agriculture, Agua/Aqua, Climate Change, Environment

Celebrating our Earth

Versión Español

Every April 22, International Earth Day is celebrated. It is an opportune occasion to reflect on what is happening to our planet and raise awareness about the need to drastically change paradigms and individual and collective behaviors that devastate the earth.

The earth is our common home and its evolution made it possible for life to emerge. The ozone layer and the earth’s magnetic field block harmful solar radiation, while the atmosphere retains enough solar energy for a climate and a temperature suitable for life, likewise water and the existence of diverse physical and chemical processes make possible the life of animals and plants, which interact in a dynamic and sustainable equilibrium.

The scientific community estimates that there are 8.7 million species on the planet, of which only 1.3 million have been recorded, which means that approximately 86% of terrestrial species and 91% of marine species are not yet known. Human life depends on this biological richness; nevertheless, human beings are the only species that is causing its extinction. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 5,200 species of vertebrate animals are in serious danger of disappearing.

One of the main reasons for this loss of species is deforestation. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), between the years 1990 and 2016, 129 million hectares of forest have been removed. The main reason is large-scale commercial agriculture, which accounts for 40% of deforestation worldwide and 70% in Latin America. Mining and urban expansion are other significant causes.

In addition to industrial agriculture, there is the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Currently, some 5,000 million tons of toxic pesticides are manufactured and used each year, which directly contributes to the contamination of ecosystems and the extinction of species, such as bees. A European study carried and published by the organization Greenpeace indicates that two thirds of the pollen collected by bees is contaminated by insecticides, acaricides, fungicides and herbicides marketed by the companies Bayern, Syngenta and BASF; causing the death of millions of hives.

Bees are essential for human life, according to the FAO, there are 100 species of crops that supply 90% of the world’s food and bees pollinate more than 70% of them. They also pollinate more than 25,000 species of flowering plants. Without these insects, agricultural activity would practically disappear, generating catastrophic consequences.

Another way how human beings deteriorate the earth is through the generation and inappropriate disposal of an impressive amount of solid waste. The United Nations Environment Program (PNMA) establishes that in the world, between 7,000 and 10,000 million tons of garbage are produced per year, and that a large part of this is not properly disposed, causing a serious problem of environmental contamination and public health.

The burning of fossil fuels is another form of environmental pollution that negatively impacts worldwide health and together with forest degradation, increases the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, causing a dangerous climate change that has already claimed thousands of lives and seriously threatens the existence of the human species.

What happens to the earth happens to its people so if we want our planet to remain a habitable place it is necessary that we all assume the responsibility of caring for it.


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EL DIA DE LA TIERRA

Cada 22 de abril se celebra el Día Internacional de la Tierra, ocasión oportuna para reflexionar sobre lo que está pasando a nuestro planeta y generar consciencia sobre la necesidad de cambiar drásticamente paradigmas y comportamientos individuales y colectivos de devastan la tierra.

La tierra es nuestro hogar común y su evolución hizo posible que surgiera la vida. La capa de ozono y el campo magnético terrestre bloquean la radiación solar dañina, mientras que la atmósfera retiene la energía solar suficiente para un clima y una temperatura idónea para la vida, así mismo el agua y la existencia de diversos procesos físicos y químicos hacen posible la vida de animales y vegetales, que interactúan en un equilibrio dinámico y sustentable.

La comunidad científica estima que en el planeta existen 8.7 millones de especies, de las cuales apenas han sido registradas 1.3 millones, lo que significa que aproximadamente el 86% de las especies terrestres y el 91% de las marinas aún no se conocen. La vida del ser humano depende de esta riqueza biológica; no obstante, el ser humano es la única especie que está provocando su extinción. Según la Unión Internacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza, UICN 5.200 especies de animales vertebrados se encuentran en grave peligro de desaparecer.

