What is your biggest childhood memory? Usually we answer this question with good rememberances, games, friends and family. However the biggest memory of the Puerto Rican Amira Odeh is a great dry season that hit her country in 1994 and left her without water at home for several days. Amira is part of a Caribbean generation that grew up surrounded by extreme weather effects. Dry seasons, hurricanes, and as a result the disappearance of the biodiversity of this paradisiacal region.
Maybe because of all these marks, since she was a teenager, Amira is commited to environmental actions. In her city she helped in the cleaning of sea coast and was already shocked with the amount of plastic people poured into the sea. Therefore, as soon as she stepped into the University of Puerto Rico to start her degree in Geography, she already got bothered by the amount of plastic they used there. “In every area I saw trash cans with plastic. At that moment I understood I wanted to lead some environmental action”.
Amira created inside her campus the campaign “No más botella” (“No more bottles”) to draw attention to the consumption of plastic bottles, and also to water consumption. “I wanted people to understand we need to improve our sources of water to drink it from the tap; not buy them in plastic bottles”.
Along with friends who joined the campaign, she made a proposal to the University administration office to eliminate water bottles on campus. “We had no answer for two years, but we never gave up. We kept working, campaigning, until we got a meeting”. It was worth the wait. The pressure worked and the University of Puerto Rico, Recinto de Rio das Piedras, was the first university in Latin America to end plastic water bottles on campus.
Amira is also a member of Rede Caribenha de Jovens pelo Meio Ambiente (Caribbean Youth Environment Network), where she provides training for your people in environmental leadership. At 25, she lives in Chile, where she does a master’s degree in Water Resources and just created an NGO called “Colectivo de Acciones Sustentables” (CAS – Collective of Sustainable Actions). “Chile is country with many environmental problems an many educational campaings about it, but no action. We want to take the environmental movement in Chile to action”, she explains.
CAS’ first campaign is to get rid of plastic bottles in a city of the Chilean Patagonia. For the future Amira says she only imagine herself as an activist, organizing campaigns, either for CAS or other organizations. “I can only see myself working with people”.