Leticia Merino

Leticia Merino is a mother, grandmother, teacher, and activist. For many years, Leticia has dedicated her work to supporting forest communities in Mexico and has developed a strong passion for community conservation of biodiversity. Currently, she holds a position at the Coordination of Sustainability at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), where her focus lies in promoting sustainable campus management, as well as engaging in teaching and research on sustainability.

Big Idea(s) for Advancing Sustainability in Higher Education

What does the world need most right now?

In my opinion, the world is in urgent need of addressing and reversing the profound inequalities that exist among people and countries. The current levels of wealth and income inequality have reached unprecedented heights, leading to political imbalances and the capture of institutions and laws by elite groups, often conflicting with sustainability goals. In environmental terms, inequality translates to unequal access to essential natural resources like water and land, disproportionately affecting many in the global South. Additionally, there are significant disparities in the responsibility for environmental deterioration and the vulnerability to environmental change, with the poor bearing a disproportionate burden. Tackling these complex issues necessitates collective action, coordination, and cooperation at the local, regional, and global levels. To achieve this, we must prioritize processes of learning, mutual understanding, and equitable distribution of resources. Inequality breeds distrust, resentment, and even violence, obstructing the path to sustainable development.

Leadership and Inspiration

Tell us about a leader you admire and why?

One leader whom I deeply admire is Professor Elinor Ostrom, fondly known as Lin by those fortunate enough to have met her and learned from her. Lin spent many years as a teacher of Environmental Policy at Indiana University, where she founded the Workshop for Political Theory and Policy Analysis, a think tank that brought together scholars and students from around the world, fostering a culture of friendship and cooperation under Lin's guidance. In 2009, Lin became the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics.

I admire Lin for her exceptional academic prowess, her ability to propose innovative frameworks for understanding the management and utilization of natural resources, her passion as an educator, and her commitment to addressing socio-environmental issues as an academic. Above all, I hold immense admiration for her humility, kindness, and incredible generosity as a mentor and friend. I cherish the memories I have of her.

Tenacity and Perseverance

The climate emergency we face feels like the greatest challenge of our lifetime – what keeps you inspired?

Undoubtedly, the challenge of climate change is immense, but it is just one facet of the broader global environmental crisis that includes biodiversity loss, pollution from plastics and other chemicals, deforestation, and the decline of fauna. What keeps me inspired is the firm belief that humanity must not lose hope. We must take urgent action and cultivate public awareness about these significant challenges of our time. I also firmly believe that we cannot afford to assume there is nothing we can do. The younger generation, including my beloved grandchildren, deserve to have hope and the ability to take action and become problem solvers. Encouraging their engagement is the most promising way to foster a foundation of hope.

Fun Fact

Favorite activity in your spare time?

I have numerous favorite activities. I enjoy playing chess with my eldest grandchild, even though he now consistently wins after I taught him how to play years ago. I relish playing hide and seek with my youngest grandson, crouching under the table and hiding behind doors. I find solace and wonder in swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling in the ocean, marveling at the silence and beauty of marine life. Playing ball with my energetic dog brings me joy, as does taking long walks in the mountains with my husband, and discussing new cooking recipes and ideas with him. I find peace in coloring mandalas with my son and take pleasure in cooking Mexican food and baking gluten-free cakes. Lastly, I indulge in reading—reading incessantly—while listening to samba and classical music.