Rodrigo García Píngaro
This profile was prepared when Rodrigo García Píngaro was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
To address the mounting stress on Uruguay’s oceanic environment, Rodrigo is developing ecotourism to meet the growing demand for tourist activities in Uruguay’s natural environment in a way that links the economy, local society, and the environment so they positively reinforce one another. To bolster protection of the coast as a whole, Rodrigo developed a ‘whale route’ that integrates marine and coastal tourism. Because Baleen whales migrate in Uruguayan spring, Rodrigo is extending the classic two-month summer tourist season to become six months long. Fostering a new niche in the tourist market not only brings business that would otherwise be dormant most of the year, but it also creates opportunities for the local population to establish a variety of lucrative tourist services so they do not have to relocate elsewhere for work. By incorporating seasonal flora and fauna into the whale route and portraying them as cultural symbols, Rodrigo also cultivates grater awareness among local communities of their natural environment and creates incentives to care for the environment. Finally, throughout Uruguay, the OCC manages environmental education programs for youth. Regarding public policy and administration of the coastal territory, the OCC is raising environmental standards by establishing a stamp that certifies environmentally friendly tourist companies. It also organized an agreement for Protected Marine Coastal Areas that was signed by businesses, citizen organizations (COs), government ministries, and local municipalities. Rodrigo’s work thus improves environmental administration of the coast, offsets the impact of traditional tourism, and creates incentives for businesses and communities to go green. Never before has there been such a collaborative, comprehensive and systematic approach to marine and coastal protection in Uruguay.