Una de las razones principales de esta pérdida de especies es la deforestación, de acuerdo a la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Agricultura y la Alimentación, FAO entre los años 1990 y 2016 se han eliminado 129 millones de hectáreas de bosque, siendo la principal responsable la agricultura comercial a gran escala, que origina el 40% de la deforestación a nivel del planeta y el 70% en América Latina; la minería y la expansión urbana son otras de las causas importantes.

Aunado a la agricultura industrial está el uso indiscriminado de plaguicidas, en la actualidad se fabrican y emplean cada año unas 5,000 millones de toneladas de plaguicidas tóxicos, lo que repercute directamente en la contaminación de los ecosistemas y en la extinción de especies, como por ejemplo las abejas. Un análisis realizado a escala europea publicado por la organización Greenpeace señala que dos terceras partes del polen recolectado por las abejas está contaminado por insecticidas, acaricidas, fungicidas y herbicidas comercializados por las compañías Bayern, Syngenta y Basf. Lo que está provocando la muerte de millones de colmenas.

Las abejas son imprescindibles para la vida del ser humano, de acuerdo a la FAO, existen 100 especies de cultivos que abastecen el 90% de los alimentos del mundo, las abejas polinizan más del 70% de ellos. También, polinizan más de 25.000 especies de plantas con flores. Sin estos insectos la actividad agrícola prácticamente desaparecería, generando consecuencias catastróficas.

Otra forma de cómo el ser humano deteriora la tierra es mediante la generación y disposición inapropiada de una impresionante cantidad de desechos sólidos, al respecto el Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente, PNMA establece que en el mundo se producen entre 7,000 y 10,000 millones de toneladas de basura por año y que una gran parte de esta no se dispone adecuadamente, provocando un serio problema de contaminación ambiental y de salud pública.

La quema de combustibles fósiles es otra forma de contaminación ambiental que impacta negativamente en la salud de la población, pero que además junto a la degradación forestal, aumentan la concentración de gases de efecto invernadero en la atmósfera, provocando un peligroso cambio climático que ya ha cobrado miles de vidas y amenaza seriamente la existencia del ser humano.

Lo que le sucede a la tierra, le sucede a las personas, si nos interesa que nuestro planeta siga siendo un lugar habitable es necesario que todos asumamos la responsabilidad de cuidarlo.

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education

Learn More about the Bajo Lempa Education Project

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On the 1st, we launched a Global Giving fundraising campaign for an intensive educational project in the Bajo Lempa. To date, we’ve recieved numerous generous donations and have less than a week to reach our goal. Today Global Giving will be matching donations at 20%.

Have you been wondering what our Bajo Lempa education project is all about?             Click on the PDF below to get a better understanding of the nuts and bolts and, as always, feel free to share.

LEER, Lograr en Educación Rural / Success in Rural Education

Climate Change, El Salvador Government, Environment, Mining

MOVIAC Environmental Reflections

This morning, the Movement of Victims Affected by Climate Change and Corporations (MOVIAC, in Spanish), published a two-page statement in Diario Co Latino on pending environmental issues in El Salvador – the Pacific Rim claim in the World Bank tribunal and the proposed ban on mining, Climate Change and the current economic model, the recent signing of the Millennium Challenge Corporation grant, and the Legislative Assembly’s failure to recognize water as a basic human right. MOVIAC wants the new Sánchez Cerén administration and the Legislative Assembly to be doing way more than they are.

Voices staff translated the MOVIAC statement to English and have attached it below along with the original in Spanish. (We will update this post with a link to the digital copy of today’s Co Latino when it is available.)

English

0925 publicacion Reflexiones ambientales(1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climate Change, Tourism

A Declaration from COO: The Bajo Lempa Continues to Resist!

Friday was International Day of the Mangroves.  Voices’ partner communities and other friends from the Bajo Lempa and Bay of Jiquilisco marked the day by meeting in Comunidad Octavio Ortiz to discuss Climate Change and the tourism projects that the Salvadoran Government and private investors are planning for the region – issues that affect the health of the mangrove forests in the region.

