Climate Education

Ropo’s Magical South American Roadshow Diary

From mid-March to late April, I traveled 7,000 kilometers across four South American countries in 28 days to promote EARTHDAY.ORG’s work and commitment to climate education.

At the time of publishing, historic flooding has hit parts of southern Brazil, and we want to express our solidarity with the families and victims affected by the extreme weather events in Rio Grande do Sul. If ever there was a reminder that climate change is happening, and that its effects are devastating, this is it. There’s never been a more important time to get climate education onto every school curriculum globally.

DATES: March 18th – 23rd
Weather: Cloudy
Mood: Uplifted by the incredible people we meet from day one.

Rodolfo and Zaida Beltran at the start of the road show in São Paulo

My roadshow began in São Paulo, Brazil, the most populous city in South America and the 12th largest in the world. Even though I am familiar with this place, the sheer size and hustle and bustle always take my breath away. It’s a remarkable city, one I suggest you try and visit.

From March 18–23, I had a chance to speak with several folks working on the ground in Brazil to fight for a sustainable future—Edilainne Muniz, CEO of the environmental organization LIMPA BRASIL LET’S DO IT and Jose Renato Nalini, who works on climate change mitigation for the city government, to name just two. Great to make new contacts and consolidate existing ones and gratifying to be remined of how many people want to help planet Earth. 

But probably my favorite event took place at the Centro Salles Educational Complex of São Paulo. If you’re ever looking for hope for the future, let me tell you, a room full of young people is a good place to start.

500 or more students and educators gathered here to discuss paths to a greener future. One student spoke movingly about deforestation in the Amazon. Another discussed the dangers of offshore drilling, and both were received with thunderous applause. I presented a few words about EARTHDAY.ORG’s My Future, My Voice campaign, which seeks to empower young people around the world to promote sustainability in their communities

Zaida Beltran at Centro Salles Educational Complex of São Paulo for a climate education rally

Interview between MFMV Ambassador Mavi Brilhante and Youth Leader Johnny Dabrowski

The sea of young faces, filled with energy and a real commitment to work for solutions to our climate crisis, all of them concerned about the future, assured me from the very beginning that this roadshow was time well spent. Why? Because the environment needs all of us to stand up in its defense. And events like this one bring people together to expand what we can achieve. 

Big problems feel much more manageable when you know there’s a team of people working on solutions. I realized my purpose on this road trip was to form coalitions. Together, we can ensure a livable future for all the young people in this room and across the globe. We must. 

I left the event with renewed appreciation for organizations like RECYCLE FOR LIFE and CICLOWAY; I was also able to connect Mavi Brilhante, My Future My Voice Ambassador in Brazil, with EARTHDAY.ORG’s very own Youth Leader, Johnny Dabrowski. He is from Poland but is studying at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. This made the trip feel that much more international.

Rodolfo at the bus depot, about to kick off the next leg of the road show with an EARTHDAY.ORG banner in hand

Zaida and Rodolfo at the CHILE-ARGENTINA border, 3,200 meters above sea level, standing at the continental PACIFIC-ATLANTIC water divide

DATES: MARCH 24th – 28th
Mood: Uplifted 

A plane ride later, my only one on the trip, I arrived in Santiago de Chile, and let me tell you, the view of the Andes meeting the South Pacific was breathtaking. The landscape reminded me of the stakes of the work we are doing to champion and fight for the environment. 

The future health and beauty of mountains, the ocean, and the city in between, all hang in the balance.

With no time to waste – I started my meetings. First up, I met with CONGRESO FUTURO, an organization backed by the Senate and the Academy of Sciences of Chile. We talked about Earth Day’s impact in Latin America, and I got to rub shoulders with some impressive folks like Director Guido Girardi, Hugo Romero (2013 Chile Geography Science winner), and Marcela Oyarzun—Director of FOUNDATION TREMENDAS. It was a real eye-opener to see how dedicated these professionals are to tackling the climate crisis with science, innovation, and a coalition of government and private actors.

Then, thanks to CONGRESO FUTURO, I landed a personal interview with NATIONAL TV CHILE. We dove into EARTHDAY.ORG’s history, the importance of climate education, and my firm stance in favor of a binding UNEP Global Plastic Treaty. The spotlight isn’t necessarily my favorite place to be, but getting these messages out there was totally worth it. It felt like I was reaching a much wider audience, and I enjoyed the opportunity. I am always happy to do more media for the sake of the movement!

