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Sarah Dickson

Ambassador to Guatemala (June 2012 - June 2015)

Part of UK in Guatemala

22nd June 2015

Hugging trees in the Mayan Biosphere

On European climate diplomacy day I am reminded of a recent visit to the Mayan Biosphere with Wildlife Conservation Society, The Balam Association (the Mayan word for jaguar) the Guatemalan national body for protected areas (CONAP) and a representative from the EU delegation.

During the visit we talked about illegal wildlife trafficking and compared the experience of three continents Africa, Asia and the Americas. It was a positive conversation about how the Americas can protect their flora and fauna learning from the methods others have already developed. One of the things that struck me is that once people understand the variety and quality of their environment they are more inspired to protect it. The Balam Association have been working with partners in Belize to share experiences and educate communities.   It was also noticeable how CONAP’s photos of Guatemalan animals which they had published on digital media had captured people’s imagination and enthusiasm for conservation.

We overflew the biosphere and saw the deforestation which in a large part was caused by cattle farms. The UK’s climate change negotiator, Sir David King had commented during his visit in May that the best way to make a positive impact on climate change was to protect forests. Not cutting down trees and replanting trees will make a tremendous difference to green house gases. So it was good to see that the deforestation trend was now in reverse with planting happening in various reclaimed areas.

So I asked what we all can we do to help? Buy and eat less unsustainably farmed products was one of the main answers. Try to pay care and attention to where our products come from. It might take a bit more time in the shop, but I saw that it was worth that effort. It could be your way of hugging a tree on the other side of the world.

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