“With This is My Earth, children feel the power to make an impact”

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“With This is My Earth, children feel the power to make an impact”

Evi has joined This is My Earth to teach our training program at schools. She is a very engaged artivist (www.evi-art.com) who has traveled around the world.

Hi Evi, how would you introduce yourself?

Hi! I’m a conservation scientist and a primatologist, and I’m an environmental activist and “artivist” — I’m a multidisciplinary artist and I create art for conservation. I’m also a co-director of the NGO Plastic Free Israel, which is an Israeli organization which addresses the plastic pollution in Israel. We want to raise awareness about the problem of plastic pollution around the world.

I just finished my Master’s degree in primatology at Oxford Brookes University, and I did my thesis on the Peruvian Amazon, where I studied ethnoprimatology. 

What is ethnoprimatology?

It is the discipline that studies the cultural role that primates have in the lives of Indigenous people. I focused on the Peruvian Indigenous people, and I carried out some biological surveys. I came back to Israel about two months ago, looking into how to find a job and trying to make a difference regarding plastic pollution.

Why is that a big problem in Israel?

Because Israel has one of the highest single-plastic use rates in the world, and some of the most polluted beaches in the Mediterranean are in Israel. We should all be worried about it.

What do you do to address this problem?

We do specific campaigns to clean beaches and I use the plastic I find to create art. 

How did you get to know This is My Earth?

TiME is quite well known. I came to a volunteer meeting and I heard they were looking for people to join the educational program in a school in Israel that is basically eight minutes from my place. I thought it was perfect, so within the next few weeks, I will incorporate all my experience and knowledge in activism, conservation, and endangered species. I will soon meet all the teachers of the school, and I’m thinking of explaining my past experiences and showing them some of my art, hoping it can be inspirational. 

What are you going to highlight?

I will explain what I know about endangered species, that I have seen and studied the habitat-fragmentation risks as well as the conservation processes in which I have participated. Finally, I will also address my artistic project. I’m very happy to share my creativity with others and, doing so, to increase awareness. 

Would you say the organization is aligned with your values?

Absolutely, I feel very comfortable with the values of This is My Earth, and being able to teach them at schools, it’s an amazing opportunity. Also, supporting TiME, there is a very international community. I’ve traveled to over 50 countries and I’ve seen many realities, so I can rely on this shared mindset [as This is My Earth’s supporters]. I’m also enrolled in a climate-diplomacy training program to see the impacts of climate change in our current situation. At this point, I’m very interested in the Middle East.

Why is that?

We a very interesting hotspot regarding climate change and its consequences. This is My Earth has built a big community in Israel already, so it feels like home.

Can you recall a specific moment in which you were aware of what was going on with nature and the harm that has been caused to the environment?

I grew up in Romania, since my family is from there, so I spent a big part of my childhood there, in the forest and in the amazing natural surroundings of the country. But my first experience was a different kind. I once saw a dog being hit by a car and the driver just left. That was really overwhelming for me. I was shocked that someone could hurt a dog like that and then leave, as if nothing has happened. That sparked something in me; that was a red flag.

What did you do with that?

I went to Africa, because I loved animals, and I saw with my own eyes how people are hunting animals just to have some random trophies at home. How can this happen? That is when I decided to become an activist, and I started protesting and I participated in demonstrations in front of the South African embassy. I’m also vegan and I’m co-founding an Israeli NGO trying to tackle the wildlife trade. We have a lot of that in Israel. There are so many things to fight for, I want to fight all the battles.

What are the main threats for animals right now?

In Congo, in Kenya, and in many wild places in Africa, I’ve seen lots of plastic pollution. I did not see that in Europe or in Israel, but in these remote places, which in theory should be well preserved and protected, I’ve seen a lot of plastic and garbage. I’ve seen the same in South America. So I’ve started to clean it up. 

Why is this happening?

I think we are not making the connection between our consumption habits and the environment. For example, a lot people are becoming vegan but they are still using single-use plastics. I want my students to learn these connections and act in a more responsible way.

Is that what you are trying to explain through your art?

Yes, I’m trying to let people understand that everything is connected, that all of our actions have consequences and that we can do things much better. Understanding conservation and environmental issues is essential in order to grow in healthy societies, that is why I’m incorporating them in everything I do.

Credit – Arielle Macy Pilcher

Why do you think there is so much plastic pollution?

I think a big part of that is because of lack of knowledge. Especially in some low-income countries, people do not know what to do with the plastic. They expect it will magically disappear. I saw that in Papua [New] Guinea; I went there for my studies and I saw that they did not have any infrastructure to manage the plastic. They would just pile it; the sea level is rising and their island is small, so they don’t have enough space to store so much plastic. It is now becoming an issue of space! Not to mention other health issues related to the smoke they produce when burning these plastics. 

What about the rainforests of Colombia and Ecuador that we are trying to save?

These are probably among the richest biodiversity areas I have ever seen. In Colombia, I saw 40 different primate species in a small area! It is both beautiful and sad to see how Indigenous communities in some of these areas have started to hunt some of these amazing animals with guns and rifles. It is now really difficult to see the bigger mammals and primates of the area, because they are hiding much more and, almost certainly, their numbers have decreased. Part of my task there was to talk to locals and educate them. I was asking them questions like “Why do you think you don’t see certain animals anymore?”.

And they would say that there are more humans in the area, that there’s more noise from the enterprises that are exploiting the natural resources, etc. So I tried to make them reflect on that and come up with solutions. All of them were always referring to the current situation with the Spanish word “antes,” which mean “before”: “before there was no plastic here,” “before there was no noise.” It is really sad to see how things have changed. They don’t even have enough fish anymore, because some rivers are polluted or the areas where fish lay eggs have dried up due to deforestation. So now they are fishing with nets, which is far more aggressive for the ecosystem.

Credit – Plastic Free Israel

How do you teach that to younger generations, which won’t be able to recall this “antes” that older Indigenous people can remember?

I think we are talking about two separate things: one being, how can I bring hope to these Indigenous people that can’t find food; and my classroom in Israel, which is totally disconnected from this whole situation. So in order to bring children hope, it is important to let them understand that there is something going on and that what we do in our daily lives may have an impact. Knowledge is power, right? In terms of This is My Earth, it is amazing that we let children vote in schools to protect these natural areas we claim we will protect. So we are empowering them and we, as TiME, are also being empowered by them. We are offering the chance to make a decision based on what they’ve learned with us. Concepts such as fragmentation, biological corridors, the food chain, or the keystone species will become a part of their education, so they can take a valid decision based on their own thinking and learning. With TiME, children feel the power to make an impact

How will you bring conservation to the classroom with This is My Earth?

There are ten classes, and for each them, they will be having ten meetings with me and ten meetings with their own teacher in which we will address biodiversity concepts and nature-conservation actions that need to be taken. I’ve created an educational plan based on all the materials you can find on [TiME’s] website, such as the terms that are important to teach. I have also created some interesting infographics that I think can be helpful to understand how the situation is. Every Tuesday, I will teaching my program to the class, and so will the teachers of the school. I have also suggested a whole teaching strategy to the school, and they will adapt it to each of the subjects; the idea is to repeat TiME’s concepts more than once through different voices. At the end, there will be the big day, when the voting will be taking place. 

Will you include your own experiences too?

Yes, I will show the young students pictures of my trips around the world and the struggles from which I have learned, hoping this will also be an inspiration for them. I will also bring some of my art work, like sculptures and paintings. I want to do that to make them understand what nature means to me. 

Sounds great! We wish you the best of luck!

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