Meeting with FOUNDATION TREMENDAS; Interview by CONGRESO FUTURO of Rodolfo recognition granted to President Marcela Oyarun by Beltran about EARTHDAY.ORG’s goals for EARTHDAY.ORG

Interview by CONGRESO FUTURO of Rodolfo recognition granted to President Marcela Oyarun by Beltran about EARTHDAY.ORG’s goals for EARTHDAY.ORG Climate Education and a 2025 PLASTIC TREATY

Next on the agenda was a sit-down with FOUNDATION TREMENDAS: Niñas que transforman el mundo (Girls who transform the world). Julieta Martinez and Rocio Sancha are the ones in charge here. These women are doing incredible work empowering girls and transforming communities. Julieta received a well-deserved shoutout from EARTHDAY.ORG for her dedication to women’s rights and environmental education in Latin America.

I also had the chance to meet with Guillermo Scalan from FOUNDATION CULTIVA and ANVISA. He showed me around the Metropolitan Park Cerros de Penca, where they’ve been doing some impressive forestry work since COP25 Chile-Madrid.

Then, it was off to meet with Etienne Lefranc and the Municipal Government of Renca, a commune located just outside of Santiago. At the famous Metropolitan Park, we discussed a potential partnership between the Municipality and EARTHDAY.ORG. The enthusiasm for collaboration was mutual.

Last but not least, thanks to my dear EDO Colleague Shelley Rogers, I connected with SORTILE CHILE, a company revolutionizing textile recycling. Thomas Burns and Augustina Mir blew me away with their tech that sorts and traces textiles, maximizing recycling efficiency. And the best part? Our Earth Day green vests are recyclable! It was a relief to know for certain that we’re practicing what we preach.

Weather: Sunny
Mood: Tired but happy to be making so many new connections

Near the border of Chile and Argentina, we crossed the continental divide. On one side of this magical place, all water flows to the Atlantic Ocean. On the other, to the Pacific. I had never been here before, so it turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. 

Water, after all, is one of the precious resources we were on the road to protect. From 3,200 meters above sea level, I felt connected to these oceans and committed to conserving them.

In Argentina, we hoped to connect with more organizations interested in climate education and environmentalism overall. Mendoza did not disappoint! 

During my meetings and interviews, a common message resonated: “What and how can Mendoza contribute to our planet?” It was heartening to witness such a collective sense of responsibility.

I’m incredibly grateful to the government officials, academics, and private entrepreneurs who took time to meet with me, especially during the Easter holidays. Some of these individuals included Gabriela Luquez, Director of the Environment at CUYO UNIVERSITY, Sebastian Melchor, Assistant Secretary of the Environment for the GOVERNMENT OF MENDOZA, and Rafael Kemelmajer, head of B ENTERPRISES. Rafael promotes healthy gastronomy, local food production, and agricultural innovation. He connected us with CUYO University and the Ministry of Energy and the Environment, so we owe him a great deal.

Everyone here seems to be truly committed to making connections and making a real difference, you can feel the good energy in Mendoza everywhere you go. 

Sebastian Melchor, Sub Secretary of Rafael Kemelmajer, head of B Gabriela Luquez, Director of the Environment for the Government ENTERPRISES Environment of CUYO University of Mendoza

Rafael Kemelmajer, head of B Gabriela Luquez, Director of the Environment for the Government ENTERPRISES

Gabriela Luquez, Director of the Environment for the Government ENTERPRISES Environment of CUYO University

Then came the long, long bus ride to Buenos Aires. 17 hours, to be exact! I packed a lot of water and snacks, none of it in wrapped in plastics and prepared to see South America through the bus windows. It was a once in a life-time event and my visit to Buenos Aires was more than worthwhile.

As soon as we arrived at the hotel, I hung the Earth Day 2024 banner outside of our room, strategically facing the iconic Obelisco on 9 de Mayo Avenue. It was a surreal feeling to see it against the backdrop of the widest avenue in the world.

