The children that make up the Pro-Eco Pela’os program were busy in June 2013 working on a campaign to reduce the number of plastic bags used by customers of local stores in Pedasí. For three weeks the Pro-Eco Pela’os group visited 3 different stores in Pedasí on Wednesday afternoons and wrote down the number of people that took plastic bags from the store along with the number of people that brought their own bags for their purchases.
Out of the 98 people that visited the stores during the 3 weeks of the Pro-Eco Pela’os´ study no customers came in with their own reusable bag. About 44% of the people that visited the store did not use a plastic bag for their purchase. Conversely, slightly more than half of the customers who visited the stores during the Pro-Eco Pela’os visits took a plastic bag from the store.
Leo Mena, organizer of the Pro-Eco Pela´os Program, discussed with the children why it is important to reduce plastic bag use at local markets. Many of the Pro-Eco Pela’os commented that it is important to take fewer plastic bags from the store so that they do not end up littered on the street or worse, eaten by a sea turtle that thinks that the plastic bag is a jellyfish.
The members of Pro-Eco Pela’os designed posters which can be seen in stores urging customers to ask themselves, “Do you need that plastic bag?” The Pro-Eco Pela’os program is hopeful that these flyers will make the customers think about their actions before taking a bag in the future.
The AEP office burst into activity on the afternoon of March 16 as Pedasí residents and visitors learned about traditional art and culture of the Corpus Christi festival (celebrated on Thursday, May 30 in 2013) with Francisco Delgado. Delgado’s workshop, titled “Where Tradition and Culture Meet” explored the dilemma of preserving traditional practices of Panama while conserving local flora and fauna. Delgado spoke about birds found in the Azuero, such as the Azuero parakeet (Pyrrhura eisenmanni) and scarlet macaw (Ara macao), whose feathers are used to make the fantastic masks worn during Corpus Christi.
However, these birds are now in danger of extinction. As Delgado explained, “For every devil mask (diablico) that you see dancing on television, one needs 100 feathers, which, sadly, means that sometimes one must kill up to 10 macaws for one mask.” As an alternative, Delgado suggests making feathers out of colorful paper, in addition to protecting these birds in their natural habitat.
The story is similar for flowers like caracucha and veranera flowers, rose petals, acacias, and carnations used to make Corpus Christi flower carpets. Today there are few funds to buy these natural flowers. Delgado showed workshop participants how to make paper versions of these flower carpets and bird feathers using coconut palm fronds, Chinese kite paper, manila and colored paper and kabob skewers. By the end of the workshop, participants had made beautiful carpets out of paper, showcasing how traditions can be maintained through creative adjustments to the peninsula’s modern reality.
Workshop participants included Scouts Group 90 from Pedasi as well as local families and residents. Said Librada Barahona: “I learned how to make flowers and feathers out of paper because there are not enough flowers and they cost a lot. We cannot waste bird feathers because we take their lives [when we use them for these art projects]”.
To learn more about the workshop and for more information on Francisco Delgado, visit the Guest Experts page.
In the latest feature of the Monkey Movie Nights on March 7, AEP screened “End of the Line”, a documentary that explores the global fishing crisis. Through interviews and scientific studies, the film explains that the current state of fishing on a global level is unsustainable. Unless fishermen worldwide change their practices quickly, stocks of fish could be depleted within our lifetimes.
Sr. Algis Garcia of the Association of Pedasí Fishermen, Sr. Victor Vera, administrator of the Cooperative Virgen del Carmen in Pedasí, and other community members attended the event. The movie’s themes hit close to home for many, particularly artisanal fishermen, who rely on fishing for their livelihood and Pedasí residents who eat seafood on a regular basis.
After the movie, participants discussed the film’s themes in more depth. AEP staff asked the group if they thought there had been a decrease in the number of fish caught by fishermen in Pedasí in recent years. Victor Vera commented that the stocks of snapper (“pargo”) had definitely decreased, while the population of jellyfish has increased. When asked what we can do to protect fish stocks in our region of Panama for the future, Sr. Vera pointed out that we have the Pablo Barrios Wildlife Refuge and that we need to better protect this area to ensure the future of local fish stocks.
What can you do? The three takeaway points from the movie are the following:
Ask where your fish comes from before buying (and choose fish that is less in danger of extinction)
Ask your politicians to protect the oceans with stronger laws against overfishing
Demand the creation of a network of protected marine areas