A lofty long-term goal of Sin Planeta B (Without Planet B), a non-profit organization in the town of Tamazula de Gordiano in southeastern Jalisco, is to see environmental education implemented in every classroom in the state.
“Our mission is to promote awareness and encourage research on climate change on a local level,” says Luis Antonio Ramírez, a Tamazula native who launched the non-profit in June 2018, to educate residents about sustainability and the harmful impacts of improper waste disposal.
“Around here, there’s a lack of consciousness and education on why we need to take care of the environment,” Ramírez says. “You still see people throwing trash on the streets and wasting water.”
Nicknamed “The Pearl of Southeastern Jalisco,” Tamazula boasts a population of approximately 38,000 (2010 census), most of whom are economically dependent on the area’s sugarcane industry. Unfortunately, the town’s privately-owned ingenio (sugar refinery) – which has its own water treatment operation – stands accused of routine pollution on a grand scale.
“I understand the ingenio is what moves the economy in Tamazula, but where is the social responsibility?” Ramírez says. “You still see how this company ejects waste into the river. That’s unacceptable.”
The condition of the area’s once pristine river concerns Ramírez deeply, especially since there aren’t any government-funded water treatment operations in the area to handle contaminants appropriately. In addition, some of Tamazula’s trailer companies have allegedly dumped diesel into the waterway that once had a PH level of 9, incapable of sustaining life.
“You notice it,” said Ramírez. “It smells so bad.”
A report in El Diario newspaper in 2015 claimed that Tamazula’s sugar refinery was running at 30 percent capacity due to high overhead costs, and failing to treat its sewage – including human waste.
Education is a major aspect of Sin Planeta B’s work. Over the past year, Ramírez has implemented “educación en cambio climático” (climate change education) in local schools. Still in the preliminary stages, the initiative so far has reached more than 2,000 students. Encouragingly, townsfolk are also becoming inspired to change their habits along the way.
“When you are somehow responsible for changing somebody’s life in that way, it’s pretty amazing,” says Ramírez, who wants to share this program with the rest of Jalisco. “The point here is that you can create generations of change and connections with young students.”
Today, there are over 5,300 elementary schools and 1,500 middle schools across the state that Ramirez hopes to work with.
“In the end, if we bring this program to the whole state, there are going to be more than a million students receiving environmental education,” said Ramírez, who earned his master’s degree in Environment, Development and Policy at the University of Sussex in England on a full-ride governmental scholarship. “We need the right people to get involved in order to do that.”
This past week, Ramírez coordinated a mobilized cleanup involving community members, the state government and donors. On January 30, under the scorching Jalisco sun, a small group of volunteers installed more than 30 Sin Planeta B-branded sacks alongside a 22-kilometer route between Tamazula and Zapotiltic for pickup.
“I’m not really sure if I have had a big or small impact, but it doesn’t matter how much or how little it could be,” said Estaban Moscoso, a volunteer from Costa Rica who does graphic design for the asociación civil (non-profit). “Maybe the impact won’t be reflected right now but in a couple of days, weeks or years.”
All of the bags were eventually filled with trash and collected. The contents will be sorted into different categories and reused in some capacity.
Besides Ramírez and Moscoso, the Sin Planeta B team includes Alondra García and Marisela Cárdenas. As doctors, they conduct public health research, paying particular attention to how climate change will affect the community. Anne Cortina works as the community manager while Diego Caballero creates animations for presentations and web material.
For more information, check out facebook.com/sinplanetab and sinplanetab.org.