Perseverance of AUWCL Alumna Connects Local Environmental Workers in Latin America
Julia Torres ILSP ’11 is in the middle of a project many people only dream of doing. Currently in Chile, Julia is spending a year traveling from Mexico to Argentina. The purpose of the trip is to “visit actions, efforts and ideas that make a difference in the environment, defense of the territory and gender.” We caught up with Julia, during one of her rare moments of internet access, to learn more about her current work, what motivates her, and what advice she has for others.
Q: Describe your “Enlaza Ideas en el Mundo” project. What motivated you to organize this trip? What are you hoping to achieve?
A: “Enlaza ideas” is a learning–sharing network that connects local projects from Mexico, Central America, and South America, including Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. It describes the actions, projects, and ideas of people or groups working to protect the environment. Some are actions related directly to the conservation or protection of nature. Others are movements of woman or indigenous populations in defense of the land and natural resources.
Richard Riding, my partner from England, and I contact the projects, visit them on our bikes, and then interview them to share the information. We write in a non-scientific style about the reasons to start the project, actions, successes and failures and challenges. This information is posted at enlaza-ideas.webnode.es.
Our motivation was to know how local projects in different Latin American countries are approaching environmental problems. I have worked with indigenous peoples and local communities in Chiapas, Mexico, and believe that the environmental problems we are facing here are often similar to ones in other places of the world.
Then I thought, if I go and visit some of the projects I would be able to connect them and learn. I started a learning network/community in which the projects could share their failures and successes and the people interested could read, learn, and, if possible, support them.
Q: What are some of the challenges you have faced during your travels?
A: The first was a robbery at the Mexico- Guatemala border. The second is motivation - because of the physical effort. After almost a year and 10,000 kilometers on bikes, we are quite tired and greatly in need of good meals and rest. But we have challenges like the budget and timeline - we have to get to Ushuaia before the end of summer.
Q: How did your LL.M. program prepare you for this project? Were there any courses or professors that were particularly relevant or influential to your career?
A: The LL.M. program at American University Washington College of Law opened my eyes to the international connections, solutions, and possible perspectives around the world. For this reason, I wanted to research how actions and projects at a local level are dealing with global problems. Professor David Hunter is one of my icons. I consider his book the bible for those in environmental law practice. Some of AUWCL’s alumni who are local lawyers have also helped me connect with projects in Costa Rica, Colombia, and Chile, for example.
Q: What advice do you have for others who are looking for ways to gain experience and make a difference at the community level?
A: Go and act! Do! Move! I am from a 200,000-inhabitant town in Mexico (Comitán Chiapas), and I promote there “to change stories with actions.” The best way to live sustainable is to have empathy, research to learn, act with the future in mind, and share your experience with the world.
After this trip is complete, Julia and Richard plan to continue their efforts in New Zealand and Australia. Julia says, “It will probably take us years, but we want to tie together environmental ideas around the world.” And with their passion, dedication, and hard work, we have no doubt that’s what they will continue to do.