What is to be done?


One of the great ironies, and challenges, of the 21st Century is that those most exposed to the crisis of climate change are those who are least responsible for it. Bolivia, a country whose resources were plundered over centuries to further the development of parts of the global North, now sits in a position of heightened vulnerability. As the Bolivian case highlights, that vulnerability has many implications – it isn’t just a concept, but a harsh reality which millions are living with. The combination of poverty, limited government capacity to deal with crises, and lack of influence in pushing for global action on climate change together push Bolivia into a seemingly untenable position. Droughts in Pasorapa and the Chaco region will intensify in the future, forcing more and more people off their farming land in search of the opportunities that city life can provide. At the same time flooding in Quillacollo and other major urban centers will continue to put pressure on those recent migrants who have moved onto cheap but often substandard plots of land to build their new lives, as well as on  other economically vulnerable groups. And the melting of the glaciers will continue to transform the water systems that have characterized the altiplano for generations, steadily retreating until they have disappeared entirely, and leaving huge question marks over the water security of some of Bolivia’s most densely-populated areas.

As this resource seeks to show, the poorest Bolivians are among those who will continue to pay the price for failures to confront climate change by the developed and developing world. What are we to do? How as concerned citizens do we change the current path that we are on? The first step is one that many of us have already taken: to become aware of the problem, the severity of it, and to understand that climate change is not something to consider in the future – it is in the here and now. Engaging and educating others on the importance of the issue is the next step in this multigenerational fight, in order to grow and strengthen the movement to win it.

Visit the Climate Classroom

Basic RGBWe hope students and teachers in all kinds of settings find the material here useful. If you haven’t already, go to the Climate Classroom page to download the accompanying Teaching and Activities Guide, which is full of ideas for activities, debates and further study related to climate change and water. You are also invited to get in touch and upload any work which has been produced in response to these topics in the Climate Classroom Gallery, and to make contact with other educators, learners and activists using the site.

As we continue to build this site we are asking our readers, friends and allies to get involved. Use the comment space below, or write to contact@terra-justa.org  to let us know about links, resources, tools, organizations, campaigns, reports and stories that help illustrate how climate change is about water, and make the connections between impacts and vulnerability. In particular, please work with us to help find effective answers to the question, What is to be done?


What needs to be done in Bolivia?

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Marcela Olivera of Food and Water Watch, and a long-term campaigner on water issues in Bolivia, talks here about how the issue of climate change intersects with and exacerbates the existing and ongoing problems around water access and water rights in Bolivia. The Andean nation has a well-known history of battles over the privatization of water resources. Olivera sees the solutions to water issues in Bolivia coming not from governments or the private sector, but rather from localized, grassroots organization.

René Orellana, Bolivia’s chief climate negotiator, answers the question: “What are the most important things that need to happen in order for Bolivia to be saved from this water crisis caused by climate change?” In his response he emphasizes the importance of focusing on water in Bolivia’s adaptation plans, and the assistance required from (and owed by) developed countries in creating and carrying out those plans.