Saturday, October 16

Alex Muñoz: build a better relationship with nature | Digital Trends Spanish

In Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), Digital Trends in Spanish seeks to highlight Latino personalities who have excelled in different areas.

One of these fields is environmental care, where the Chilean Alex Muñoz carries out important and respected work.

The environmentalist was born in Santiago in 1974. Today he is the director for Latin America of the Pristine Seas initiative of National Geographic, which is concerned with the conservation of the oceans throughout the planet.

We spoke with this lawyer from the University of Chile about the work he does in Pristine Seas, his ecological vocation and the greatest threats facing the Latin American coasts.

“The degradation of the world’s oceans is one of the most serious problems facing the planet today, and of course Latin America is not alien to this reality,” he says by way of warning.

How would you describe your job as director for Latin America for Pristine Seas? What does it consist of?

Pristine Seas is a National Geographic initiative dedicated to ocean conservation around the world. We combine scientific expeditions, high-end documentaries, work with local communities and government authorities such as presidents or ministers of state so that the most important marine ecosystems are protected. As director for Latin America of Pristine Seas, my job consists of leading campaigns and strategically articulating all these tools to achieve the creation of marine protected areas.

Where does this personal concern for the care and respect for the environment come from?

From a very young age I wanted to fight injustice. That is what has motivated me all my life. For years, I dedicated myself to defending human rights as I wanted to help people who experienced abuse. My first job was to advocate for women who suffered from domestic violence. Later, an ocean conservation organization called Oceana offered me to join their team and I turned to the world of conservation. Not only did I fall in love with the ocean, but I found many common elements between human rights and environmentalism. When there is an environmental conflict you have a powerful part and a more vulnerable part that suffers the consequences. That is why working for the protection of nature is also my way of helping communities that are suffering from environmental impacts.

What do you consider to be the main threats facing the coasts of Latin America?

The degradation of the world’s oceans is one of the most serious problems facing the planet today and, of course, Latin America is not alien to this reality. We have preyed on more than 90 percent of the big fish like sharks and tunas. Two thirds of the fisheries are overexploited or even depleted. Trawling not only destroys the habitat of thousands of species but also releases the carbon dioxide captured on the seabed. Added to this are the impacts of climate change that is making the sea more acidic and increasing its temperature, which is altering the distribution of species. There are also industries highly destructive of marine ecosystems such as salmon farming in Chilean Patagonia, coal-fired thermoelectric plants in almost all the countries of the region, and large-scale mining that severely pollutes the environment.

How do you think the attitude of the different countries in the region has been to climate change?

The balance is mixed. There are some countries that have taken the global environmental crisis seriously. Some have strongly increased their protected areas on land and sea, which helps mitigate climate change and allows better adaptation of these ecosystems. There are also others who are making important commitments to lower their CO2 emissions. But it remains to be seen whether or not they will deliver. And then there are the denialist leaders who are undermining global efforts to control climate change in very irresponsible ways. There is much to do. We must reduce in practice, not only in declarations, our greenhouse gas emissions drastically, close the coal-fired thermoelectric plants between now and 2030, continue to expand our protected areas on land and sea in the most fragile and critical areas, especially in the coastal areas, in the forests and in all the wild places that we have left.

If you had to choose a “victory” for yourself or for your work in the field of defense and preservation of the oceans, what would it be and why?

There are different ways of looking at it. I have been able to promote the creation of the seven largest fully protected marine reserves in Latin America, together with local governments and communities. I also led the campaign that made Chile the first country in the world to protect all of its seamounts from trawling, the ban on shark finning in Chile, and the protection of vast areas of Patagonia against threats from salmon farming. . However, for me the how is as important as the what. What matters most to me is to build trust with actors who are generally on opposite sides of the discussion, make sure they listen to each other, and create a common solution together. We have to build bridges to find a solution to the great problems facing the planet.

How do you envision the future of the oceans for us Latinos?

The good news is that the future depends on us. Whether or not we have a healthy ocean is our sole responsibility. But we have to make decisions and change our behaviors if we want this to happen. We must build a better relationship with nature and respect its limits. I hope that by 2030 we will have at least 30 percent of the ocean protected, which will help prevent the extinction of thousands of species, mitigate climate change, and ensure a permanent source of food for the world’s population.

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