Ernesto Alejandro Muñoz Vizcarra, Heat and Humidity: The Fight for Cacti

Date grant awarded: December 16, 2016

By Selene Gonzalez-Carillo

Currently there are many places where breeding succulents and cacti are only done for a profit, rather than for raising public awareness of their ecosystem functions and the exploitation they face when they are extracted illegally. This project headed by Ernesto, Alondra, Marlo, Jorge and Francisco, with the support of A World Forever (Un Mundo X Siempre), aims to teach people about the environmental impact generated by the extraction of these plants, as well as providing advice and suggestions for responsible adoption. They aim to make our city and its citizens a friendly space for the local wildlife that grows within its concrete jungle and hopefully expand the biodiversity in the city space itself.

I love going to different places where inspirational environmental projects are on display. Once a month, usually the last Sunday, at a local public park there is a Trueque Market. This type of market is key to the idea of economic solidarity and it promotes alternative ways to consume and exchange goods, by not allowing participants or visitors to use money.

It was at one of these Trueque Markets that I met the members of the group Un Mundo X Simpre ( A World for Ever) which was trading worm fertilizer and other urban garden goods for whatever people had to trade with. This sparked a conversations that lead to me visiting them at their location in a housing project in the north of Guadalajara.

It is rare to find young people who exhibit the curiosity, dedication and skills of professionally trained scientist, and yet that is exactly what I found. When I arrived on a Wednesday afternoon after the group had finished giving a workshop to their neighbors in the housing project, I was shown the small but absolutely beautiful orchid Sanctuary that Ernesto and the other young people, had constructed with recycled material. One could sense the living spirit of these plants when inside.

We need to fund ordinary people who just decide that combating environmental change is a personal life goal. There is a passion in this group – it is perhaps the mere fact that they need no convincing or persuading to be better stewards of our planet, they just are. They are such an amazing example of hope for our future, and they’re so humble about what they do. To them, caring for cacti in danger of extinction and sharing with others their knowledge is as natural as breathing.

The project proposes to create a large nursery and sanctuary to help with their reproduction and care. They also want to raise awareness of the importance of combating the possible extinction of the different varieties by providing care workshops, creating a manual for their care from recycled paper and having Agro-ecological Trueque Markets with a focus on Cacti. The end goal would be to foster and facilitate responsible adoption of the cacti and succulent plants grown and to teach people that they are a vital part of the ecosystem.