Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change and a Bald Bolivian Mountain

Today is Blog Action Day, "an annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day...with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance."

The issue for 2009: Climate Change

I'm not going to spend any screen space arguing its existence. I find the "debate" tired and depressingly unconstructive. If you still harbor doubts (or inflammatory comments), I kindly direct you to the Pew Center. Instead, I'll talk about what I've seen with my two brown eyes.

The Chacaltaya glacier just outside La Paz, Bolivia, has virtually disappeared. It used to support the world's highest ski run, complete with t-bar, but now only gives up a couple turns to rich Bolivianos who feel like making the hour's drive up to 17,400 feet for a lark. I wrote about my tour of the glacier here.

Glaciers advance and glaciers retreat. Yes, it's a fact. But when it comes to tropical glaciers, there's only retreat. Smaller and less resilient than those at higher and lower latitudes, tropical glaciers serve an "early warning" function, as they're most quickly and dramatically affected by warming temperatures.

What's really scary is that millions of people in the Andes depend on glacial melt for drinking water.

What happens when the glaciers are gone? I haven't exactly done in-depth research, but I've never heard anyone even attempt to offer a solution to the problem, only acknowledge it.

Which brings me back to Chacaltaya. The 800,000 inhabitants of the valley of La Paz have other water sources trickling in. But those in El Alto--who number nearly as many if not more by now, up on the flat rim of the Altiplano, worlds apart both economically and culturally--my guide told me they have no other source. Chacaltaya's it. And by some definitions, Chacaltaya's gone.

A disused t-bar, a touch of snow, and 800,000 people in the distance

Los pobres dying of thirst. Just one consequence among countless others (for a decidedly unscientific list of potential negatives, go here) of climate change.

What can you do? These 10 solutions won't bring about salvation, but they're a start. And don't forget about 350, a different kind of day of action. Learn more here.

Also, got a blog? Write a post on the issue before the day is out. You can register with the rest of us here.

If you're in the mood to read more, the following content from Matador is definitely worth a look:

Wipe Out: World's Most Vulnerable Coastal Cities

9 Places to Experience Now Before They Literally Vanish

New Report: World Still Unprepared for Climate Change

Why the Road to Climate Catastrophe is Paved with Cheap Flights

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Wow, I didn't know both about the Chacaltaya glacier and Blog Action Day. Thanks for filling me in!