They concluded the meeting by drafting a Declaration: “In Order to Have Life and Hope: The Bajo Lempa Continues to Resist” – We’ve posted below in English and Spanish (the original).

We at Voices are in the middle of a fundraising campaign to raise $7,600 by this Friday (Aug. 2). The funds are to support the communities that drafted this Declaration in their efforts to protect their environment, including the mangrove forests, and preserve their simple, agrarian way of life. Here is a link to our original appeal posted last week. If have donated already, THANK YOU! If you haven’t, there is still time and every dollar helps (you can donate by clicking here). This is an urgent appeal – the government and private investors have huge resources and institutions backing them.

There is a slideshow at the bottom of the post with photos from the mangroves and coastal area, and the communities that are asking for you support.

IN ORDER TO HAVE LIFE AND HOPE,
THE BAJO LEMPA CONTINUES TO RESIST

Accompanied by the revolutionary spirit of Father Octavio Ortiz Luna, we the residents of the Bajo Lempa met again in the community of La Canoa to analyze the issue of climate change, which we experience in the form of floods and at times as prolonged droughts. These affects of climate change are becoming more intense and more frequent, and are the product of a political economic model that is leading us to destruction.

We also met to consider that we live in the region of El Salvador with the greatest biodiversity. We are located in one of the most pristine mangrove forests on the planet.

Species such as crocodiles, fish, crabs, migratory birds like the roseate spoonbill and many others make up an ecosystem that is vital for the survival of our communities. In addition, the mangrove forests are a natural barrier that protect the region from the rising sea waters and reduce the impacts of flooding.

The mangrove forests are an ecological treasure that communities have used, maintained and improved for many years, because we look to them for the sustainence and hope for the present and future generations.

However, the tranquility inspired by the mangroves, the simple lifestyle of the communities, and the hope of life for future generations, are being threatened by domestic and international corporations, and their insatiable thirst for profit through tourism development, with complete disregard for the impacts on the region’s biodiversity and the human rights of our population.

The construction of a modern road through the heart of the Bay of Jiquilisco, land speculation, the government’s tourism development plan, approval of the Public Private Partnership Act, and the the Second Millennium Challenge Compact, indicate that there are serious efforts to turn our region of El Salvador into another Cancun, Mexico, where the beaches are private and exclusive to foreign tourists.

But our communities have a history of struggle and organization. This land and its resources belong to us, and our children and grandchildren, and we have the strength, courage, and moral duty to defend our lives and territory until the end.

So, on this day marking the INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE MANGROVES, the communities of the Bajo Lempa and in the mangrove forests of the Peninsula of San Juan del Gozo, DECLARE:

1 – We strongly reject all mega tourism and we are ready to mobilize and use all legal remedies against companies seeking to destroy our natural resources.

2 – The communities that live in the mangroves are the only guarantee of the forests’ preservation, and therefore we are organizing and strongly linking with these mangrove communities.

3 – The Communities of the Bajo Lempa, and especially Community Octavio Ortiz are in the process of adaptating to climate change with intense focus on food sovereignty based on agro-ecological production that protects biodiversity, soil, and water. Nature is our source of knowledge and every day we learn more about her.

4 – We demand the government promptly complete and maintain the public works projects meant to protect the region from flooding. We also demand government agencies regulate discharge from the September 15 dam.

We demand respect for our right to life and our right to a healthy environment. We want that forests remain an inexhaustible source of life. We want to have clean and sufficient water supplies, and we want to produce our own food and eat well. We want health and education for our children. We want to remain free …

We want to have life and hope.

Community Octavio Ortiz, July 26, 2013

EN ESPAÑOL:

PARA TENER VIDA Y ESPERANZA,

EL BAJO LEMPA SIGUE EN RESISTENCIA

Acompañados por el espíritu revolucionario del Padre Octavio Ortiz Luna, nuevamente nos reunimos en la comunidad La Canoa para analizar el tema de cambio climático que vivimos en forma de inundaciones y otras veces en forma de sequías prolongadas.  Hemos visto que estos fenómenos se presentan cada vez más intensos y con mayor frecuencia  y que son producto de un modelo económico político que nos está llevando a la destrucción.

