Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle...

I have a very fond memory of the celebration of my parent's 45th wedding anniversary.  We had a family reunion with my aunt, uncle, and cousins.  Mama had bought plastic throw-away plates, cups and utensils for all the folks there.  After eating I asked her if we were going to recycle them... in front of one of my more environmentally conscious family members.

Ron said, "You can't recycle these, they don't have a 1 on them." (It was almost 18 years ago and only "1"s could be recycled in South Carolina then.)  I looked puzzled and said, "Oh.  No.  I meant, are we going to wash them and use them again?"  Ron smiled and responded with, "Different culture."  

Yep... throwing away all those good plates, cups, and utensils seemed a HUGE waste to me, coming from a country where a family might have only 3 to 4 plates and cups for 10 family members!  

Thankfully, in the U.S. recycling seems to have caught on... but reducing and reusing are still foreign concepts. 

In our International Training Center (or The Dorm) we have a cooler  filled with sodas and beer in reusable bottles with the labels painted on... like the old bottles of my childhood.  It was a sad day when plastic bottles and cans  hit Nicaragua and the landfills became over-run.

In the U.S. the masses only reuse houses and cars which means our land fills grow and grow. People throw or give away clothes, shoes, and accessories at an alarming rate!  Food is tossed.  Paper goes into the recycle bin and new notepads are bought.  Furniture winds up on the curb.  Leaves and grass clippings are bagged and thrown away.  The amount of waste is mind-boggling.

A sign at a Managua park says "Recycle, Reduce, Reuse, Reevaluate, Restructure, Redistribute
For the next month we are going to focus on reducing and reusing ...practical ways...things we've learned from the staff and the people we serve.  The poor HAVE to reuse and reduce to survive.  We will also focus on WHY reducing and reusing is important on so many levels .  So stay tuned!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Do or Do Not. There is No Try.

"Do or do not.  There is no try," said Yoda in Star Wars.  At this point in history when it comes to climate change, it is now survive or not survive.  Those are our options.

Scientists say we are hurtling towards a future that will mean life will alter dramatically...not to mention the fact and not many of us will survive.  

I'm 62 years old...MY future is winding down, but as a mother of three, stepmother of two, and grandmother of two with one on the way...we HAVE to change our ways and start pouring money into slowing the speed of our world rushing headlong into disaster and actually start reversing what damage we can reverse.

We have all heard that as the globe warms:

  • sea levels will rise; 
  • hurricanes, typhoons,and  tornadoes will become even more powerful, larger, and more destructive;
  • droughts will increase thus greatly limiting food supply;
  • glaziers will increasingly melt at an alarming rate further raising the over-all temperatures;
  • trees will die altering the amount of oxygen in the air;
  • and on and on.
The human race has grown and survived many disasters because we adapt, but there is great concern that any and all of the above can happen so quickly that we do not have time to adapt.  Plus poorer nations do not have the resources to adapt.  

Most religions call us to care for the poor.
Most religions call us to care for the earth.
And yet some of the strongest environmentally conscious people I know are atheists and agnostics while some of the most abusive people to the environment call themselves Christians.

Most of us act like we are on a space craft that never needs fixing, cleaning, or adjusting our life style to accommodate all occupants. 

Adaptation does not include negligence.  We HAVE to pull our heads out of the sand.

History has told us that The Divine is not going to come sweeping down and save the "faithful" by cleaning up this mess.  After predicting for more than 2,000 years that The Divine will save the faithful by sweeping them up en masse in an Apocalyptic glory, I think, it is time that that we all wake up and understand that:
  • WE were given guardianship over this beautiful home of ours; 
  • WE were given the task of caring for this earth and all beings living on it; 
  • and WE were given the task of caring for the those with the least power.
Hypothetically let's say the Divine DOES come sweeping down...what do YOU think the Divine will say to us defiling one of the most beautiful gifts created and given to us by the Creator?  

Monday, July 11, 2016

Hot, Hot, Hot...Climate Change Part 2

As many of you are sweating outside in these summer months, you may actually be thinking about climate change.  But when the A/C is going in your home, work place, gym, or car, the heat slips to the back of your mind. 

In Nicaragua, April and May were miserable, it was so hot.  In the last 137 years of recorded temperatures, the last 12 months worldwide...every single month has been the hottest on record.  What does that mean for Nicaraguans?

