EcoPrácticas: Uplifting the New Voices of Environmental Advocacy in Venezuela

by | Sep 22, 2023 | Heartivist Of The Week

By 2015, 289 species were threatened with extinction in Venezuela, Libro Rojo de la Fauna Venezolana.

“I believe in working towards the common good, and environmental advocacy allows me to contribute to the well being of the planet. I believe that even the smallest action can contribute to the construction of a better and sustainable future,” Fernando Jaúregui, Founder of EcoPrácticas Foundation.

The Universe is a complex conglomerate of galaxies. Millions of stars along with their planets and other heavenly masses inhabit the vastness of the infinity. Yet, in all that immensity we still haven’t been able to find a planet that can harbor life – as we know it – in such a perfect and delicate balance as Earth. So our faith lies in the continuance of the conditions that this planet has created for us. Just like the American writer, cosmologist and scientist Carl Sagan once said: “Preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we´ve ever known,” an ideology that has accompanied Fernando Jaúregui throughout his life and something that he wants to pass along to the younger generations.  

Fernando Jaúregui is a Venezuelan news and documentary producer, journalist and environmental advocate. He has always had a special relationship with nature. From his childhood years, he remembers going to Playa Grande beach about an hour away from Caracas with his family to enjoy a picnic by the sea and have the best of times with his parents and younger brother. 

“We used to scuba dive and it was amazing to witness the wonders of the sea as a young boy and to feel so connected with the ocean,” recalls Fernando. “My parents taught me and my brother to love nature.”

Fernando traveled abroad to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Preschool Teaching from Palomar College in San Diego and a bachelor’s degree in Human Development from the Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena, both in California. He also has a master’s degree in Social Psychology and another master´s degree in Environmental Strategic Design, both at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He worked for over 20 years with the Associated Press and was a producer for the CNN World Report in Venezuela. For him, working with the camera is his way of making art. 

“Having an extended trajectory and experience as an international news worker has given me the sensitivity to understand the importance of boosting a positive change using education in order to truly transform our reality,” says Fernando. “The combination of radio, tv and the digital media world – as well as field work – has allowed me to raise awareness towards the defense of the environment in Venezuela.”

Biodiversity Crisis in Venezuela

Venezuela is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, it has the Andes to the West and the Amazonia to the South as well as the central plains, the Caribbean coast and the Orinoco basin.

In the 2022 Global Biodiversity Index by The Swiftest, Venezuela ranked in the 11th position worldwide comprising the following species: 1,386 birds, 365 amphibians, 1,735 fish, 376 mammals, 419 reptiles and 30,000 vascular plants. 

Unfortunately, according to the Red Book of the Venezuelan Fauna (Libro Rojo de la Fauna Venezolana) – which is a list of threatened, endangered and extinct species – by 2015, 289 species were threatened with extinction and 256 were almost threatened. In addition, 2 species were extinct globally (one amphibian and one fish) and one species of bird was extinct regionally. The study comprised only 915 animal species from which 370 didn’t have enough data and couldn’t be evaluated. 

The Red Book also noted that the main threat to 65% of the studied species is the use of their habitats for agriculture, livestock and fishing. The modification of natural ecosystems like cost dredging for residential and commercial development affects 34% and 29% of the threatened species. Fishing and hunting affect 35% of the threatened species, in particular 100% of the mollusks and cartilaginous fish such as sharks, stingrays and sawfish; as well as 60% of reptiles, 54% of fish and 50% of spiders. Contamination diminishes 34% of the threatened species, including 67% of corals and 60% of crustaceans. While climate change was found to affect 100% of the threatened corals and 42% of amphibians.

Advocating for the Environment in Venezuela

With decades of experience in the media, Fernando decided he wanted to communicate something that would not only inform but inspire and motivate others to create that positive change he wanted to achieve in the world by taking care of and restoring the environment, so he created EcoPrácticas.

“I started in the year 2000 with two short information capsules of 30 to 35 seconds giving advice on how to care for the environment. I implemented that in the CNN World Report program that I produced locally in Globovisión,” remembers Fernando. “And, about 10 years ago, I decided to shift the content of the show to dedicate it completely to the environment. That is how Ecoprácticas was born.”

EcoPrácticas became a one hour radio show and on tv a 30-minute once a week program, as well as 2 minute capsules – as part of another show – from Monday to Friday, addressing relevant ecological issues and proposing viable solutions. Fernando created a platform to make visible the efforts of grassroots organizations, field-research specialists and private and public initiatives focused on mitigating the carbon footprint and promoting sustainable human development. 

“Our goal is to build a new paradigm about the way we interact with – and take advantage of – environmental services and resources, recognizing the fundamental value of life and its deep and systemic relationship with the natural world,” explains Fernando.

Giving a Voice to the New Generations

Fernando is the oldest independent producer of the tv channel Galavisión in Caracas, Venezuela. At 71-years-old, he is well-known and respected by the public, but for him it is not about the fame or the permanence in the media Fernando wants to prepare the next generation of young voices that will continue to fight for the environmental care in his beloved country.

“We need to put in the front page young people, those emerging actors and initiatives, giving them the chance and coverage to send their message and create new ways of proposing possible futures, as well as educating the general public on the issues that are important to them, and stimulating a more proactive stance that leads to change,” says Fernando. “There is a lot of valuable young talent that can make an impact on the audience with their message.”

In order to support the participation of young people with environmental programs, Fernando and his wife created the project, “New Voices, New Horizons”, where they will select 4 youth initiatives that have community-based activities focused on sustainability and environmental awareness which can communicate a relevant message to the public. Fernando will guide the young environmentalists to create technical and narrative scripts in order to produce: four, 3-minute videos for social platforms, a 7-minute video segment for the EcoPrácticas tv show, a 15-minute YouTube documentary and a 30-minute podcast about the project with four episodes.

“Our intention is to identify initiatives that are being developed collectively, regardless of their social condition, and that have demonstrated an initial level of awareness and participation for change,” says Fernando.

Education: an Essential Tool for Saving the Planet

Besides working in the media, Fernando has conducted other important projects to promote environmental conservation through the EcoPrácticas Foundation. He is firmly convinced that education is an essential tool for saving the planet. Therefore, he constantly visits elementary and high schools in vulnerable zones of Caracas to give free workshops to both teachers and students. Some of the training he provides includes the creation of sustainable orchards and presentations on relevant topics such as, the negative impact of fast fashion to our ecosystem and the importance of recycling. 

“During a tv intervention a girl came up with the phrase: Become a hero, defend the environment and that had a huge impact on two groups of students that we visited. It gave them a heroic reason, a socially accepted reason to participate in taking care of the environment,” says Fernando. “In our visits to schools we address a wide variety of aspects related to the environment, especially those close to the youth. We want children and teenagers to realize that its cool to work in favor of our planet. That is the main reason why we want to invite other young people to speak on behalf of environmentally positive practices.”

To make the “New Voices, New Horizons” project possible Fernando needed funding to buy technical equipment, transportation material and services like translation and subtitling for the productions. His wife helped him to look for grants online. After a while, she found The Pollination Project and they decided to apply.

“I can not tell you the feeling of being selected. Beyond the grant, it is amazing to have been chosen over who knows how many great projects,” says Fernando. “It is an immense joy to know that TPP noticed us and thought that we are doing a good job. It also makes us more committed to fulfill every expectation. There is a lot of work to do around the world, but I feel hopeful because the improvements in environmental regeneration we can achieve in Venezuela will benefit all our planet.”

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