Pero también nos hemos reunido para analizar que vivimos en la región de El Salvador de mayor riqueza biológica. En nuestro territorio se ubica uno de los bosques de manglar más desarrollados del planeta.

Especies como cocodrilos, peces, cangrejos, aves  migratorias como la espátula rosada y otras muchas conforman una red vital para la sobrevivencia de las comunidades. El bosque de manglar también constituye una barrera natural que detiene el avance del mar y reduce los impactos de inundaciones.

Este bosque de manglar constituye una riqueza ecológica que las comunidades han aprovechado, mantenido y mejorado durante muchos años, porque en el encuentran el sustento y son la esperanza para las presentes y futuras generaciones.

Sin embargo, la tranquilidad que inspira el manglar, la forma de vida sencilla de las comunidades y la esperanza de vida para las futuras generaciones, hoy se ve amenazada por la sed de lucro insaciable de empresarios nacionales y de corporaciones trasnacionales que pretenden impulsar un desarrollo turístico sin importarles la conservación de la biodiversidad ni los derechos humanos de la población.

La construcción de una moderna carretera que cruza el corazón de la Bahía de Jiquilisco, el acaparamiento y especulación  con la tierra, el plan gubernamental de desarrollo turístico, la aprobación de la Ley de Asociaciones Público Privadas y un interés sospechoso de la empresa privada por que se apruebe el Segundo FOMILENIO, son los principales indicadores de que existen serias pretensiones de convertir este territorio en una región similar a Cancún, en México, en donde las playas son privadas y exclusivas para turistas extranjeros.

Pero nuestras comunidades tienen una historia de lucha y de organización, este territorio y sus recursos nos pertenece y le pertenece a nuestros hijos y nietos, tenemos  la fuerza, el coraje y  el deber moral de defender la vida y el territorio hasta las últimas consecuencias.

Por eso, en este día que se celebra el DIA MUNDIAL DE LOS MANGLARES, las comunidades del Bajo Lempa y las comunidades habitantes de los bosques de manglar de la Península de San Juan del Gozo, DECLARAMOS:

 

1-    Que rechazamos enérgicamente todo megaproyecto de turismo  y que estamos dispuestos a movilizarnos y a demandar judicialmente a cualquier empresa que pretendan destruir nuestros recursos naturales.

2-    Que las comunidades que vivimos en los bosques de manglar somos la única garantía de su conservación, para ello nos estamos organizando y vinculando fuertemente entre comunidades del manglar.

3-    Que las comunidades del Bajo Lempa y en especial la comunidad Octavio Ortiz estamos llevando a cabo un proceso de adaptación al cambio climático con un intenso trabajo por la soberanía alimentaria, en base a la producción agroecológica que protege la biodiversidad, el suelo y el agua. La naturaleza es nuestra fuente de conocimiento y cada día aprendemos más de ella.

4-    Demandamos del gobierno la pronta ejecución de obras de protección ante inundaciones, así como su permanente mantenimiento y la regulación de las descargas de la presa 15 de Septiembre.

Exigimos que se respete nuestro derecho a la vida, nuestro derecho a un medio ambiente saludable. Queremos que los bosques sigan siendo fuente inagotable de vida. Queremos tener agua limpia y suficiente, queremos producir y comer bien. Queremos salud y educación para nuestros hijos.  Queremos seguir siendo libres…

Queremos tener vida y  esperanzas.

