Every Mexican Accountable in New Green Vision

By Susana Guzmán

MEXICO CITY, Mexico, December 27, 2000 (ENS) - The new government of Vicente Fox wants to change Mexicans' culture in order to better protect Mexico's environment. That was the message of a "New Vision" announced by Semarnat, the country's environment ministry.

"Everywhere we see there is garbage - in the country, on the highway," said Environment Minister Victor Lichtinger, at the unveiling of "New Vision about Environment Education of Semarnat," last week.

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Environment Minister Victor Lichtinger flanked by Tiahoga Ruge, newly appointed director of the Center of Education and Training for Sustainable Development. (Photo by Susana Guzmán)
"We should convince Mexicans that the responsible action about environment depends on each one."

Lichtinger was the first executive director of the Environmental Commission for the North American Free Trade Agreement. One of his first acts as Environment Minister was to change the name of his department to Semarnat - Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources.

Under the prior administration of Ernesto Zedillo, the department was called Semarnap - Secretary of Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries.

Lichtinger serves under the newly elected government of Vicente Fox. Last month, Fox's Alliance for Change party overturned seven decades of dominance by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).

The New Vision attempts to involve society in a change of culture through environmental education. It calls for public policies that make it clear everyone has a role to play.

Integral to that vision is the Center of Education and Training for Sustainable Development (Cecadesu). Under Semarnat, the center will be strengthened by international cooperation and the participation of private sector and non-governmental organizations working closely with the federal and local governments of Mexico.

During last week's event, Tiahoga Ruge was named as executive director of Cecadesu. In 1995, Ruge founded the Environmental Information and Education Center of North America (CICEANA), a non-governmental organization specializing in environmental education.

The center is made up of three public areas: the Ecological Videotec, with a library of educational materials; a computer database known as the Center for Environmental Information; and El Semillero, an open green area inside a tree nursery that offers workshops to 180 children every day.

Ruge told ENS that Cecadesu will try to raise environmental awareness by reaching out to schools and rural and urban communities.

Although its budget is not finalized, Cecadesu is in line for funding from the federal government and international institutions, she said.

"As promoters we will work with teachers, leaders of NGOs in rural communities, directors of schools, the secretary of public education as well as media," said Ruge.

"Media has a huge role to give the population environmental education," said Ruge, adding that there are plans for ecological TV soap operas and ecological advertising spots.

Fox's ministers must account for their ministeries within 100 days of the new government taking office. In that time, Cecadesu will announce its own plans. Ruge said that there is already much material, including videos and CDs, to launch the new vision on environmental education.

"We will use the infrastructure of communication and information that exists, as well as Internet to make a real impact," said Ruge.