César Meyer Musso
Fellow Since 1994
This profile was prepared when César Meyer Musso was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1994.
The New Idea
César Musso is now building a broadly based environmental movement in his home state of Espírito Santo with a view to expanding it nationally. His current plans have emerged from a decade of successes in protecting fragile island ecosystems that serve as breeding grounds for tern, including one rare species, and in creating urban demonstration gardens of the once prolific indigenous Atlantic rainforest plants. Since 1982, the organization founded by César to protect endangered habitats and species has developed and demonstrated an effective methodology for changing attitudes and behavior destructive to "conservation areas." The model that has evolved recognizes that the legal and administrative designation of protected reserves (or parks) is not adequate protection in and of itself. It relies principally on volunteer citizen effort to employ several mutually reinforcing techniques, including (1) education among people utilizing the threatened habitat and demonstration of beneficial alternatives to destructive present-day patterns; (2) maintaining a continuous presence in threatened areas to serve as a constant reminder to potential environment abusers; and (3) demonstrating income-earning possibilities in nature tourism.Finance for core expenses of his organization has come from leading companies that also make a commitment to environmental education among their employees. As a central principle, they organize fundraising with citizen involvement and design its projects to be sustainable through voluntary citizen involvement rather than donor finance.César is now seeking to apply his approach throughout Espírito Santo and beyond. With seed finance from the state government, his organization is providing technical assistance (information, contacts and training) and modest financial support to existing initiatives that show the capacity and inclination to follow the model that he has developed. By linking existing initiatives together as "nuclei," César intends to build an institutional infrastructure for a popularly based environmental movement.