Siegfred Aldous Lacerna

Published: March 25, 2024

For marine scientist Jurgenne Primavera, a successful mangrove conservation campaign hinges on three pillars: social media outreach, community organizing, and education campaigns. 

Primavera urged young people, particularly women, to utilize social media for spreading awareness. She also emphasized the need to go beyond social media by conducting coastal clean-ups, tree walks, and education campaigns to inform people on the do’s and don’ts of effective environmental initiatives. 

Hailed as one of Time Magazine’s Heroes of the Environment and among 50 Department of Science and Technology Men and Women of Science in 2008, Primavera served as the chief mangrove scientific adviser at the Zoological Society of London and an emerita scientist at the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center in Iloilo, specializing in mangroves. 

Primavera retired from these roles in 2018, but she continues to restore, protect and champion mangroves in the Philippines.

In a recent interview with Climate Tracker Asia, Primavera discussed how people can effectively channel their climate advocacies, what other environmental work she’s involved in beyond mangroves, and her enduring love for tree climbing at the age of 77.

What are the things that the youth, especially in the women sector, needs to do to campaign more on mangrove preservation? 

Social media by shifting its use from purely social to environmental, for example: disseminating environmental posters, videos, and interviews; organizing church, school, and other youth groups in coastal clean-up campaigns or tree walks; and education campaigns such as correct mangrove planting protocols like planting ecologically correct apiapi or bungalon (Avicennnia marina) and pagatpat or (Sonneratia alba) instead of the popular but ecologically incorrect bakhaw (Rhizopora) species. 

How can more women take part in the conservation and protection of mangroves in the country? 

There is no gender discrimination in mangrove initiatives in the Philippines. 

How can the youth, especially those in the women sector, lobby for policies that are pro-environment? 

Youth have no lobbying power unless they join environmental NGOs. The Sangguniang Kabataan/SK is not organized for lobbying but for politics. 

What do you love to do in your free time when you’re not doing your usual work? 

Most of my free time is spent on native trees, a front yard nursery and a tree park. The nursery which I walk in and out two to four times daily has approximately 500 seedlings of approximately 30 to 40 species. The tree park is accessible by a 20-minute car ride and it covers 2.7 hectares and has around 200 small to big trees belonging to approximately 50 species. 

Many of these trees are mature and produce fruits, so for the last five years, I have been sending seeds belonging to five to 10 species to 10 recipients in three to five batches per year. The earliest seeds I sent have been planted and are now bearing flowers and fruits. 

Where do you find inspiration to continue doing your work? 

I love trees because I was imprinted on them. When I was growing up, I used to climb all kinds of fruit trees: balingbing, macopa, tambis, mango, et cetera, that surrounded our house. I still climb trees at the age of 77. 

Read more stories of mangroves and wetlands here.