Cover photo: Cantel at sunrise. Photo: Richard Brown
By Esteban Sacalxot, Secretary of the Youth Organization Forging Foundations in cantel, and President of the Permanent Council for Life Defense in Cantel.
What is climate change? For many of us these are new words in our vocabulary. For others, they’re fashionable words, and for others, they’re a mystery. But climate change affects other global challenges like water scarcity, overpopulation, food security, and loss of biodiversity that are affecting all of us. It doesn’t matter if you believe in God, if you’re rich or poor, if you’re from this continent or another, the effects of these global challenges affect all of us and if we don’t take action now, the effects will be worse for our children and grandchildren.
In Cantel, we’ve lost large swaths of forest to forest fires, the amaranth plant, turnips, plants that for centuries have been part of our ancestors’ diets.
In the last 15 years in Cantel, we’ve lost large swaths of forest to forest fires, the amaranth plant, turnips, plants that for centuries have been part of our ancestors’ diets. Even apasote, a traditional medicine, we don’t see growing in our land like before, so now we buy it in small packages. We see very few cherry, elderberry, oak, and apple trees. We no longer see sparrows regularly. Lightning bugs no longer so lavishly adorn our nights with their phosphorescent light. What’s happening?
Years ago the heat felt normal. Now, a couple of minutes under the sun makes you feel like you’re getting burnt. We no longer know when the summer rains will start or how much rain they will bring, if the crop will yield a healthy harvest, or if it will be lost to drought. The tropical storms and hurricanes that have battered our country have had huge impacts in Cantel. The most dramatic was Agatha, which caused floods and landslides on hillsides that were deforested. Many families lost their houses, and several people died. Food relief during the next 15 days was very scarce, and this showed us that we are not prepared to confront the larger impacts of the disequilibrium in the climate.
Are there alternatives, or is all already lost? Only a few days ago we organized a Congress of Youth Leading for Pachamama, in which youth from Cantel had the chance to exchange ideas about this important question. Through a three-day process, they expressed their most pressing concerns, but also their ideas about how to create plans of action to contribute to lessening the effects of climate change. From among their colorful ideas I can recount the following: Personal change, reducing their consumption of canned, bottled, and industrially packaged products that contain chemicals and industrial sugar that generate litter in our communities and pollute our bodies as much as they pollute our madre tierra. Reforestation projects to conserve and care for the forests, to prevent floods and landslides, and to protect our water springs that supply the nine communities of Cantel. Drain systems to treat domestic graywater. And the creation of organic family gardens using traditional techniques so we can rescue the wisdom of our Maya Kiche ancestors that allowed them to sow and reap their own harvests, using responsible methods that cared for madre tierra.
With all of this in mind, it is really quite inspiring to see these young people raising their consciousness and supporting responsible action for the care the things that sustain us. All of the people of Cantel can strengthen campaigns to lessen the impacts of climate change. By joining the efforts of organizations here that are undertaking various projects of reforestation and environmental education, we can be sure that our children will be born into a resilient and ecologically sustainable community, and that we now can enjoy the blessings that our pachamama provides us. We can also be a model for our neighbors, local and even global.