Environmental activists to be recognized as the “Coastal Community Defense Champion”
By Mariana Martínez
Human borders have no meaning to air, earth, and water, something well understood by environmental activists, whom in the last decade have worked closely, shoulder to shoulder, with their counterparts in San Diego-Tijuana in the search of environmental justice needed for all.
It has been exactly this philosophy of Margarita Diaz, an adopted tijuanense and current director of the Binational Environmental Education Project, a project seeking costal clean up and to educate the public in environmental issues.
“My love and respect for the sea grew since childhood. I lived in Acapulco, where I grew up in a constant relationship with the sea. I remember listening to grown-ups saying sadly that this magical place was being destroyed, they talked about the species that used to live there and where no longer, such as sea turtles, cougars and deer, just to name a few” she remembered.
As she was studied to become an architect, Díaz stopped believing this devastation was “only natural” when a city grows, but rather fought to change the prevalent culture in architecture that was not inclined to include environmental aspects.
“After fighting a lot, they finally my dissertation was accepted; it was a horizontal building of 350 apartments in Culiacán, Sinaloa, where I included renewable energies, bioclimatic architecture and alternative building technologies” said Díaz about her college years, “many ask me how come I don’t practice architecture but I say I do; I’m building a better world.”
After going to live in Playas, a local community in Tijuana, Dìaz continued her search for environmental change, and started to collaborate with Laura Silvan to create the Binational Environmental Education Project, the non-profit where she became a director in 2007.
In her work, she has concentrated under an umbrella project called SUMAR (United Society In Defense of the Sea), with four basic components; beach clean-ups under “Save the Beach”; water quality monitoring and access to such information; environmental education workshops, and a forth component in hopes of creating a recycling area in the city.
This year, San Diego Baykeeper announced Díaz will be awarded the Coastal Community Defense Champion. The award will be presented to Margarita at the XIV Annual Ocean Conference being held in San Diego October 24 at the US Grant Hotel.
Dìaz received the award because of her hard work in creating an environmental consciousness at the border, and working to bringing together a series of local non-profits and businesses that have now shown interest in joining the beach clean up.
“The Beach clean up was created because of the need to create more sustainable practices and make them into concrete actions in our community, it is a paradox that the beach clean up has pushed us to do more public policy, education and collaborative work” said Diaz.
Their costal clean up project started in 2000 with San Diego Coastkeepers and a small group of friends, it was just 20 people but it quickly grew and included the local Scout groups, community workers and local schools and businesses.
It was the second campaign that it was named “Save the Beach” Project, and after 9 years, 18 clean up campaigns, there have been 13,500 volunteers and 44 tons of trash taken directly from the beach.
In the last campaign held September 21st, 50 institutions joined the beach clean up and 7 thousand people gathered at the beach where they not only clean up, but rather enjoyed cultural activates, volleyball and beach soccer, environmental workshops and even a competition of sandcastles.
“This award is a great honor; it is recognition to my work coming from respectable non-profits from witch I have learned so much” said Diaz, “In the future I see the need to push for progress in environmental policies and sustainable practices, based in effective education processes, access to information and citizen participation…there is so much to do…”