Comunidad Octavio Ortiz, 26 de Julio de 2013

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Environment

Earth Day and Climate Change in the Bajo Lempa

This weekend residents of the Bajo Lempa region of Usulután are celebrating Earth Day in Amando Lopez. The events will focus on climate change and its extreme impacts on the communities, as well as the possible impacts of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and associated tourism projects. Voices posted a blog last week regarding the MCC in El Salvador, and another today about the effect of climate change. We will post more over the weekend about the Earth Day activities and future efforts in the fight to protect communities and the environment in the Bajo Lempa.

This article was written by Jose Acosta, Voices’ new field director, and first published in Contrapunto (El Bajo Lempa con Tenacidad y Esperanza), an online journal in El Salvador.

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The Bajo Lempa, with Tenacity and Hope

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says human actions are directly changing our global climate, and environmental changes will affect all people and ecosystems. The panel also shows that those who live below the poverty line will suffer the greatest impacts.

Residents of El Salvador have already felt the disastrous effects of climate change. The Salvadoran Ecological Unit (UNES, in Spanish) reports that the country’s average temperature has increased 1.2 degrees over the past 40 years. As a consequence, there has been an increase in the occurrence and strength of storms and hurricanes. A recent government study found that El Salvador has suffered five large-magnitude, climate-related events in just the past three years. These events resulted in 244 deaths and affected more than 500,000 people, 86,000 of which live in shelters. In addition, these events have caused considerable material damage. Three storms – hurricanes Ida and Agatha, and stropical storm 12-E – resulted in $1.3 billion in damage.

Poorer populations are even more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and these storms exacerbate poverty by further reducing the ability of impoverished families to respond to crises. During and after disasters, households are forced to use or sell their few resources just to survive, limiting their long-term resilience and further diminishing their food security. Their way of life and capacity to cope with their poverty are weakened with each disaster, forcing many into chronic poverty. CESTA/Friends of the Earth demonstrated this cycle in a study carried out  in the communities of Amando Lopez and Comunidad Octavio Ortiz, located in the Lower Lempa region of Usulután.

The study reports that the main problem for communities in the Bajo Lempa is flooding. According to the Confederations of Federations for Agrarian Reform (CONFRAS) flooding is partly due to the mismanagement of the 15 of September dam located a few kilometers up the Lempa River. During Tropical Storm 12E (October 2011), the discharge from the dam reached 9,000 cubic meters per second, resulting in record flooding throughout the communities downstream from the dam. The CEL, the government institution that manages the dam, was supposed to send information about flow rates to the communities downstream to warn them when the Lempa River may rise. Unfortunately, the CEL did not communicate with the communities and the most extreme flooding happened with little warning.

Organizaitons in the Bajo Lempa, however, came together and formed the Inter-Institutional Roundtable, and issued a press release on November 11, 2011 stating, “We demand to know the CEL’s plan for managing the release of water from the dam and the environmental impact study in order to coordinate the agricultural production cycles and manage risks, and to prioritize life and the protection of the inhabitants of the communities.”

In addition to the flooding, the local population reports several other impacts of climate change, including higher temperatures, droughts, extinction of species, increase of disease, and salinzation of soil and water sources due to increased sea levels. The Association of the United Communities for Economic and Social Development of the Bajo Lempa (ACUDESBAL) declared that communities in the Bajo Lempa are strongly feeling the affects of climate change, and that it has increased food insecurity and made poverty worse.

These problems increase as the levels of consumption and the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to rise. The IPCC says that if CO2 in the atmosphere reaches 450 ppm, average temperatures will rise 2 degrees. Such a rise in temperatures will cause catastrophic climate events.

For El Salvador projections indicate an increase in the temperature between 0.8 and 1.1 degrees by the year 2020. Some of the expected impacts in the Bjao Lempa are:

–       Public health problems

–       Shortage of potable water and species of plants and animals

–       Contamination of wells and salinization of bodies of water,

–       Degradation of agricultural lands and decrease in their productivity

–       Loss of domestic animals and livestock

–       Local drainage systems will fill with sediment and collapse

–       Failure of other existing flood prevention systems, among them roads, paths, and bridges

The affected communities are already taking steps to prevent these impacts before they happen. Concepción Martínez, a historic leader of Comunidad Octavio Ortiz, recently stated, “We believe that in confronting climate change, the only viable option is to fight for our survival.”

