called “El Llamado del Bosque.” Roughly translated, “llamado” means call, bosque means forest, put together, it means the “Call of the Forest.” The purpose of which is to launch campaigns to save not only Bolivia’s forests but also the wildlife and the forest-dependent communities.
How El Llamado del Bosque has Been Responding to the Call of Bolivia’s Forests
El Llamado del Bosque called its campaign “El Pacto del Bosque” (“Forest Pact”). Initially 100 prominent Bolivian leaders representing different groups in Bolivia signed up to respond to the call.
Today, more than 500 individuals, organizations and institutions are participating in El Llamado del Bosque’s coordinated actions. Their campaigns include not only protests, but also environmental education initiatives, forest restoration drives in areas affected by fires and fund raising drives by way of eco-festivals.
Who is Gina Mendez?
Gina Mendez said she initiated the establishment of El Llamado del Bosque in 2017 after deciding that solving Bolivia’s environmental problem required common efforts. El Llamado del Bosque provides a platform to which citizens can contribute efforts in conserving Bolivia’s forests.
A lawyer by profession, Ms. Méndez has been the country’s Minister of Justice and Human Rights for years. In 2001, she became the first female to be elected as mayor of Sta. Cruz, Bolivia’s largest city, for which she earned the nickname “eco-mayor.” In 2002 she was also elected as member of Bolivia’s national congress and later appointed to serve as Minister of Justice and Human Rights.