The Alliance WWF-Carlos Slim Foundation and ConcentrArte project present the book “Cuatro Ciénegas: La mirada de sus niños” An invitation to preserve the richness of the valley, natural laboratory for the evolution of species.
Mexico City, December 9, 2009.
The Alliance WWF-Carlos Slim Foundation and the ConcentrArte project presented the book “Cuatro Ciénegas: La Mirada de sus niños” (Cuatro Ciénagas: the look of its children). The book is the result of an environmental education project based on the artistic work of children from the region. The aim is to bring awareness about the importance of preserving the Cuatro Ciénegas valley, which boasts more endemic species than any other region in North America. This is a natural laboratory for the evolution of species.
“The pools of Cuatro Ciénagas, located in the Chihuahuense desert in the Mexican State of Coahuila, conserve a food chain similar to the one that existed 550 million years ago. They conceal a very old secret: the origins of life on Earth. They are inhabited by colonies of bacteria forming estromatolites, organisms considered the inventors of photosynthesis”, explained Valeria Souza, researcher at UNAM’s Institute of Ecology who contributed to the book.
The presentation took place at the restaurant Sanborns “Casa de los Azulejos” in Mexico City’s historic center in the presence of Laurita Ramírez, a girl living in Cuatro Ciénegas; Teresa Lobo, the book’s author; Liliana Riva Palacio, Director of the ConcentrArte project; Valeria Souza; Omar Vidal, General Director of WWF Mexico; Ernesto Enkerlin, Head of the National Commission for Protected Natural Reserves; Patrick Slim Domit, President of the Board of America Móvil and Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources. During the presentation, participants discussed the natural and historical wealth of the region, the menaces it now faces and possible solutions for its conservation. The points of view from students in pre-school, primary and rural schools were also considered.
Valeria Souza and the ConcentrArte group desired to work with children living in the valley so as to make them aware of their role in the preservation of their natural environment. With this aim in mind, they conceived the “Environmental education project to rescue Cuatro Ciénegas” and with the support of the Alliance WWF-Carlos Slim Foundation they edited and published this book to invite all Mexican children to “know, love and protect” Cuatro Ciénegas.
As stated by Patrick Slim Domit, “Cuatro Ciénegas valley has a surface of 1,500 square kilometers and a population of little over 12,000 inhabitants. This is one of the 17 priority areas in the six regions where the Alliance WWF-Carlos Slim Foundation works. Along with some community leaders, environmental organizations and the Federal Government, the Alliance has drafted a Mexican agenda to foster important transformations for the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable development in our country. He also added, “in Cuatro Ciénegas we are working with the local population to preserve its natural wealth while contributing at the same time to improve their quality of life. This book is creative way to get children involved in the protection of their natural and cultural heritage”.
“When we asked the children to help us tell the world about the importance of this place, they did not hesitate and immediately started to paint, draw, cut, paste and construct in order to express through images their love for the place they live in”, explained Teresa Lobo. “They learned with their body –imitating the movements of the animals that inhabit the valley, the water, the mountains-, creating their art through paintings, theater plays, collages, art objects, hanging mobiles and installations, with branches, rocks, seeds and recycled garbage.
Cuatro Ciénegas hosts 350 species of different cacti like agave, lechugilla and maguey, aquatic birds like the aquatic alondra, diving birds; several fish like tilapias, mojarras and carps. In the higher parts of the mountains one can find woodlands of chopo trees, willows, poplars, oyamels, pine trees and birds like the woodpecker, mountain cockatoos and hummingbirds. There are mammals like squirrels, rabbits, grey foxes, raccoons and wild boars. Nevertheless, this extraordinary concentration of life, with a mix of varied ecosystems from deserts to wetlands and more than 70 endemic plants and animals, is in danger of extinction.
In the past years the quantity of water in the valley has dramatically diminished due to the excessive irrigation of alfalfa fields. Its water system is not connected to the sea or to other rivers. It is only nourished by rainwater, which is particularly scarce in this area. It is even believed that Cuatro Ciénegas pools belong to a fossil sea that was caught in the middle when the continents formed.
The book is organized as an ecosystem, with interrelated topics and activities for the readers. It covers several concepts like food chains, geologic eras, the water cycle and the history of local populations that left their imprint in cave paintings. The book depicts Cuatro Ciénegas human and natural wealth as a real oasis, comprised of more than 400 water bodies, pools, channels, and one of the earth’s largest dune-shaped plaster deposits. It portraits the discovery of 10,500 year old human footprints, the eldest ever found in North America.
“Because of this wealth, the valley was declared as a Natural Protected Reserve and since 2006 it has been recognized as a biosphere reserve by the world network “Men and Biosphere Program” of the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO). Thanks to this, the exploitation of the plaster deposits has been halted and work is under way to regulate water use and access to pools by tourists. But there is still much to do in order to preserve this valley, one of the few ecosystems that allow us to understand the evolution of the primitive Earth. This is why we consider it a priority for the Alliance WWF-Carlos Slim Foundation”, stated Omar Vidal, General Director of WWF, Mexico.
This book, he added, offers solutions to preserve the valley: the use of renewable waters, dripping irrigation or hydroponic systems; substitution of alfalfa fields by less water consuming crops; forbidding the extraction of plants and animals and fostering responsible tourism activities (no swimming in pools identified for conservation, no destruction of dunes and respect of archeological zones, among others).
Finally, the book is a wonderful voyage that invites the reader to discover Cuatro Ciénagas through the eyes of its children; it is a window to its past as well as to a future that is essential to preserve.
Note to the editors
Carlos Slim Foundation was created in 1986 under the name Carso Association A.C. En 2006 it changed its name to Carso Foundation and on May 24th, 2008 to Carlos Slim Foundation. Its mission is to support non-profit initiatives in the field of education, health, justice, environmental protection, personal and collective development. By providing human and financial resources, the Foundation helps Mexican society to attain the necessary tools to improve itself in the professional and social levels.
The ConcentrArte Project is an association devoted to the education of children through art. It is comprised of a group of persons that conceived an integrated, original and effective educational model. It works in urban and rural areas through workshops, seminars, learning and audiovisual materials. Its most important work has focused in what is known as “resilience” (or the capacity to overcome grief over death or periods of strong emotional pain) in hospitalized children and environmental education. Since 1997, it promotes de project “Lets rescue Cuatro Ciénegas” among the schools located in the valley. The group is comprised of Liliana Riva Palacio, Eloísa Ávila, Rodrigo Imaz, Teresa Lobo, Arturo Silva and Daniel Romero. www.concentrarte.org
WWF is on the world’s most experienced and largest independent environmental protection organizations. It was born in 1961 and is easily recognized by its panda symbol. Today, around 5 million people contribute to WWF’s work through a worldwide network covering over 100 countries. For more information: www.wwf.org.mx and www.Panda.org
For more information: Jatziri Pérez, Communication officer, WWF-Mexico, Tel. 52 86 56 31 Ext 223, 044 55 26 99 05 91, firstname.lastname@example.org