Chasing Carbon: A Conservancy Family Prepares to Spend Summer in Southern Mexico

Written by Guest Blogger on . Posted in Learn

Editor’s Note: Today Planet Change is featuring the first in a series of blogs authored by Jes and Peter Ellis, who will spend the summer in Merida, Chiapas, and Oaxaca, Mexico, with their two children, while Peter, a Forest Carbon Scientist for The Nature Conservancy, works to measure the carbon stored and emitted from Mexico’s forests.

IMG_0929 Ellis kids

It’s the end of the school year and I am about to lose my mind.

Every day there is another Important Event that threatens to be forgotten but cannot be missed: baseball games, graduation ceremonies, potlucks, birthday parties (why are there so many kids born in June?).

There are final reports, final conferences, final performances (did I mention I’m a teacher, as well as a parent?). We race from one Important Event to the next while trying, and not quite managing, to keep up with the daily routine of making lunches, arriving on time to school, checking homework, eating dinner, bathing, sleeping.

I cannot wait for summer. And yet I haven’t had time to think about summer for ten seconds.

This summer we will be in Mexico.

In four days we leave for Mexico!

I should probably start packing.

How does one prepare to spend seven weeks in Mexico with an eight-year-old and a five-year-old? I am pretty sure my husband has already purchased our tickets and that the information is in our Google calendar. I think I know where our passports are. I have money in the bank account.

I can throw some clothes together in a jiffy (bathing suit, sundress, t-shirt, shorts, underwear, flip-flops). I’ll swing by Barnes and Noble and pick up two journals for the kids and some chapter books. They must sell sunscreen in Mexico. How hard can it be?

But how does one prepare MENTALLY to spend seven weeks in Mexico with an 8- year-old and a 5-year-old? That is a task that requires more attention.

My husband is a Forest Carbon Scientist with The Nature Conservancy. This summer he will be working with the government of Mexico and other partners to develop their REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) programs, to conserve forests and measure the benefits for our climate. (Apparently, when you cut a tree down it releases CO2 into the air, adding to climate change. When you save a tree, you help save our climate.) I think. I actually understand very little about what my husband does.


We will be joining him this summer, as faithful sidekicks – and certain distractions – with the purpose of learning more about what he does. Also on our agenda: see ruins, learn Spanish, eat beans and tortillas, drink licuados, visit the rain forest, and study iguanas.

I am most looking forward to exploring a new culture with my kids, more as visitors than as tourists, and to learning that there is far more to this world than meets the eye in Mt. Rainier, Maryland.

But my primary objective is to get close to their father’s work. I want them to come away knowing what carbon is and why Papa is working so hard to conserve it. I want them to understand that people are responsible for the environment all over the world, at many different levels, and to know how they might play a part in protecting their planet.

First, however, I need to find the roller-bags, do another load of laundry, and frost the cupcakes for the Final Baseball Game of the Year. Wish me luck!

Jes Ellis is a teacher at Two Rivers Public Charter School in Washington, DC.

Photo courtesy of Jes & Peter Ellis (The Ellis children – ready for a summer of science and fun in Mexico.)

Inset Photo © Rane Cortez/The Nature Conservancy (Forest Carbon Scientist Peter Ellis at work).

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About Planet Change

Planet Change is a Nature Conservancy blog site designed to share stories about actions the Conservancy and others around the world are taking to fight carbon pollution and the impacts of climate change, and to help people feel the connections between climate change and their daily lives and understand actions they can take.

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