TIP? This is Peru.

This past week, we had just finished planning a trip through Peru for our winter break in July when this story came out. Obviously we read it in the local papers but I found an English version for you. Guess where we had planned to go in Peru? That’s right, Puno. Luckily the Cuzco and Arequipa parts of our trip can hopefully still be salvaged with some monkeying around with plane flights. We received a warden message also this week that what with the unrest and road blocks, the border is now closed between Bolivia and Peru. Also from the local papers it sounds like there are Bolivians stuck in Peru amongst the protests and there’s beginning to be food shortages in and around Puno. This is also winter for them so colder temperatures are an added hardship.

Though I don’t support violence and don’t know all the details, my first reaction is to side with the protesters however. Peru and Bolivia are both hot spots for mining minerals and I have heard many horror stories of irresponsible mining companies dumping arsenic in rivers, pressuring people off of their lands, dumping mercury along roadsides that children then ate, and it goes on. Oxfam America has also been speaking out on this issue ever since I did my training with them back in 2005. The documentary they put together on a gold mine in Peru had such a strong effect on me that I decided to never buy gold jewelry again unless I knew where it had come from. In the same vein as blood diamonds, they call it “dirty gold.”

Also in other news, Peru’s government is possibly going to change drastically with their elections this week. This editorial gave an interesting viewpoint of what the US could learn from their problems.

More upbeat and personal stories and pictures coming soon, we’ve had family visiting and now need some time to recover!

Vatican speaks out on climate change

This week, the Vatican Pontifical Academy of Sciences (basically the Pope’s science advisors) released a (strongly worded) report (pdf) calling on all Christans (and indeed all people) to immediately begin a “rapid transition to renewable energy sources” among other things.

I learned about this report through the excellent news publication ArsTechnica (article), and Forbes (article) has also reported on it.  The gist of it is the same refrain we’ve been hearing from all kinds of important bodies…we need to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The difference is that the Vatican has framed it in terms of our moral obligation. When we use electricity that came from coal, or drive a car that gulps down gasoline, we are hurting and killing others. The effect may not be as immediate as when some of the other problems with the world: violence, abortion, stealing, etc., but it is the same end result. This document is our wake up call that our moral actions aren’t only the ones we can see with our eyes, but some of the effects of our moral actions need to be measured by scientists.

So, how does this affect our life in Bolivia you ask? Well, a big part of this document is looking at the diminishing glaciers, and their affect on water supplies. Here in Bolivia, much of the water outside the brief wet season (Jan-Feb) comes as the glaciers high in the Andes melt throughout the year. For thousands of years the people of Bolivia (Incans, then Spanish, then the modern Bolivians) have depended on these glaciers for plentiful water throughout the year (more importantly in the mountains, but somewhat on the plains as well). However, now as the glaciers have all shrunk, they don’t have enough water to release (water released throughout the year is directly affected by the size of the glacier), especially in the last few months of the cycle. Just this past December when the rainy season was making a timid start, ranchers surrounding Montero were in fear of their cattle dying from dehydration since water stores had run out.  Some people have coped with this by getting water from further away, some have just left their livelihoods and moved into cities. Our region, Santa Cruz, has experienced a HUGE amount of urban growth in the last 40 years. Montero practically didn’t exist 40 years ago.  And as the glaciers continue to shrink, every year the water situation gets worse. I think it’s fair to say most of the farmers around here are one bad rainy season away from complete ruin.

Impressively, the Bolivian Catholic church as well as the people themselves are taking climate change VERY seriously. With the help from a German organization a series of movies were made interviewing people from all over Bolivia and each had their story of how the rains have become inconsistent or there has been violent flooding or warmer temperatures, basically indicating natural conditions were more unpredictable than previously. These people felt strongly that their government should intervene to mitigate effects on people personally and take an active role in policy creation. In addition, and to me very interesting, at no point did they point the finger at the developed world for ‘creating’ such a problem. The Bolivians in the movie, as well as the speaker doing the presentation (this was at our equivalent of World Youth Day here- so imagine me and a room full of high schoolers as the audience) presented the situation as something that each person in the room was actively causing through their own actions and something that each person could do something about. It was really great. He also talked about trash accumulation since litter is a HUGE problem here and pointed a specific finger at the sugar processing plant in Guabira (10km to the north of us) and the amount of carbon dioxide is spews out daily. These were strong words since all of us in the room either ate the sugar from Guabira or knew people who worked at the plant.


Important quotes from the Vatican’s document:
“We call on all people and nations to recognise the serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming”

“We are committed to ensuring that all inhabitants of this planet receive their daily bread, fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink as we are aware that, if we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us. The believers among us ask God to grant us this wish.”

“Human-caused changes in the composition of the air and air quality result in more than 2 million premature deaths worldwide every year and threaten water and food security”

Report: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdscien/2011/PAS_Glacier_050511_final.pdf

ArsTechnica Article: http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2011/05/anthropocene-vatican-climate-change-group-coins-name-for-our-era.ars

Forbes Article: http://blogs.forbes.com/williampentland/2011/05/06/climate-change-vatican-enters-the-fray/

Thankful for Mothers

Spending time with the girls at the Hogar and the kids at the Guarderia we’ve come to appreciate how much of a difference it makes in a child’s life to have a strong, consistent Mother-figure. For learning everything from proper hygiene to manners and morals, there is no replacement for a loving mother. There are many things that we now appreciate more about our previous lives in the U.S. like air conditioning, clean streets, having a car; but the thing we realized we have most taken for granted in our lives are our amazing mothers. Seeing now what our lives could have been like, all we can say from the bottom of our hearts is, “Thank you God for giving us Mothers who love and care for us. We know now that few people in the world are as blessed as we are.”

We love you mom,

Tom and Laura

Easter Pictures

Since I’m not great at taking lots of pictures, you can check out the Hogar’s blog: http://hogarsagradocorazon.blogspot.com/2011/04/felices-pascuas.html if you’d like to see more pictures of our Easter celebration. Also the picture at the end is the new baby that was born here in March to a mentally handicapped woman who lives at the Hogar. It’s a long story but the baby is doing well and is being raised by the Sisters. Special thanks to Terri Berg for mailing us a breast pump so he could get some colostrum! I got to babysit Jose Maria last Friday and he was a joy! He slept most of the time sleeping but was very interested in his surroundings when awake and watched some of the royal wedding with me :) .

More soon, so much has been going on! So little time to blog…

Cold Snap!

So being the southern hemisphere, winter is starting. We finally (after having been melting for the last seven months) got our first big cold front that came up from Argentina over the weekend.

The results were pretty crazy; everyone had their wool stocking caps, big winter jackets, and I even saw some people with gloves on. Basically doing everything they could to keep warm.  When we left for church this morning the temperature was….wait for it….58 F!  Honestly I was comfortable in my long sleeve shirt and long pants (which I haven’t worn since christmas), but I just thought that after months of them laughing at me for how much I sweat here that it was funny to see them a bit out of their element.

Sadly, the temperatures are supposed to go back up into the 70s tomorrow and 80s by the middle of the week, so the great (cool) weather won’t be holding on for too long.