ExplorersBio

Maritza Morales Casanova

Environmentalist

Emerging Explorer

Picture of Maritza Morales Casanova

Photograph by François Schaer/Rolex Awards

Picture of Martiza Morales Casanova

Photograph by François Schaer, Rolex Awards

Environmentalist Maritza Morales Casanova has spent the last two decades working to revolutionize environmental education and awareness in Mexico—and she's only 29. At age ten, she founded the environmental organization HUNAB (Humanity United to Nature in Harmony for Beauty, Welfare, and Goodness) when she saw neighborhood children harming animals and vegetation. The organization has grown to become the force behind a major educational park focused not only on empowering children with conservation knowledge but also with leadership skills to become strong activists and agents of change. Today, Ceiba Pentandra Park provides a free, interactive learning experience for children and teachers on topics ranging from climate change and wetland conservation to wildlife protection and pollution. When completed, it will accommodate 64,000 children each year. The park's most unusual aspect is its teachers: other children. "I know children have great capacity to be leaders because I lived that experience," she observes. Casanova is a 2012 Rolex Young Laureate for the Environment.

 

Where were you born?

Mérida, Yucatán, México

Where do you currently live?

Mérida, Yucatán, México

What inspires you to dedicate your life to your work?

What inspires me? At the beginning it was because of my feelings of respect and wanting to protect life. I grew up and my vision got stronger because I believe that we humans are in Grandma Earth to protect what God created. In my childhood I helped my dad with planting. We made gardens for people. I talked with plants and asked them to grow beautiful. I saw my friends hurting animals and plants at school and they didn't understand that they are living beings and must be respected. That's why I launched my movement called HUNAB.

What has been your most rewarding or memorable experience in your field?

When I was in high school I remember once we discovered an abandoned factory and there was a family of owls. The factory was going to be demolished. We asked for help to save the owls. A biologist listened to us but when we went back to rescue them, we found that somebody had killed the little owls. Ignorance makes people act against life but education can transform them into heroes.

What's a normal work day like for you?

A normal day is to have always a different day—different activities like fundraising, meetings, writing, planning. It also depends on seasons: building of the park, aquaculture program, designing games. I have no schedule, morning, afternoon, or evening; when you do something that you love it's not work—it's a lifestyle.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Just keep working.

If you could have people do one thing to help save the Earth, what would it be?

To allow children access to high-level environmental education, because they are the heroes of Grandma Earth. Their hands may be small but their hearts are immense.

If a country has problems with its democracy, it will have more time to solve it and it will survive. If a country has problems with its economy, it will have more time to solve it and it will survive. But if a country has problems with its natural resources and environment, the country will not have more time to solve it, because it is the base of healthy development and growth, its heritage and its sovereignty.

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In Their Words

Education is the most powerful tool we have for solving environmental problems. Empower children with information, leadership skills, and confidence and they will change the world.

—Maritza Morales Casanova

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