A resolution adopted by various communities states, “we meet under the heat in La Canoa (another name for Comunidad Octavio Ortiz), to analyze the impacts of climate change that we are experiencing in the form of floods and droughts, but also in the form of the voracity of the transnational businesses and governments that do not respect the cycles of life.

In this occasion we (communities in the Bajo Lempa) express:

“We commit to watch and demand that government policies confront climate change, and we demand they listen and include the opinions and proposals from the communities and civic organizations when forming these policies… to survive and maintain hope that another Bajo Lempa is possible.”

 

Environment

The Mangroves of La Tirana

Thompson Reuters published a photo yesterday of La Tirana, one of the communities in the Lower Lempa region of Usulutan targeted for tourism. The short article accompanying the photo focused not on tourism, but on the impact of greenhouse gases and climate change on the region. Here’s the photo and the full text:

Mangrove trees are pictured at the small community of La Tirana, about 110 kilometres (68 miles) from San Salvador August 3, 2012. Because of its location as a thin strip of land between two oceans in a tropical zone, Central America is one of the regions most vulnerable to greenhouse gases. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates that the area stands to lose $10 billion over the next four years for this reason alone. The damage is not confined to El Salvador, Central America’s smallest country, but also its neighbours. Across the region, large tracts of mangroves have also been destroyed by the shrimp and hotel industry, the cultivation of palm oil and sugarcane, as well as salt fields. According to a FAO study, Central America’s mangroves as a whole declined by 35 percent between 1980 and 2005 in terms of hectares. Honduran mangroves decreased by 56 percent, Nicaragua’s forests by 37 percent and Panama by 32 percent. Picture taken August 3, 2012. REUTERS/Ulises Rodriguez

Last year, Ryan Luckey published an article in Al Jazeera English documenting the loss of these mangrove forests in La Tirana and elsewhere in El Salvador. The article quotes Dr. Ricardo Navarro from CESTA (EL Salvador Center for Applied Technology), “All along the central coast of El Salvador there is a dead zone stretching along the beach, measuring between 10 and 50 metres. The cause? Climate change.”

Voices staff took a delegation to La Tirana earlier in this year to see the dead zone – here are a couple photos:

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Climate Change

Climate Change in Central America

On Saturday, the National Catholic Reporter published an article by Danielle Mackey about climate change and a recent Catholic Relief Services technical study to help Central American communities adapt.

Climate change is an especially timely topic – just this morning Frankenstorm is starting to pound the East Coast of the U.S. promising to affect 60 million people.  While this storm event is unprecedented in one sense (three systems, including a hurricane, converging on such a heavily populated region), severe/freaky storms like this are not so rare anymore. This time last year, for example, we were writing about Tropical Storm 12-E that dumped an unprecedented 55 inches of rain on El Salvador in a 10-day period, causing extreme flooding.

Danielle’s article reports on ongoing efforts to help Central American communities, which are the most vulnerable to the affects of climate change, survive. Earlier this month, Catholic Relief Services published a technical study called Tortillas on the Roaster, which provides farmers with the technical information they need to adapt to climate change. Specifically, the report “seeks to assess the expected impact of climate change on maize and bean production in four countries in Central America.”

This is the kind of technical information that our partners in the Lower Lempa need to plan their future. Tortillas on the Roaster provides the kinds of detailed forecasts necessary to know how climate change will impact corn and bean crops, and how our partners may adapt.

The article and technical report are a little long to repost in this article, but here are some links to Danielle’s report (Central American Farmers Seek Buffers Against Climate Change) and the CRS technical study (Tortillas on the Roaster – in English and Tortillas en el Comal – en Español).

Our thoughts and prayers go out to folks on the East Coast.