Our Campaign BANNER proudly exhibited at the window of our hotel in front of Av. 9 de Mayo and the Iconic OBELISCO of Buenos Aires

One highlight was a meet-up with EARTHDAY.ORG’s honorary partner, ECO HOUSE ARGENTINA. Maria Aguilar and Manu Algier shared with me their fascinating initiatives. 

One of these was their COP work office, “The Orchard,” where the workspace is adorned with a green roof orchard and bikes are parked next to desks. Talk about innovative work environments! Here, we made big plans, agreeing to host the main Earth Day 2025 event in Latin America right there in Buenos Aires. 

We also discussed strategy for the upcoming G20 and COP30 regional events, all while standing firm on our commitment to a binding UNEP Global Plastic Treaty.

As a side note, the hotel service was top notch. At checkout I surprised them with a thank-you Earth Day 2024 plant, which the guest services personnel CHICO said he’d give to his mother. This warmed my heart, and I promised to check on its growth when I returned to Buenos Aires. Truth be told, I will miss Argentina the most!

DATES: APRIL 7th – 13th 
Weather: Blue skies 
Mood: Tired but happy

In Uruguay, we visited Punta del Este, Montevideo, and Colonia. My first visit to Punta del Este came a couple of years prior, when I visited as a delegate for EARTHDAY.ORG at the INC-1 conference. During that visit, I met Mrs. Selva Santurion, Founder and Director of the PABLO NERUDA MUSEUM in Chile. Neruda was a poet who won a Nobel Prize for such works as Odes to Common Things. Selva is a partner of EARTHDAY.ORG in Uruguay.

Thanks to Selva, we enjoyed an incredible two-day program for Earth Day 2024, featuring an exhibition focused on the environment an\d music inspired by Neruda’s poem, “Ode to the Air.” We even scored a joint interview with NATIONAL URUGUAY TV COVERAGE. When it was time to depart, it felt like the spirits of poets and artists, especially the three Pablos—Neruda, Picasso, and Vassals—were there to bid us farewell. Their messages about environmental awareness and nature’s colors truly paved the way for our modern understanding of sustainability and the importance of our planet.

Next, we journeyed by bus to Montevideo, where I had the privilege of meeting Maria del Lujan Jara,

EARTHDAY.ORG to present a proposal and participate at the upcoming National and MERCOSUR Meeting of Environmental Education, which gave me a reason to return soon.

Maria del Lujan Jara, Guiselle Beja Prof. Nicolas Dorronsoro, UCU Ministry of the Environment Uruguay

Prof. Nicolas Dorronsoro, UCU Ministry of the Environment Uruguay Catholic University of URUGUAY

Next, we joined Maria Victoria Pereira Flores, an environmental law specialist and faculty

member at the CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF URUGUAY. She introduced us to Professor Nicolas Dorronsoro, who is spearheading a post-graduate program in environmental education at the university. Meeting Nicolas was a highlight. His passion for environmental education is contagious, and his blog is a treasure trove of insights. We left Montevideo having forged lasting connections with important regional organizations, both governmental and academic. 

Finally, we visited Colonia de Sacramento, which was a real treat. Here, we sought out local community organizations, such as ORGANIZACION PANDA, which has been making a difference for more than 25 years. Among other things, they have published more than 1,000 environmental education books and set up recycling infrastructure around the city. They even host cleanups, much like EARTHDAY.ORG does around the world every April.

Uruguay proved a place where many are already engaged in environmental activities. I left the country eager to build upon the partnerships we had established there.

Ms. Selva Santurion and Rodolfo Beltran the Pablo Neruda Museum

Adrian Giraudo, CEO, Maria and Francisco from

Finally, we ended the roadshow in Porto Alegre, Brazil, which a few weeks later was to be headline news as. Catastrophic flooding would remind the world of the need to act urgently and together in a united way for the defense of the environment and the climate.

REFLECTIONS: It was an exhausting few weeks and there were moments I was genuinely wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew but in the end it was an experience that forged new bonds and gave me the opportunity to really see how much grass roots works is happening and to see that some municipalities and leaders, governments and businesses  – are committed to caring for the planet,  for us all. 

It was a privilege to meet everyone I did along the road and THANK YOU for everything that you do. EARTHDAY.Org is proud to support you and we are excited to keep the ideas and collaborations going! See you soon, I hope!