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Talilio iaby Nareo! (Hello you all)

I am a terrestrial agent just like you and everything else on earth! And I love interacting with different people, animals, plants, rocks and things. In Aristotle’s words I am a political animal, and interaction makes me happy.

I think its sad and funny how us humans like to stress everything that makes us different from each other, but the truth is that WE (humans and nonhumans) have a lot in common, staring from DNA’s to the planet we share and everything in between. And lets face it, socializing with aliens might be quite a challenge. Sooo, open your eyes and start interacting with your environment: talk, smell, taste, run, think, feel, know, learn, care and sustain. Remember that nobody loves the unknown!

BTW, call me José (beware I share that name with a few people too!)

Madagascar, my surreal HOME

Imagine submerging in a completely unknown environment -yet feeling just like home.

Imagine living amongst a traditional African kingdom, with bizarre rules and obligations. Without running water and electricity, the way people did thousands of years ago.

Imagine Interacting with nature on a daily basis, understanding its needs and desires, like you would do with your mom.

Imagine a tree that grows from the top to the bottom, a snail the size of a football, and a snake that jumps out of trees like an arrow. I

Imagine learning a dialect that was forgotten by time, and using it to protect a sacred forest where ancestral spirits roam.

NOW, welcome back to reality, this is not a fictional story I stole from Marco Polo’s adventures, I am talking about my experience in the big red island: Madagascar.

© WWF / José Carlos Pons Ballesteros

Lessons for life

While sharing my fantastic experience, I often get the question “ So what did you teach them, how did you help them?” to which I simply answer, ”Nothing, they taught me all”.

I would love to show you a three-month long video, so you could appreciate everything I learned, unfortunately that’s not so cool for youtube. So I can tell you a few things that stand out:

Let’s talk about interaction with nature.
There are so many fantastic elements that our “modern” societies have lost through time (and of course many others that we have gained). But to the luck of us moderns, there are a few old-fashioned societies that still maintain our lost attributes. For instance, the Mahafaly tribe, with whom I lived in Madagascar, maintains a close relationship with nature. And it is this close relationship that allows the Mahafaly to appreciate nature from a very different, yet special perspective. This I learned thanks to my good lfriend Rivo, who would explain to me the use of many plants and trees in our way to work, from medicines to aphrodisiacs, you name it! He loved nature, but most importantly he knew nature. Rivo does not know much about science, what he knows, he knows it by tradition, experience, and most importantly by necessity. But don’t be fooled, we are as dependent on nature as Rivo is. The only difference is that Rivo interacts with nature directly, and more often, thus he has a better view of the vital signs of nature, upon which we ALL depend.

Bottom line: know nature, its good for you!

The sun’s sky is the limit!
There are many things that we all can do, if we really put our heart to it. No, you are not readying a copy of your high school graduation ceremony, this is serious, and I lived it. I became so closely related to the Mahafaly culture that I felt responsible for making things happen. Plus, I did fly across the planet, so I HAD to do the most out of the opportunity. In a nutshell here is what I did:
  • Helped organize several cool festivities including World Water Day and Earth Hour
  • Launched an international cooperation agreement between Ejeda, Madagascar, and Toluca, Mexico. It was ratified in Madagascar, and now in process to be ratified in Mexico!
  • There is way too many Zebus in Madagascar, so with the support of the Mayor of Ejeda “Ramalaza” I came up with a tax system that fosters the sustainable management of the Zebu population (academic paper in progress)
  • With the help of my good Mahafaly friend Hery, we created the first written dictionary Mahafaly dialect-English! (Give me a shout, and I’ll send you a copy)
  • Helped organize the reforestation of a huge sacred forest
  • Made awesome friends from around the World

Sweet stuff huh?
So think you can also make a difference and have fun? Here is what you do:

Relax; take a deep breath, inflating your stomach as much possible, now release air slowly. Imagine a million things that could go wrong in a harsh unknown environment, and then foresee that the trade off will be unimaginably higher. If you are willing to take this risk, and you are determined to do your ultimate best, go to the nearest bathroom and spray you face with cold water, then say out loud "I am READY", and start your application today!
What I am doing NEXT?

Keep on doing what I ambitiously love, working hard to build a sustainable world.

I am especially interested in the role of economics in getting the price right of nature’s goods and services. The failure of markets to account for the real value of Ecosystems and Biodiversity has been the Achilles heel of the environmental degradation that we live today.

For the moment, I am collaborating with an NPO called “Sumando Personas” and the municipal government of Toluca in Mexico on several projects dealing with sustainable development. I am also looking for work and educational opportunities in the fields of climate change mitigation, environmental economics, and natural resources policy.

Want to know more?

Feel free to contact me!

From October 2011-June 2013 I was working with WWF Mexico on the...
The Madagascar experience: rediscovering your roots through interaction