Ruben Pablos

Ashoka Fellow
Bariloche, Argentina
Fellow Since 2008


This profile was prepared when Ruben Pablos was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Ruben realized the Patagonian population did not feel connected to the environment and this was a major cause of the severe environmental deterioration in the region. He consequently developed a strategy focused on environmental education and restoration, which he carries out through Sembrar, the citizen organization (CO) he founded.

Sembrar combats environmental problems such as erosion, forest fire damage, and the introduction of aggressive foreign species by generating civic engagement through various forms of education. It is the first institution to include the community in an organized way. It raises awareness and proactive responses using a variety of tactics. Sembrar published the first materials available to the general public about the threats facing Patagonia’s natural habitat and how residents could help. It also offers training to professionals connected to the environment, such as tourism company employees, gardeners, and journalists.

Sembrar works with the school system to provide new teaching materials and opportunities for students. Forty-five schools have adopted a curriculum Ruben designed that uses experiential education, in which students physically engage with the outdoors, as a tool to cultivate an understanding of the environment and an investment in caring for it. Sembrar’s Nursery for Native Plants also leads massive reforestation campaigns to replant national parks devastated by forest fires with species native to each area. The nursery is used as a Green Classroom to educate school and university students about reforestation and to involve them in the process.

Ruben is influencing public policy at the national and local levels. He succeeded in lobbying the municipal government of Bariloche to establish May 2 as National Park Day and to add education about national parks in to school curricula. This event was so successful that it was adopted by four other municipalities. Ruben is currently waiting for a decision from Congress about instituting Native Forest Day and its affiliated curricula at the national level.

Ruben employs creative ways for businesses to address their role in the damage caused by population growth and tourism in Patagonia. He designed a compensation system for gas emissions in which businesses make up for their environmental costs by financing reforestation and environmental education and by using green materials. His model has been tested at tourist-related events in Patagonia and has been well-received by municipal governments there. Ruben is writing a proposal for his compensation plan to be adopted as national policy. With the objective of engaging different participants and extending his impact in the region, Ruben is presently expanding Sembrar to three new locations. He is also collaborating with three Ashoka Fellows on The Patagonia Platform, which aims to foster public and private partnerships to consolidate their work in the region.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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