The vast majority of the population can never get away from the heat.  The buses are hot.  The work place - often outside - is hot.  Their little, tiny homes are hot...and at night homes are closed up and the heat builds with many sleeping in one room.*  

People are exhausted because the heat zaps their energy and hardly anyone can keep enough water in them.  They are also exhausted because they don't sleep well in the heat, rising several times to just go outside and try to cool off.  People are cranky and road rage is more common (Thank God that guns are banned!).  Children are irritable and parents are short-tempered.

Josefa, our clinic administrator, walked around the clinic with a wet towel on her head when our pitiful air conditioner was broken.  She was trying to lower her temperature to lower her blood pressure.  

As the humidity and the heat built, the air coming in and out of my and Mike's lungs got heavier and heavier...both of us then move to the air conditioned office.  Two years running I ended up in the hospital with asthma attacks during these hot, humid I have the luxury of spending them in our bedroom or office with A/C.

We hear people from the North talk about how Nicaraguans have adapted to hotter weather -  and they have to some extent  - but when the heat and the humidity rises, it is dangerous for the body.  The advice given in the States of going into air conditioned areas OR getting in tubs of water does not work here.  Again, the vast majority do not have those options.

Climate change is ever-present for the poor.  The reason many in the States can deny climate change is that...well, they can.  It does not affect them now.  They can move within their climate controlled temperatures and stupidly stick their heads in their air-conditioned sand, but denying something does not make it untrue.

*Even most middle class families do not have air conditioning in their home because electricity here costs about 3 times more than it does in the States.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Climate Change is No Picnic....part 1

From 1994 -2015, Nicaragua was the 4th most affected country due to climate change.

How so?  Since 1998 Nicaragua has experienced TWO category 5 hurricanes:  Hurricanes Mitch and Felix!  To help you have heard a great deal about Hurricane Katrina, seen the images, and probably know that volunteer work is still going on to repair its damages 11 years later.

Hurricane Mitch from space
Mudslide burying 1,911 Nicaraguans
10 villages completely lost

Hurricane Katrina (2005) was a category 3 that peaked at category 5...its final death toll was 1, opposed to Hurricane Mitch (1998) that left 19,325 dead.  Mitch was the deadliest hurricane of the 20th century and the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record after the Great Hurricane of 1780.

Rain Forest trees leveled lying
like matchsticks
Hurricane Felix (in 2007) hit one of the least populated parts of just 4 hours it destroyed 30,000 homes and leveled 1,100 square miles of rain forest (704,000 acres)!  Nicaragua has the 2nd largest rain forest in the Americas with the Amazon being the first.

Until recently when the rains came  Nicaragua experienced the most severe drought in 44 years!  

One third of Nicaragua's economy is based on agriculture, fishing and timber all that are affected by too much or too little water.  Beans, the basic protein, has more than doubled their costs!  Because the government handed out food packets and continued to serve meals in schools, major starvation was stayed.

One would think that when the world leaders got together for the Paris climate summat (COP21) that Nicaragua would be one of the first to sign the agreement* ...but one would be wrong!  Why not?

Because the Agreement did not go far enough...the agreement was like taking baby steps in a 30 yard dash!  If a nation decides "nope, don't want to do that!" then the Agreement is voluntary with no serious penalties. 

The U.S. pumps 17 metric tons of carbon per person into the atmosphere while Nicaragua only pumps 0.8 metric tons per person.  The U.S. is second in carbon emissions in the world, after China.  

While the U.S. population is reluctant to give up their love of oil and gas and keep approving fracking and drilling in order to become "independent," Nicaragua is blazing ahead with renewable electricity.   As of a year ago, 54% of Nicaragua's electricity was renewable (wind, geothermal, hydroelectric power).  By 2017, the goal is 75% and to 90% by 2020!  
Nicaraguan wind farm

When this little, impoverished nation is making changes, then it is appropriate for the large, carbon belching nations be penalized, if they are not doing their part...and - I mean - a significant, a drastic slowing climate change.  

We are at crisis level regarding climate change...and yet, while the wealthier countries act like this is a picnic and will do their environmental part by picking up their trash,  the poorer countries are wondering how they will they feed their people and survive.  

Being a U.S. citizen but living in Nicaragua gives me a different perspective and this time I think it is time to pay attention to the little guy.  We can learn from Nicaragua and radically change course for the sake of the poor...and for the sake of all living beings!

*Nicaragua was the first to sign the UN's Universal Declaration on the Common Good of the Earth and Humanity.