A Hidden Ecosystem: Tamara Blazquez Haik

by | Dec 24, 2020 | Heartivist Of The Week

One day several years ago, photographer and animal activist Tamara Blazquez Haik was walking home when she came across a poisoned opossum lying dead on the sidewalk.

Many people might have kept walking and not given this a second thought, but Tamara couldn’t help but wonder why someone would want to hurt a creature so harmless. She further thought about how in her home of Mexico City, many people seemed to view nature as alien; she reflected on how concepts like coexisting with wildlife seem far away amidst so much traffic, pollution and development.

Mexico City is home to almost 22 million people and is one of the largest cities in the world. Yet it is also home to over 2,200 animal species, including 32 which are found nowhere else in the world. Many of these are endangered. Tamara decided to use her skills in photography to document as many species living in Mexico City as she could, and to use those images to spark awareness, empathy, and respect for the animals who live there. She received seed funding for this project from The Pollination Project, and based her rationale on the idea that people do not protect what they do not love, and they cannot love that which they do not know exists.

In vibrant detail, her photographs capture the gauzy wings of Dainty Sulphur Butterflies, the prehistoric armor of the Crocodile, and the cautiously elusive Ring-Tailed Cat. She has photographed the colorful scales of the Prickly-Necklaced Lizard, territorial disputes of Mexican Tiger Herons, and the majestic power of the Black-Collared Hawk. These images give everyday residents of Mexico City a glimpse into an entire world that they may have never before considered.

Tamara has brought these images to schools, highlighted them in exhibitions, and found new audiences through two partnerships with national news outlets. Even through COVID-19 restrictions, she has been able to facilitate virtual workshops for school children to learn about the natural world that exists even within such a large city. Now, Tamara is compiling her work into a photobook that she hopes to distribute to local schools.

Her photographs were recently used as evidence in several lawsuits to protect endangered species like the axolotl, a charismatic species of salamander known for its ability to regenerate limbs. The axolotl is extremely endangered and only found in the canals around Lake Xochimilco in Southern Mexico City. Despite being a UNESCO heritage site, Lake Xochimilco is threatened by development. The documentation that Tamara’s work has provided is an important part of the effort to save this ecologically important area from further urbanization.

Learn more about Tamara’s work and see more images at https://www.tamarablazquez.com/.

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Academic professionals Carla Forte Maiolino Molento and Rodrigo Morais-da-Silva founded Cell Ag Brazil at the end of 2023 with support received from The Pollination Project. The objective of the newly created association is to reflect, contribute, and promote the development of cellular agriculture in Brazil through proactive promotion and unifying actions among different audiences interested in the development, production, and commercialization of food through cell cultivation processes. 
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With a seed grant, they founded the organization and designed a logo that represents their mission. They are now inviting people and organizations to participate in the association so that it gains greater relevance. 
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Their members will be distributed across three chambers: 1) academia, 2) private sector, and 3) third sector and civil society. With this, they aim for diverse representation and to create a positive movement to act in different areas to promote and accelerate alternative proteins in Brazil and Latin America.
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Billions of animals involved in food production in Brazil will be impacted in the medium to long term from this work. Data from IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) indicates that approximately 6.1 billion chickens, 56.5 million pigs, and 30 million cattle were slaughtered in Brazil in 2022. 
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With this association, Carla and Rodrigo may help reduce the number of non-human individuals involved in food production as they help to speed up the replacement process with alternative proteins.
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In this World Day of Social Justice we celebrate the transformative impact of The Pollination Project and our dedication to seeding the essential change our world needs. Since its inception, The Pollination Project has been at the forefront of empowering grassroots initiatives, providing the crucial support needed for small-scale projects to blossom into powerful agents of social change.

Our unique model of micro-granting has enabled a diverse array of projects across the globe, touching upon various facets of social justice including environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, gender equality, and human rights. From providing clean water solutions in remote villages to empowering women through education and entrepreneurship, we always believed in the power of individual action to create a collective impact.

Each project funded is a testament to our faith in the inherent goodness and potential of every person to contribute meaningfully to the betterment of society. These initiatives not only address immediate community needs but also foster a culture of empathy, equity, and inclusiveness - essential pillars for achieving true social justice.

On this World Day of Social Justice, let's draw inspiration from the myriad projects The Pollination Project has nurtured. Their work reminds us that each small seed of kindness and action can indeed grow into a mighty force for good, paving the way for a more just and compassionate world.