Last week 20-year old Carmen Monges from Paraguay was awarded the WWF International President’s Award 2014, which recognizes and encourages young people committed to the conservation of nature. We caught up with Carmen, and asked her about her activities.
TUNZA: Congratulations, Carmen – what started you on your path as a young conservationist?
Carmen: “My sense of outrage on discovering that, in 2004, my country, Paraguay, had the second-highest deforestation rate in the whole of South America. That’s what motivated me to do something to change things.”
TUNZA: Can you tell us a little about what you do?
Carmen: “I work as a volunteer to conserve and reforest the Atlantic Forest of the Alto Paraná – one of THE world’s 200 biodiversity hotspots. I give talks and support capacity-building for environmental issues in schools – our main aim is to build a team of young environmental leaders who can raise awareness in their communities and encourage reforestation and the protection of local woodlands and water sources.
“I also work as the Social Project Coordinator of AISEC-Paraguay’s Incoming Exchange initiative, and am currently running the Youth X Environment project to raise awareness of the importance of conservation, and promote ways of addressing environmental challenges through sustainable lifestyles and responsible consumption. This involves organizing workshops on sustainable development with school-age children and other young people.
“And then I’m a member of the Paraguayan Sustainable Cities Network, an independent citizen-led movement that works to develop Asunción, our capital, into a just and sustainable city. That’ll improve everyone’s quality of life there.”
TUNZA: Wow! … and you still find time to be the focal point in Paraguay for UNEP’s Tunza programme, don’t you? What does that involve?
Carmen: “It’s through Tunza that I coordinate local activities for the Think, Eat, Save: Reduce your food footprint campaign. This raises awareness of the global problem of food waste – as that’s bad for people, the economy and the environment. The campaign works to show people how just small adjustments in habits can go a long way in addressing this problem that affects us all.”
TUNZA: Good luck with all you are doing, Carmen, and with your studies to become a forestry engineer.