Climate Education

Diary From Uruguay

Dennis Nolasco, Education Coordinator


Myself and Rodoflo Beltran with Uruguayan Minister of the Environment, Robert Bouvier Torterolo.

Rodolfo, with Maria del Lujan Jara, Director of Environmental Education and Public Participation Division RENEA Coordinator.

DAY 1: Thursday June 6, 2024
LOCATION: Montevideo, for the Uruguayan Sustainability Expo and Climate Education Summit
WEATHER: Overcast
MOOD: Galvanized

Arriving at Carrasco International Airport in Montevideo, from Washington DC, at 6 am, I was relieved to have caught a few hours of sleep on the plane, which prepared me for our 8:30 am start. Although not the cloudy sky!

I met up with Rodolfo ‘Ropo’ Beltran, our unstoppable Regional Director for South America, who was eager to dive straight into work following an exhaustive, month-long road show in April, to mark Earth Day, traveling across 7000 km of South America largely by public transport (ie. a bus!).

We are meeting in Montevideo for the Expo Uruguay Sostenible, organized by the Ministry of the Environment here in Uruguay. We had the honor of meeting the Minister of the Environment, himself, Robert Bouvier Torterolo, and even got a quick snap with him.

The expo showcased a variety of sustainable businesses, from promoting world famous Uruguayan Tannat wine (cultivated sustainably of course) to booths highlighting the city government’s composting initiative to recycled burlap bags. It’s an eclectic mix!

Our primary focus for being here was in participating in RENEA – Red Nacional de Educación Ambiental, a network that unites government and civil society organizations to advance climate education. We feel strongly, as do most attendees, that teaching climate education, across many subjects in every school, is an important mitigating factor in dealing with the climate crisis.

We were introduced to Maria del Lujan Jara, the dedicated leader of RENEA, who is a formidable advocate for climate education and has been, like EARTHDAY.ORG, for decades. We discussed our shared aspirations as well as the challenges we face in promoting climate education – it helped us to understand the diverse perspectives and strategies employed by so many organizations. It is always really helpful to get this sort of insider perspective, so that we can all understand everyone else’s challenges.

One of the poster sessions during our small group workshops outlining hopes and challenges for climate education.

A local vendor at the Expo, selling upcycled handbags made from burlap sacks used to transport coffee beans

DAY 2: Friday, June 7, 2024
LOCATION: Montevideo, for the Uruguayan Sustainability Expo
MOOD: Eager

Experiencing the Southern Hemisphere for the first time has been surreal. While it’s summer back home, here in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, the leaves are turning colors and people are bundled up in parkas, even though the temperature is a mild 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Our hotel is abuzz with experts in environmental education. Among them are Roberto Gonzales from Chile’s Ministry of Environment and Gloria Ordoñez, an Education Director for the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).

The 20-minute bus ride to the Antel Arena was genuinely filled with anticipation for the day’s lineup of talks, breakout workshops and presentations. You can feel real enthusiasm here for climate education, it’s tangible.

One presentation that stood out was on the Rio Negro watershed project here in Uruguay. Local students are actively involved in measuring metrics like oxygen levels to assess the health of the water—a hands-on approach that is both educational and impactful. Gloria (from UNEP) has an international professional development initiative for educators underway in Panama, which aims to support climate education on a global scale.

Hearing about the diverse and important works being done across Latin America instilled a sense of hope and optimism in me. There’s a strong foundation for climate education and resilience growing in the region and I am just grateful that EARTHDAY.ORG is here to help nurture it. The day concluded with a dinner at El Fogon, a famous Uruguayan parrillada dinner, hosted by Maria. As we enjoyed the delicious food and shared a few glasses of Uruguayan Tannat, we relaxed and reflected on the day’s insights and strengthened our connections.

Tomorrow, it’s our turn to present. Rodolfo and I are looking forward to sharing our work and continuing the dialogue on advancing climate education. We are going to lay out EARTHDAY.ORG’s long term commitment to advocating for climate change, our organization has been talking about it for a very long time.

Expo Antel Arena – with some of the booths and businesses in attendance

Myself bidding the Expo a fond farewell

DAY 3: Saturday, June 8, 2024
LOCATION: Montevideo, for the Uruguayan Sustainability Expo
WEATHER: Partially sunny!
MOOD: Slightly Nervous,

Feeling the familiar flutter of nerves before presenting, I found some comfort in the brightening Uruguayan sky. Despite years of teaching and countless hours of practice the night before, a touch of hesitation always lingers before stepping on stage. I always think it’s a good sign though when I feel a bit nervous! So we had breakfast, a lot of fruit, and headed out with a lot of anticipation building!

Luckily, Rodolfo and I were scheduled early in the day. We followed Claudia, a brilliant professor from Peru whom I had enjoyed sitting next to at dinner the night before. Her presentation on educating pre-service teachers about environmental education’s role in conservation was truly inspiring.

Our presentation focused on EARTHDAY.ORG, detailing the organization’s history and highlighting key achievements from the climate education team. We showcased our recently translated report, Climate Education vs The Climate Crisis, and discussed the resources available for teachers, educators and policy makers, such as our NDC Guide.

Our central message to the attendees, including Uruguay’s Minister of Education, was clear: it is crucial to incorporate direct and specific language about climate education into each country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This commitment would ensure that educating youth about climate change becomes a national priority.

We presented model language for NDCs and urged everyone to advocate for climate education to be a cornerstone at the upcoming Convening of Parties (COP), especially COP30 in Belem, Brazil, in 2025. We have a lot of materials to share and we shared: Here’s a two page summary of the report: The Case for Climate Education in Two Pages, The Case for Climate Education in Europe in Two Pages and the Climate Education Vs The Climate Crisis report in full in, in Spanish.

Later, at dinner at El Ruffino (which serves incredible local dishes),our new found colleagues were very enthusiastic about our presentation and fully supported our push to strengthen climate education commitments across Latin America.

As I bid farewell to my new friends and colleagues, knowing I had an early flight home, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction. We had not only introduced a powerful tool in the fight against climate change but also forged new friendships and strengthened our collective resolve. On a personal note I got to visit Uruguay, a truly special country, which was an incredible experience but also a real privilege to be here representing EARTHDAY.ORG’s unwavering work on championing climate education.