Rogelio Cova Juarez

Ashoka Fellow
Mexico,
Fellow Since 1991
Centro Educacion Ambiental y Accion Ecologica, A.C.

Citation

This profile was prepared when Rogelio Cova Juarez was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1991.
The New Idea
The last half decade has seen Mexico become increasingly aware of its growing environmental problems. Legislation such as the 1987 National Law for Ecological Equilibrium have encouraged environmentalists.
However, awareness and even action at the national level have not yet led to change at the state and local levels. Since most concrete environmental decisions are taken at the local level, the environment continues to deteriorate rapidly.
Rogelio plans to help local communities develop the understanding, desire, and skills they need if they are to take on the many environmental challenges facing them. Only when local officials and citizens can talk knowledgeably about the causes and effects of deforestation and about the pH levels in an area's groundwater can they even recognize that the water system that sustains them is falling apart. Even then, they must know more to be able to work out the most sensible, fair ways of arresting and reversing the damage. They must also develop skills of working together-sorting out the problems analytically on the one hand and of negotiating a fair sharing of the burdens on the other.
None of this comes to people automatically or easily, let alone to communities, where many minds must think together.
Rogelio is developing an approach that he hopes will enable local officials and civil society quickly to learn both how to analyze the environmental problems before them and how to work together. Working at the municipal, or "bioregional," level, his approach brings the different elements of the community together in an integrated program of education leading directly to joint action. The heads of local ejidos, civic organizations, schools, and municipal authorities come together in a working group that gradually lays out all the region's environmental problems and then prioritizes both these needs and possible corrective actions. These small (typically 20) representative working groups, with the help of Rogelio and his colleagues, gradually work towards consensus. In the process Rogelio seeks to build their cultural pride-and therefore a sense of responsibility for taking care of what is theirs.
As consensus develops in this core group, Rogelio works to bring the broader community along as well. He encourages the committee to use local radio to explain its thinking. A mobile ecological van, or "school," and special three-day camps for groups of up to 21 youngsters further strengthen this broader educative effort.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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